In the 1st part of this series, we shared tips on how to pull together your preserving plan. The focus of Part 2 is on how to make sure that your preserving toolbox is up to date, stocked and ready for action!
Evaluate your Preserving Ingredients:
Check expiration dates & freshness on all of your preserving additives and be sure to make a list of items that you need to replenish!
- Pectin– check for dates, arrange them or mark them so that you use the ones closest to expiring first, Discard outdated items. (Note: Pomona’s Universal Pectin does not expire. – another reason we love this so much)
- Spices – check your pickling spices for dates. If you’re drying your own herbs or spices, or get your spices from a bulk store and forgot to date the container, be sure to double check for changes in quality. If you’re mixing your own spices for pickling, be sure that those containers are used up first.
- Don’t forget to check your stock of Vinegar, Pickling Salt, Pickling Lime, sugar, citric acid. Discard outdated items. Try to use up containers that have already been opened.
Evaluate your Preserving Supplies & Equipment:
- Inspect your canning jars for chips, cracks, scratches and defects. Put aside any that are not suitable so they can be re-purposed, or upcycle them.
- If you are using re-useable lids like Tattler, check them for staining or odor. It’s better to sort them when you put them back into storage, but if you haven’t, separate any out that have absorbed dill or garlic odors and label them for use of the same type of products.
- Check your supply of flat canning lids. As all preservers know, these can only be used once for preserving. You can stock up on regular mouth and wide mouth flat lids by bulk. I keep my post-canning flats in my kitchen drawer so that they don’t get mixed in with my canning supply stash.
- Check your rings for rust. A little rust is OK, but you really want to pay attention to rust that’s happening on the inside of the band. This can interfere with the sealing of the jar, may make it more difficult to remove the ring, and may also cause staining of your jar. Here are some tips to keep your rings rust-free. If some of your rings have gotten too rusty, it may be time to send them to the recycle bin or do something else creative with them, or donate them to a creative reuse center.
If you’re not sure what type of lids you should be using, here’s how to choose a canning lid.
- If you have an enamel one, check it for dings & chips that may become problems. Check your rack to ensure that it’s still intact and will be able to handle the weight of canning use. Rust isn’t a huge issue, as long as it doesn’t interfere with its performance and safety. If it’s time to pitch it, consider some fun creative uses first.
- If yours has a gasket, check it for drying, cracking or tearing and find a replacement, if needed. Get your pressure gauge tested. Most extension offices will offer this service during certain times of the year, or by appointment. Some stores that sell pressure canners may also offer testing.
- Check to see that you still have some of these handy tools: Funnels, magnetic lid wand, jar lifter, cherry pitter (and its replacement rubber) & any other favorite tools that are part of your canning habit.
- Thermometers – If you use an older style thermometer, it should be tested and calibrated, and here’s how. If you’re curious about why you would use a thermometer for preserving, read this.
- Fermenting Supplies like Airlocks, weights and lids – Many people ferment all year ’round, and their airlocks are almost always in use. However, it yours spend time in storage, make sure that all parts & pieces are clean and mold/mildew free.
Storing all those jars, rings and lids can get tricky. Our customers have shared some great organization ideas here. We tend to use Jarboxes to keep our supplies safe and organized, and we have our canning rings on display using a ribbon and a basket.
Organization & preparation is key to being a productive preserver. Get organized now, before preserving season arrives.