Canning supplies difficult to obtain during pandemic

Kent County Master Gardener Rachel Yocum is shown next to her food pantry that includes canned products. Submitted photo/Rachel Yocum

DOVER — Rachel Yocum is seeking key ingredient low sugar pectin and there’s none to be found at a reasonable price.

The Kent County Master Gardener needs the sugar for her jams and jellies, but the wait continues.

She’d love a pressure canner, too, to keep vegetables without adding vinegar.

Like many others, Ms. Yocum is short on canning materials in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought an increase in gardening and drained supply chains.

While Ms. Yocum always secured pectin online, “When I placed my order in the spring, the supplier was already out of stock. I have been on backorder for several months, and I don’t know when I will receive my pectin.

“There are very few other suppliers, and they are charging a premium for even very limited quantities.”

When two boxes were available for sale for $20 from one seller, Ms. Yocum declined to buy them.

“That’s a really significant upcharge, so I passed on that opportunity,” she said.

Her futile quest for materials isn’t unique, Ms. Yocum said.

“Nationally, it is difficult to source virtually any and all canning supplies, from jars and lids to pectin and even canners,” she said.

Megan Pleasanton, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension educator, speculated that “the reason for canning supply shortages are because of the increased amount of victory gardens this year due to the pandemic.

“People are growing some of their own produce and using canning techniques to preserve their harvest into the fall and winter months.”

Tending to a garden for 10 years now and following a family tradition, Dover resident Joe Rogalsky said he’s spent more time at home since the coronavirus arrived in March, which led to more opportunity to can.

Mr. Rogalsky cans dill and sweet pickles, pizza sauce, jalapenos and cherry peppers, among other items.

On the look for supplies at Redner’s Warehouse Market in Dover, Mr. Rogalsky came upon empty shelves where they used to be. Visiting Clark Seeds in Kenton brought a similar experience, he said.

Pictured are red cherry peppers and sweet pickle relish recently canned in Dover. Submitted photo/Joe Rogalsky

“It’s frustrating and it makes me pay more attention when materials come back into stock,” Mr. Rogalsky said. “I’m going to buy them as soon as I see them.”

At Redner’s, the shelves where canning supplies were formerly available have been replaced by other merchandise.

“We have not gotten jars (on order) for six weeks,” Assistant Store Manager Jim Lust said.

At the same time, Ms. Yocum said, “The shortages are pretty across the board, as far as I can tell. Even pressure canners are difficult to find now, and not everyone does pressure canning or can afford those type of canners. It’s not something that’s correlated to the time of year this time. Most people do their canning in the summer and fall, but supplies were selling out in early spring.”

Ms. Yocum has at least had some success.

“Locally, jars and lids have been surprisingly available,” she said.

“I had anticipated not finding any locally, due to online sources being sold out. Thankfully, I was wrong.

“We recently found a few cases of mason jars in the grocery store, so we were able to purchase what we needed of those. We also found lids. We save mason jars and rings year after year, so we had a lot on hand already.

“However, we needed a bit more with the extra food we grew this year, and we needed all new lids, as the lids are not reusable.”

Ms. Yocum said she was fortunate to have ample canning supplies in stock from previous years, “However, a lot of other people are just starting out this year, so they have had a more difficult time accessing supplies due to shortages.”

Ms. Yocum surmised that, “It does seem that a lot more people are canning their own food this year. I am hearing that from all the suppliers and from those folks who have been canning a long time, like myself.

“We all saw the same thing happen in gardening supplies this year, as well. It’s a good problem to have, though. It’s good for people to gain these skills and to take an active role in growing and preserving their own food.”

There’s still a market for those with canning supplies to sell.

“It’s not too late to can this year, and it’s wise to be preparing for next year, so people have supplies on-hand when it’s time to can again,” Ms. Yocum said.

“There will always be a need for canning supplies. Some of my friends and I have been canning our own food for many years. It’s one of those things that becomes a part of our lifestyles and our traditions, as well.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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