5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Prepare For Canning Season Next Year

Canning is one of those things that homesteaders look forward to each year with excited anticipation and a slight twinge of dread. Nothing beats the quality and the feeling of accomplishment you get from preserving your harvest each year, and that peach cobbler sure is to die for in the frigid depths of January…but it’s such a lot of work, and most of that time spent is in the preparation. The jars need sterilized ,the lids need boiled, and the magnet fell out of the gosh dang lid grabber again. With all that happens during the canning season there are a few things you can do right now to prepare for next season that will make your life a little easier come harvest time.

Remove the gasket in the lid of your pressure canner and inspect it for cracks or disintegration.
  1. Check and replace the gasket on your pressure canner. Remove the gasket from the lid of your pressure canner and look for cracks in the rubber or signs of disintegration. Bad gaskets will affect your canners ability to reach and maintain proper pressure while in use. Gaskets should be replaced every 2-3 years as part of your canners maintenance regimen. You can pick one up online or at your local hardware store for around $10 or less.
You can get your dial gauges tested at your County Extension Office or a local hardware store.
  1. Get your dial gauge tested (Weighted gauges do not require testing). You can take your dial gauge to your county extension office to have it tested, often free of charge (be sure to call ahead so they have someone on staff to test it for you), . It is recommended to have your gauge tested and adjusted if need be before each canning season to ensure your safety. Gauges that read high can result in under-processed foods that are unsafe to consume. Ones that read low can result in not only over-processed canned food but it increases the risk of dangerous kitchen mishaps. If your gauge tests more that 2 pounds off, high or low it should be replaced. Cracked, broken, or otherwise damaged gauges must be replaced. You can find replacements online for around $15. Other places that test dial gauges include hardware stores and companies like “Presto” that manufacture canning equipment.
An example of rust that has been transferred to the lid of a sealed jar from a rusty ring.
An example of rusty and dented rings that should be discarded.
  1. Sort through your collection of can rings. Discard any rusty, worn, or dented rings. Dents can mean an improper seal.  Rust can transfer to the lids making it hard to remove the ring from the jar causing the lid to loosen when removing the ring before storage. To avoid rust, remember to always remove the ring from your canned goods 24 hours after removal from the canning vessel before long term storage. Then wash them in warm soapy water, drying them thoroughly to ensure they have a long rust free life. Leaving the rings on the jars can also cause a false seal or rust eating through can lids making food unsafe. Don’t want to just throw away your busted rings? GO HERE  AND HERE to see some great ways to re-purpose those rings!
  1. Inspect those jars. As you work your way through your pantry this winter wash your jars with warm soapy water and while they are still wet run your finger around the rim of each jar to check for any nicks or chips in the glass that would cause an improper seal. Discard any jars with defects, or give them a new life as decorations in your home. I like to use mine as vases for all the bouquets my boys carefully pick for me in the summer months.  Store unused jars upright, not upside down.  I like to place a hunk of cardboard on top of them to block dust from entering to make cleaning and sterilizing easier next season.
  1. Watch for off season deals. Keep your peepers peeled at your favorite stores for canning equipment on sale. You can often find great deals on jars, lids, rings, and maybe even that large capacity pressure canner you day dreamed of while you started your 5th load of canned beef this October. Now is also a great time to cruise the ball website for tested canning recipes to try something new and different next season. I’ve found some of my favorite recipes there…even an apple pie filling recipe that earned first place at the county fair this year!

Extra Cinnamony Cinnamon Rolls

I am always looking for ways to improve my cinnamon roll game, and I think I have finally created cinnamon roll perfection. Go figure there is a secret ingredient that’s a smidge unusual…TEA! Yep! Instead of using plain water or milk as some recipes call for I went the extra mile and infused rich cinnamon flavor into the dough. I used Cinnamon Hearts Pu’erh from Steeped Tea, it’s a warm black tea with cinnamon and cassia and is probably the most cinnamony tea I have ever had the pleasure to drink, I love a warm cup of tea on a cool day with a splash of milk and a spoonful of honey so it seemed ideal for this recipe. It smells like a cinnamon roll even before it becomes a cinnamon roll and I think I’m in love…not only with these rolls but with the endless possibilities of tea flavors that could be used! Here is the recipe and I hope you give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

EXTRA CINNAMONY CINNAMON ROLLS:

1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in warm water according to product directions

3 cups flour, plus more for kneading

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp salt

1 egg lightly beaten

1 cup warm not hot steeped cinnamon tea (I got mine here)

a splash of milk if desired

 

For Filling:

1 stick softened butter

½ cup or more cinnamon sugar

½ cup brown sugar

 

For Frosting:

1 stick softened butter

¼ cup cold cinnamon tea

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients with mixer and set aside.

Start by dissolving yeast packet in water according to the directions on the packet. While the yeast is doing its thing, in a medium sized bowl, add 3 cups flour, & salt. To this add the maple syrup, melted butter, egg, and warm tea *Note: Do NOT use hot tea, hot liquids will scorch the yeast and render it useless, allow the tea to cool until warm before adding it to the recipe.

Add dissolved yeast and stir until a nice dough is formed. Depending on the day you may find that you need to add more flour or more tea/milk. I find that humidity plays a huge roll in bread making.

Dump dough out onto floured surface sprinkle with flour and knead until the dough is no longer tacky and is smooth.

Grease the bowl the dough was mixed in with oil and place the dough in the bowl to rise in a warm place.

When dough has doubled in size turn out onto floured surface sprinkle with flour and knead once more adding flour until no longer tacky. With a rolling pin, roll dough flat.

Spread softened butter onto flattened dough with the back of a spoon, sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar, then sprinkle with brown sugar.

Starting at one end, begin rolling the dough into a log. From here you can cut the roll into a log the length of a loaf pan to make a cinnamon loaf, or cut into1 ½ inch disks and arrange in your favorite pan.

Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 25-35 min depending on the pan you choose, watch them closely.

Allow cinnamon rolls to cool, then frost and serve!

Roll out the dough
Spread surface with butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar liberally over the top
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup brown sugar
Roll it up and cut into loaves for cinnamon swirl bread, Allow to rise a second time.
Or cut into 1 1/2 inch disks for cinnamon rolls, and allow to rise again.
Cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven

How To Make Brown Sugar

I want to share a little “kitchen hack” with you that will hopefully save you some swearing and a trip to the store! According to my husband we are always out of brown sugar. Lets be clear, he never bakes. I only hear this when he’s getting ready to put something in the smoker. For instance, last week he smoked two pork butts and thankfully we had brown sugar when he needed to make his rub so all was right with the world. When I started making a double batch of my famous “Mrs. Yoder’s Cookies” yesterday guess what…the brown sugar canister was empty. Most people would probably jump in the car and run to the store. Not me. I have everything I need to make brown sugar right in my pantry.

I’m sure some of you probably already know this, but for those who don’t: Sugar + Molasses = Brown Sugar

Yep. Two ingredients, that’s it! Plus you can make it in a snap in any quantity you desire. I typically like to make enough to fill up my little brown sugar canister

Brown Sugar:

  • 3 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses of Your Choice
  • Medium Sized Bowl
  • Whisk

Keep in mind this is one recipe you just sort of eyeball. You can start with a ½ cup of molasses, but you may find you need to add more depending on your preferences.

Place both ingredients in the bowl and whisk until no molasses blobs remain. Use immediately or store in an air tight container. I like to keep a nice clay disk in my brown sugar to keep it from turning into a sugar brick, but that is optional.

Combine sugar and molasses
Whisk the sugar and Molasses together
Scoop homemade brown sugar into your canister or use immediately!