Store Home-Canned Goods Properly
Store canned goods properly for the best flavor, quality, and nutrients. After spending hours of your precious time growing, harvesting, preparing, and canning your fresh produce, why not spend a few extra minutes stashing those goodies away properly?
Homesteaders and gardeners are busy people. I get it! So after you hear those jars ping you’d like to be done with the canning process and get on to bigger and better things, right?
Not so fast! If you don’t take a few more minutes to prepare those jars of delicious food for storage, it could lose some flavor, color, and quality. So let’s take a look at the best way to store your goodies.
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The Enemies of Your Canned Goods!
Here are the things that can reduce quality of home-canned goods. Make sure you don’t lose out on all that home-grown goodness to these culprits!
Home-canned goods are more susceptible to discoloration from light than the cans of food from the grocery store. Your canning jars are clear, allowing light to shine on your fruits, veggies, and meats. Store your jars of goodies in a dark spot to prevent browning.
Canned goods keep the best in cool temperatures. Heat is your enemy once those jars are sealed and ready to store. A cool place in your basement will preserve the quality of your preserved food. Make sure they don’t freeze and are not subjected to fluctuating temperatures too!
You also want to keep the area where you store your canned goods fairly dry. Moisture will rust the metal lids and screw bands. Although it will take quite a bit of moisture over time to rust the metal lids to the point of endangering your canned goods, the rust will cause early deterioration of the reusable metal screw bands so you will need to replace them more often.
Before you even begin canning food, make sure that your jars are in good condition. Chipped or cracked jars may not seal properly and could break during processing. Even if it seems that they seal, they could allow bacteria into the food in storage. Don’t use damaged jars or jars that are not intended for canning!
The Best Shelving for Your Preserves
Use a sturdy shelf for storage so you don’t find your canned goods in a broken heap on the floor.
Particleboard and MDF board are not designed to hold heavy loads like canned goods and will warp and break. Use plywood, at the very least, to build shelves for storage or heavy, solid wood boards for best results.
Metal or plastic shelves can also be used if they are rated to hold the weight you place on them.
Before purchasing shelving units or loading them up with jars, check to see what weight they are rated for and weigh the jars to see if you will be staying within those limits.
You’d be surprised at how much those jars weigh when you start piling them up! If you notice any of your storage shelves bowing or bending, remove your jars of food right away. You may attempt to add more support in the center of each shelf (cement blocks might do in a pinch) or replace them with something sturdier.
Tips for Storing Home-Canned Goods
Make sure those freshly processed jars are sealed properly before you whisk them away to the basement.
Metal lids are easy to check. If the lid moves up and down when you press on it, the jar did not seal properly and the food should be used or refrigerated promptly.
Tattler reusable lids are a bit trickier to check. You will need to remove the metal screw band and test the lid with your fingers. Sealed lids should remain firmly in place and those that did not seal properly will pull off.
After processing your jars of food, allow them to cool thoroughly. Then remove all screw bands and wash the jars and screw bands with warm soapy water to remove any juice or food that may have leaked from the jars during processing.
Dry the jars and bands, write the date and contents on the lid or on a label and store them in a cool, dark, dry place until you are ready to use them.
It is also best to store your home-canned foods in a single layer. Stacked jars are not as stable as a single layer and you don’t want your jars to fall and break!
Leave the Screw Bands in Place?
You may store your canned goods with or without the metal screw bands in place.
I usually store my jars without the metal bands because the humidity in our basement is higher than I would like. I like to reuse the metal bands as many times as possible, so I try to keep them in a dry place.
You also don’t want to pull out a jar of peaches and find that the metal lid and screw bands are rusted together. Unscrewing really rusty bands can sometimes chip your glass jars.
However, if you move your jars around a lot and the storage area is dry, replace the metal screw bands to prevent chipping the jars or breaking the seal on your lids as you move them.
Just be absolutely sure those metal bands are clean and dry before you screw them back on. Any food or sticky juice left on the jars can mold and contaminate the food inside when you open the jar.
Don’t Take Chances with Your Food
With all of the work that goes into growing and preserving your own food, you don’t want to waste it. Make sure you follow these guidelines for properly storing home-canned goods and you’ll enjoy them all winter!
For more information on home canning, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Do you have any tips for storing home canned goods that I might have missed? Leave a comment!
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