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Getting Ready for Canning Season

What is the proper way to preserve food?

Nashville, Ark. -The pandemic has convinced many to try their hand at home gardening this year. There are lots of advantages to growing your own food. Taste, freshness and knowing where your food comes from are among the top. Maybe you have even considered preserving the food you grow to help feed your family throughout the year. If you are planning on canning food at home this growing season, now it the time to prepare your equipment. Proper equipment in good condition is required for safe, high quality home canned food.

            There are basically two ways to can food – pressure canning and water bath canning. The type of foods you plan to can will determine which method to use.

What is the difference between pressure canning and water bath canning?

            A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. There are two basic types of pressure canners, one has a metal weighted gauge and the other has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner. If you use a pressure canner with a dial gauge, it is important to have the dial gauge checked every year. The Howard County Extension Office can test dial gauges at no charge. It takes just a few minutes (usually 5 minutes) to test the gauge for accuracy. Why test? If your gauge is off by more than two degrees, your food is not being heated to the proper level to destroy bacteria which may be present. Your food can ruin, and you will have to throw it away, but more importantly you could be passing along a food borne illness which could result in severe sickness.

            A boiling water canner is needed for canning other foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies, and jams. It is not used for canning green beans! Only a pressure canner can be used for low-acid vegetables.

            Pressure canners use very little water and rely on steam or pressure to build up in the canner to process the food. Water bath canners, on the other hand, are filled with water to a level of 2 inches above the top of the jar. A boiling water canner should have a flat bottom, so that it fits nicely on the stove top, and a tight-fitting lid. Both pressure and water bath canners should have a rack in the bottom to raise jars off the bottom of the canner.

            Use only standard tempered glass home canning jars, not used mayonnaise or pickle jars. It is fine to reuse canning jars if they are not chipped or cracked. Garage sales can be a great place to locate used canning jars, just make sure they are designed for canning.

What type of container should I use in canning?

Always use 2-piece lids. There are a lot of craft jars and lids available, make sure the ones you purchase are for food preservation, not crafts. Purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down in storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted.

Other items that come in handy when canning include jar fillers, tongs, air bubble removers, and lid wands. Tongs should be canning tongs that are used to place and remove jars from the canner. Kitchen tongs are not designed for lifting jars.

It is highly recommended to use up-to-date canning instructions and recipes. Grandma’s favorite recipe or a recipe that is all over the internet are not good resources for reliable safe recipes. If the resource is older than 1994 consider it to be outdated and not following the most updated recommendations for food safety.

Sources for reliable information, in addition to the Howard County Extension Office, are the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation and the most recently revised edition of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, also available online for free download at Current editions of books and publications from manufacturers of major canning supplies such as the Ball Blue Book published after 1994 are also reliable.

The Howard County Extension Service does have available the publication So Easy to Preserve which is a cookbook style resource with hundreds of recipes and complete instructions for home food preservation at a small cost.

If you want to learn how to preserve the food, consider participating in a Food Preservation Workshop scheduled for Tuesday, May 18 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the Howard County Extension Homemaker Educational Center. A registration fee of $15 will be charged to cover program materials. Participants will learn to pressure can meats and low-acid vegetables in this hands-on workshop. If you are interested in participating, you must call the Extension Office at 870-845-7517 by Friday, May 14. Our office is located on the second floor of the courthouse in Nashville. You may also email me at If you are interested in having your dial gauge tested, please call the office to schedule a time. Our office is open from 8:00 – 4:30 Monday through Friday. We do close for lunch from 12:00-12:30.

Planning ahead can save you time, money, and frustration with home canning. Make it a happy, safe, and successful canning season by getting prepared before your harvest is ready. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact the Howard County Extension Office as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. 

Extra Cheesy Lasagna Recipe

            This recipe was shared by Emmie T., a member of the Nature Seekers 4-H Club in Howard County. Emmie received 1st place overall in the recent Dairy Foods Contest sponsored by the Howard County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and Extension Homemakers. This recipe is a must for busy families since it easy to prepare!

  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 1 (16 oz.) container cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack and Colby cheese blend
  • 1 cup water
  1. Pour 1/3 of spaghetti sauce in bottom of an 11x7-inch baking dish.
  2. Place 3 lasagna noodles over top.
  3. Add half cottage cheese over noodles.
  4. Sprinkle ½ cup mozzarella cheese.
  5. Repeat for next layer; then add 3 more noodles and the rest of the sauce.
  6. Top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 cup Monterey Jack/Colby cheese.
  7. Pour water into the bottom of the pan.
  8. Cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.