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!

Quick Canning Ring Pumpkin Project

Collect your rusty rings and sort into piles of wide mouth and regular mouth.
Cut a length of wire about 8 inches long – enough to hang onto while working on your project.
String rings on the wire in the same direction so they will nest. put lots of them on for a nice solid pumpkin!
When you have enough rings strung on the wire, twist the ends of the wire together as tight as possible. Trim excess wire or curl it in.
Add a stick from the yard as a stem!

Giving Canning Rings A New Life

Once every 2 or 3 years, our family likes to leave the traditional tree decorating fare in the attic, in favor of handmade adornments. This is just such a year. Is it coincidental that we also have a fledgling walker this Christmas? Hmmmm…I think not . In short, this little tradition helps us remove the stress of breakables, find beauty in the mundane, and brings us together creatively (while being easy on the budget!).

To prepare for this, we set aside Sunday afternoons throughout late October, and November to create. Five of our six children (the fledgling supervised) were involved, so we kept the projects very realistic. On the list were traditional cinnamon ornaments, dried citrus slices (grapefruit slices are our favorite), button icicles, paper roses, popcorn strands, pinecones in a few variations (glittered, plain, and some that were transformed into owls), and up-cycled canning rings. We did make an exception to the handmade rule to include candy canes.

Dried Citrus Slice
Button Icicle & Cinnamon Star
A handmade paper rose!

For now, let’s focus on the jar ring ornaments. I know you all have a box of rusty rings existing deep in a closet somewhere because none of us can bear to throw them out. After all, we might need them someday when that last minute, September truck load of tomatoes comes rolling from a well-meaning friend (who’s really just sick of canning for the year) and you just may need those extra rings-rust and all! But I digress….

Pull out those rusty rings and then head out to the barn. Yes, the barn. You need baler twine. Now grab your glue gun and any embellishments you may desire: buttons, scraps of ribbon, felt, florals etc. You are now ready to begin.

Using hot glue to hold the twine in place, wrap the ring tightly.

Start by putting a glob of hot glue inside the threaded area of the ring and secure the end of your twine there. (I like to hold the twine in place with a pencil until the glue firms up to avoid third degree crafting burns on fingers that just recovered feeling from the above mentioned canning season.) After that, it’s simple, just wrap until you can no longer see the rusty ring. Glue the tail in place and then glue on another loop for hanging purposes. Add the pretties you chose and voila, you have a mini wreath ornament!

Upscale Country Monogram, Wrapped in ribbon.

Another option, for those who desire a little more polish and class in their up-cycle, is to follow the above steps but use ribbon in place of twine. I like a wide grosgrain, but any ribbon will do. Wider ribbon=faster results, because who has time??? For this one, I also used the jar lid from the green beans we had for dinner. I simply hot glued scrap fabric to cover it and my handy dandy gold paint marker to add a fancy “L” for our family name. Getting the lid into the wrapped ring may require calling on a little brute strength, but with a small amount of effort, you should be able to press it into place. It should fit tight enough that you will not need to secure it with anything. So easy!

There you have it! Simple, cost effective, stress free holiday décor!

As always, Striving4Simplicity

Sandra

Fully adorned homespun Christmas tree!
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