Summer is almost here, and our garden is ahead of schedule. We’re getting ready to put strawberries and jam in the freezer and harvest season will be here before we know it. Since I always seem to find myself hunting for missing supplies or running to the store for freezer containers while a pile of produce wilts on the counter, I came up with the following checklist to better prepare for canning and freezing this year. Hopefully you will find it useful as well!
- Check pressure canner gauges for safety. Many extension services offer testing free or for a nominal fee. (Search your local extension office online for a schedule near you.) For local folks here in Wayne County, Ohio, Lehman’s is great place to go or call with questions. You can always ask their experts questions anytime. Make any repairs or replacements as needed.
- Put together a canning kit in a box or plastic tub. My kit includes a canning funnel, magnetic lid lifter, jar tongs, and bubble remover. I plan to add a grease pencil, a permanent marker and labels. In a larger tub, collect canner/water bath pan, cherry pitter, corn cutter, Roma Food Mill, and any other food processing equipment. Store in an out-of-the-way but easily accessible place.
- Check your supply of and stock up on jar bands and jar lids. This year I’m planning to try some of Lehman’s reusable jar lids for the first time. Wash up last year’s bands.
- Survey pantry shelves. Throw out any outdated food. Gather empty canning jars and check for cracks or nicks (discard these for canning; they make great crafting jars!). Rearrange what’s left, making sure to put the oldest jars in front, and wipe down empty shelves.
- Check supply of freezer bags and containers. Replace as needed. Match up containers and lids to avoid the frustration of filling a container only to learn that it has no lid.
- Clean out and defrost freezer. I like to do this in early summer, before harvest season begins – this is the emptiest it gets all year, plus it gives me a better idea of what I have left.
- Sharpen knives, replace as needed. Good, sharp knives can save a ton of time and frustration when processing large amounts of food.
- Budget for bulk purchases of any produce not grown in the garden. Plan more meals from the garden and pantry to help offset these costs.
- Start a section in recipe binder for canning recipes. My recipe binder is simply a 3-ring binder in which I store all the recipes I print off or tear out of magazines. Plastic sleeves keep them splatter-free and index tabs separate the different categories.
- Check supply of canning mixes and spices such as cinnamon, apple pie spice, pickling spice and dill as well as salt, sugar, citric acid, alum and vinegar. Restock as needed.
Wishing you all a bountiful harvest this year!