Guest Post: Five Canning and Preserving Survival Tips by Lynne Curry

July 15, 2017

Today’s guest post comes to us from cookbook author and seasoned canner Lynne Curry. She’s dropping in to share some of her hard won canning wisdom with those who are just getting started, or who simply need to be reminded how to stay sane during the height of the preserving season. Enjoy! -Marisa

The strawberries and cherries have already come and gone for many of us, and the stone fruit avalanche is well under way. And that’s just the fruits! Before you know it, we’ll all be swimming in green beans and tomatoes, racing to pack them into jars.

As a longtime food preserver, I’ve had moments–even small-batch canning–when things nearly got out of hand. With the washing and sanitizing of jars, the peeling and cutting of fruits and vegetables and timing the steady boil in the canner, it’s a lot to manage!

Happily, I’ve adopted five practices from my professional life as a chef and recipe developer that keep me organized and productive from batch to batch over the entire growing season.

Best Canning Management Practices

Adopt the preserving mindset: Preserving food may happen in the kitchen but do not mistake it for cooking. It is a mechanical procedure that requires good organization, cleanliness and precision (for example, the instructions to leave one-half inch headspace in a pickle jar exist for good reason). So, clear off your countertops (you are going to need a lot of space!) and follow all the established and time-tested procedures of the recipe and canning guide to the letter.

Create a command center: The equipment and tools for canning are not every day cookware. So, gather the canner, jar lifter, lid rings and other paraphernalia into one designated area of your kitchen or in a box or milk crate. Then, when the plums or pickling cukes arrive at peak ripeness, you’re ready for them.

Prep in advance: Did I mention to clear off your counters? Having an uncluttered workspace is priority number one for not only practicality but your enjoyment of the process. In addition, there are lots of tasks you can tackle in advance, like scrubbing and trimming vegetables, preparing brine for pickles and gathering ingredients so they’re at your fingertips.

Choose your most productive time of day: When my kids were little, I canned only after bedtime. Now, I prefer to wake up early, pour myself a cup of coffee and get a canner load boiling before the kids wake up. Be sure to free up a block of time—two hours is my minimum for pickling, which is pretty quick—with no other demands to distract you from the work at hand.

Make a washing station: No preserving book I’ve ever read reveals the fact that canning involves rounds of hand washing from startup to cleanup. The single biggest laborsaving task I’ve found is to set up a dedicated washing station. If you don’t have a separate second sink like I do, fill two dishpans for washing and rinsing on an area of your tidy countertop with a dishrack on the side.

Now, let’s wash some jars and restock lids, because it’s Go Time.

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12 thoughts on "Guest Post: Five Canning and Preserving Survival Tips by Lynne Curry"

  • I’ve been canning for years, never consistently, but seriously, since I was a little girl so often, when I get to this point I figure I know it. What organizational tip could someone say that I haven’t done already? Thank you for the washing station tip – it’s brilliant!!!!!

    1. Love it, Hilary. It’s funny because as a recipe writer, I’m *always* considering how many dishes the recipe requires. Maybe that’s because I loathe dish washing for the most part. So happy you found something new and useful. Happy canning!

  • I refer to canning as “dirty every bowl / towel / knife” within sight. And yet I love it and teach friends to do it. It’s the wonderful anticipation of creating something new or the future delight you know you’ll have in the depths of winter.

    1. It truly is a labor of love…with so many delicious rewards. And I agree that joining in with friends is the best.

  • I also add to write on the recipes how many jars the recommended ingredients actually made — sometimes sizes of veggies vary. For example I know that baby cucumbers fill much more space in jars than more average-sized cucumbers, so I keep notes on how many jars to reserve. I also date the time I can fruit or vegetables in season so I know when to start getting out the canning gear the following year.

  • That is a very valuable addition to a list on being organized, Lisa! Everything varies, and it’s invaluable to keep notes about yields, etc. For example, I always seem to need more brine than the average pickle recipe asks for–go figure. But keeping notes makes sure I remember those details and buy enough supplies and ingredients. You’re way ahead of me with noting the dates for fruits and veggies in your area, however. Nice one!

  • My question is about pressure canning. I have some delicious recipes for sauce and beef stew….. can I pressure can my own recipe or do I need to follow a pre existing recipe? thanks

  • Great tips! It is a lot of work and takes time, but it’s so worth it to be able to enjoy fresh, local produce throughout the year.

    1. Thanks, Ellen! It is so true.

      I just canned peaches last weekend, and my two girls are already anticipating the pleasures ahead. In the meantime, I tell them, “Hands off!” LOL.
      Happy canning.