Home Canning Season Tips for Success

by Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent, Food Safety & Quality


Home Canning Season is just around the corner.  Many have started gardens and produce will soon be ready to harvest and start preserving.  Jars and canning lids became scarce last year and appears that they may be again this year.  You may have to order online in bulk just be careful to make sure you are buying standard canning jars and lids that can be safely used to preserve your produce.  Here are some more tips for success:



  • Start with a research-tested Just because a recipe is in print, doesn’t mean it’s safe for you and your family.  Start with a recipe that has been tested to make sure that the product is safe and high quality. A great place to begin is with the recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation www.uga.edu/nchfp/ Some states, such as Alabama, have recipe books that have been developed to ensure safe canning no matter where you live in the state:  www.aces.edu/foodsafety/
  • Use recipes that are up to We all want to continue with those tried-and-true recipes, but canning recommendations have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. If you are using recipes that date before 1994, then it’s a good idea to set those aside and find an up-to-date recipe that has been tested for safety.
  • Start with equipment in good working order. A boiling water canner should have a flat bottom, so that it fits nicely on the stove top, and a tight-fitting lid. A pressure canner will have either a dial- gauge or a weighted gauge. Dial gauge canners should be tested every year for Most county extension offices will test dial gauge canners for free! (This is certainly true in Alabama) If you have a Presto dial gauge canner, or any other type of pressure canner with a dial gauge contact your local county extension office and see when you can have your tested. Replace canner gaskets every 2-3 years. There is information to help you successfully use your pressure canner: Using Pressure Canners  www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_press_canners.html .  You can also find classes by following us at www.aces.edu/foodsafety and on our Facebook page @acesfoodsafety
  • Assemble jars and other Use only standard home canning jars, not old mayonnaise jars, and check these to make sure they are not chipped or cracked. Always use 2-piece lids; purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down on storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted. It’s fine to reuse canning jars, as long as they are not chipped or cracked. Garage sales can be great places to locate used canning jars, just make sure they were designed for canning. Other items that come in handy for home canning include jar fillers, tongs, and lid wands.
  • Leave your creativity behind! Home canning is one area where being creative can lead to food safety disasters. So begin with an up-to-date, research-tested recipe and carefully follow the Don’t make ingredient substitutions, unless they are allowed, and follow the recipe directions through all the steps. Don’t substitute dishwasher canning, oven canning, or open-kettle canning for an approved canning method – boiling water canning or pressure canning.

And remember, at the end of the day, a sealed canning jar does not indicate that the food inside is safe. A sealed jar simply means that the jar is sealed. You can do a lot of things wrong and still get a jar to seal!   As a safety precaution for properly canned foods, boil low-acid foods (i.e. vegetables, meats, fish) 10-11 minutes before eating to destroy any botulism toxin that might be present. If food looks spoiled, foams, or has a strange odor during heating, throw it out.

Follow these easy steps for safely preserving your garden’s bounty to enjoy all year round.

If you need further information or have questions you can always call your local County Extension Office or www.aces.edu/go/foodpreservationsafety for the latest science-based information and recipes for all your canning needs.




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As the Bibb County Coordinator for Alabama Extension, Michelle Giddens coordinates the implementation of all Extension programs in Bibb County in many program areas. These program areas include 4-H and Youth Development, Animal Sciences, Food Safety and Quality, Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Family and Child Development, Family Resource Management and Workforce Development, Commercial Horticulture, Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests, Farm and Agribusiness Management, and Community and Economic Development. Her experience includes with the eXtension Initiative at the University of Nebraska and with the eXtension Foundation; California State University, Fresno and Central Community College in Grand Island, NE. She currently serves on the board for Brierfield Fire and Rescue, a volunteer fire department serving Brierfield and Six Mile communities in Alabama