Pick-Your-Own strawberry season is right around the corner! In this neck of the woods, it begins this coming weekend. For me that means it is time to take inventory of all of our canning supplies and make sure we are ready for the onslaught of fresh fruit we’ll be bringing home regularly for the next few weeks. We do a lot of canning in this house and are always looking to do more, so it is good to be prepared. With the CSA, I could come home at any time with a box of tomatoes or peppers or cucumbers that need to be canned immediately.
Most of the equipment that I use for canning lasts a really long time, so it doesn’t need to be purchased every year. I am definitely a no-frills canner and so I also don’t need to store a lot when it comes to winter. Here are some of the things that I use year after year, and some things I considered when purchasing them. These are things you should definitely invest in if you are thinking of canning. It is important to note that these are just the basics and you can add to your supply year after year as I continue to do.
A Waterbath Canner –
Every bit of canning that I do is done with a waterbath canner. I have not canned meats before (nor do I plan to do so), so a pressure canner is not needed in my case. The waterbath canner that I have is the Granite Ware 21 1/2 Qt. model. It is one of the cheapest that you can buy on Amazon. Before I purchased this one, I just used my biggest stockpot. It worked just fine, but I grew out of it quickly, and I have to say, the frame that you put the jars on in the actual canning pot is well worth all of the money.
**Note: Before you purchase, measure the size of the burner that you will be using if you have a glass stove top. It makes a difference how much room is on either side of the pot when you put it on the burner. Here is a good article about this.
Ball Canning Jars –
I am partial to Ball because that is what I have always used. Once you stock up on these jars, they last. They only thing you have to purchase year after year are the lids (less than $2 for a pack). When I first started I purchased the 1/2 pint jars. These are great for jams. Now I purchase even smaller ones than this to give as gifts, and then pint jars for salsa, and quart jars for applesauce. A great place to get these can be Craig’s List or you can keep your eyes open for them at flea markets. Getting them used is fine because you will need to sterilize them year after year before use them anyway. This year I splurged and bought these beautiful blue Vintage edition jars…gorgeous!
Jar Lifter –
Though the metal basket in the bottom of the canner has handles, a jar lifter is still a good idea in case you need to “rescue” a jar mid can. It also makes them easier to pull out at the end. Here is an example.
I am putting this in there because I am pretty sure most people use these. I have not had a ton of success with these, but I am thinking it is just user error. I received a collapseible one last year and was not a huge fan, so I may have to try a different brand or variety this year.
Ball Canning Recipe Book –
I am a huge advocate for this book. It has been around forever. Well, not forever, what I really mean is that Ball is the resource that you want to use, and it has been around for a long time. There are some great recipes in here and my goal has been to try a new one every year.
After you have the basic supplies, there are some necessities that go on my checklist that I stock up on every year. Many of them can be stored for a long time, so a great time to buy them is right after canning season in the fall when everything goes on sale.
Necessities to Stock Up On:
Lids – Like I said above, you can reuse the rings and the glass jars, but the lids you will need to purchase new each time. The nice thing about the Ball jars is that the lids are one size fits all. Last year a local grocery store was going out of business and they had Ball lids on clearance so I stocked up for years to come…SCORE!
Pectin (a gelling agent) – If you are cooking jams, dry pectin is the way to go. I use no-sugar added. Here is a great resource for how to choose what pectin you need. I usually buy a large jug of it and it lasts for…just strawberry season (but we can a lot with strawberries!)
Lastly, if you’re planning on having any canning parties or if you have a glass-top stove that won’t fit a large waterbath canner, a Coleman camping stove is always an option. I bought one last year (mostly for camping) and use it when I can in super large quantities. I also plan on using it for my jalapeno jelly since the smell that filled the house while I was cooking it made the kids gag last year.
What other canning items/supplies do you stock up on or rely on for canning season?
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