If the pick-your-own season is at hand, can preserving be far behind? Get an early start by organizing the fruit cellar and taking stock of all jars and lids on hand.

Rubber rings on preserving jars, which are still preferred by many people, should be scalded before they are used to sterilize them and to soften the rubber. However, if you have a large stock of old rings, inspect them thoroughly. After a few years they can dry out. If they are brittle to the touch, discard them since they will not hold a seal.

Metal lids, which are in fairly wide use, are now made with a sealing compound called Plastisol instead of the latex that was used for many years. The manufacturers, Bernardin of Canada Ltd. and Anchor Ltd., have heard over the last few years about new lids that failed to hold the seal.

Bernardin’s general manager Richard Riddle says that if the lids were screwed on too tight, it caused them to buckle so that a seal couldn’t form. This year, Bernardin will add the words “do not use force” along with instructions for its product.

Until recently, the industry voluntarily monitored the quality of metal lids. However, as of the past February, a national standard was adopted by the federal General Standards Board. Inspectors will now make regular visual examinations and performance tests to ensure that quality standards are met.

Although the food may taste the same, canning techniques and containers change across Canada. Domglas Inc. is making glass lids this year for sale in the prairie provinces and British Columbia. These lids are used with rubber rings and often have a metal closure.

The decision to add glass lids to the marketplace came as a result of more than 1,000 letters the manufacturer received from consumers. Consumers Association of Canada volunteer Jane Ringe initiated the consumer action which resulted from discontent with metal lids and the desire for a greater choice in the marketplace. Those in eastern Canada who want this type of lid should contact Domglas Inc. and inquire whether they will be distributed there.

As well as choosing the correct lids, home canners should use the right vinegar for their pickles. Most vinegar on the market has either five or seven per cent acetic acid, and this is shown on the label. Some recipes specify which strength is recommended. However it is hard to tell the acidity level of flavored or homemade vinegars and using them can ruin your recipe. Flavored vinegars will give their distinctive smell and taste to a recipe – although it may appear to be all right at the time, the results could be disappointing.

All vinegars will lose their strength with long boiling, so heat the pickling liquid only when it is necessary.

If you would like more information on home canning, plan ahead.

If pickling is on your list of summer projects, here are some tips.

. If your pickles are dark or discolored, the problem may be hard water. Use only soft water. Or, it may be that you are using iron, brass, copper or zinc utensils. Use only glass, aluminum, enamel, stainless steel or stoneware utensils for making pickles. Or you may have used powdered or ground spices. Use whole spices tied in a cheesecloth bag.

. If your pickles are hollow, then poor quality cucumbers were used. If cucumbers float in water during washing, do not use them for pickles.

. Do not use stale cucumbers for pickling; set them aside for relishes. Pickle cucumbers within 24 hours of their picking, if possible.

. If your pickles are shrivelled, you may have added too much sugar, vinegar, or salt to the cucumbers at one time. Use a milder solution of sugar, brine or vinegar. Gradually add final amount required for recipe.

. If your pickles are slippery or soft, the vinegar or brine used was too mild. Use pure granulated salt. Vinegar acidity should be five or seven per cent. Also, keep pickles covered with liquid during the brining process. Be sure liquid covers pickles when packing them in jars.

. If there is scum on surface, remove it daily during brining process.

. If there is white sediment in jars of firm pickles, it is usually from harmless yeasts. Some sediment is normal. If pickles are soft, do not eat them.