Canning season has officially opened! Within the past few weeks, I’ve put up jars of mixed stone fruit jam, plum jam, salsa verde, and peach salsa. I’ve got zucchini pickles slated for this afternoon’s project. Soon the pears will be coming in, and I’ll be doing big batches of my pear vanilla jam. Then, there will be tomatoes in all forms, followed by a crap-load of figs.
Last year, I canned my way though a kitchen remodel, and still managed to put up quite a bit. You don’t need a fancy set-up to preserve, but weather you are an experienced canner or just starting out, there are always helpful things do before getting started. Here are some of my helpful tips for preparing for canning season and to make sure your preserving projects go smoothly.
Helpful Tips for Canning Season
Invest in a billion dish and tea-towels. Make sure they are clean. Towels are my most used canning accessories. I use them hold hot jars while I screw on rings. I wipe edges of jar rims. I clean up the constant jam splatters on the wall. I go through a piles of them. Don’t start a canning day without making sure your towels are washed, dry and handy.
Stock up on jars and lids. Buy more than you think you’ll need. Then add another case. Throw in 3 more boxes of lids. Nothing ruins the flow of canning day by having to go to the store to buy more jars or lids. If you are in Sonoma County, Friedman’s has the lowest prices. Wide mouth quarts: $13.49, regular mouth quarts: $12.49. Wide mouth pints: $12.49, regular mouth pints: $10.99. 8 oz jelly jar: $11.49. However, Ace in Healdsburg and Sebastopol have excellent sales, so keep your eye out.
Stock up on sugar, vinegar, pectin and lemon juice. Again, nothing ruins the flow by having to run to the store. Depending on what you can, make sure your pantry is full of vinegar for pickles, sugar and pectin for jam, and bottled lemon juice for pretty much everything.
Make sure you pull out rings prior to filling jars. More than once, I’ve had my jars filled and then realize I didn’t pull out my rings. Nothing causes me more anxiety than having to fish the right sized rings out of the jumbled mess in the pantry while my pot is at a rolling boil and I’ve got sauce sitting on the counter. Depending on your husband to gather them up while you are ladling out the sauce isn’t a fool-proof plan.
Clean before and immediately after. The second thing that causes me anxiety in the kitchen is not having counter or sink space. Before you start cooking down fruit or chopping up tomatoes, do all the dishes, put them away, and clear off the counters so you have a wide workspace. When you’re finished, wash your pans and utensils immediately so you don’t have to struggle with a dried sticky mess. If you’re a disaster like I am, also wipe off the walls and your stove backsplash, preferably as you cook. Old tomato seeds and jam splatters are infinitely more difficult to get off than if they are new.
Have simple snacks available. If you are spending a full day over a hot stove, the last thing you want to do is think about making a meal. Sometimes, if you are having to stir constantly, you just don’t have time to prep something, let alone sit down and eat. So I like to keep super simple, filling snacks that I can eat with one hand. Sliced deli cheese and meats are a good one, I can just pull it out of the fridge and do a quick roll-up and eat as is.
Wear an apron. Because aprons are awesome.
August 1st is International Can-It-Forward Day. There are webinars, tutorials and podcasts galore all over the interwebs to celebrate, so make sure to check it out for new ideas and helpful lessons.
Has canning season started in your kitchen yet? What is your go-to tip to make sure you have a stress-free experience?