Staff writer Sam Schipani joins Kate McCarty, food systems professional at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to learn how to make and can onion jam. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

The summer harvest is starting to come in. No matter how much you love fresh produce, though, there are only so many sun-ripened tomatoes, berries and cucumbers that you can eat before they go bad. Instead of tossing your unused produce in your compost pile, plan ahead for the months to come by trying your hand at canning.

Water bath canning is generally best for beginners. Here is a guide on how to get started with water bath canning. Check out this column and video about canning onion jam to watch the basics in action.

When it comes to canning jars, you shouldn’t reuse store-bought marinara sauce jars and the like because they are not tempered correctly for multiple uses. However, you can reuse jars made for canning, as well as the screw bands. Used lids will need to be replaced, as the seal has likely been worn down through the process and will not bond to the lip of the jar.

Staff writer Sam Schipani joins Kate McCarty, food systems professional at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to learn how to make and can onion jam. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

Choosing a recipe is an important element in canning in order to prevent illness. Here’s why your grandmother’s canning recipe might not work for today. Source recipes from a USDA-approved guide or something trusted like the Ball Blue Book of Canning & Preserving.

There are a number of other ways to prevent illness in home canning, including properly storing canned goods, processing canned produce in a way that does not aid the growth of bacteria and being cognizant of the shelf life of your canned product. This guide to safely canning breaks down the basics to prevent your handcrafted dilly beans from causing an outbreak of botulism.

If you are intimidated by the process of canning, you can try this recipe for freezer pickles, or this recipe for quick pickles. These recipes will not last for months like the properly canned counterparts, but it will provide a tasty alternative to your usual summer garden fare.