Saving the best of seasonal produce to eat at another time of year is the key to great local eating all year round. Get started with this equipment list:
A stock pot or other very large pot can be used instead of a canning kettle, and rolls of tin foil can stand in for the canning rack. But if you think you'll process more than 1 batch of jam or preserves or pickles a year, having a waterbath canner and fitted rack makes life infinitely easier.
A jar lifter helps move hot jars around smoothly and easily. Regular kitchen tongs are an inadequate and dangerous substitute (believe me, I've tried!).
A wide-mouth funnel to match wide-mouth jars (which I vastly prefer to regular jars, since getting things in and
out is so much easier) - keeps as much of your jams or pickles in the jar, not on the counter.
While not absolutely necessary (I make do with potholders and burnt fingers), a lid wand will help move and secure sterilized lids without burns or contamination.
I vastly prefer wide-mouth jars for all my canning and preserving. I find they're easier to fill and
easier to empty. What size jars you buy depends on the recipe you're using, which will usually specify jar size. If you have a choice, half-pint jars are great for chutneys and jams, particularly if you plan on giving jars away (you get more per batch!).
Quart jars are for serious canners or those making cucumber pickles. As with all canning jars, I prefer these wide-mouth versions over old-fashioned regular-mouth models.
These are the pretty "jelly jars" you see at State fairs and at grandma's house. They have a lovely homey, old-fashioned appeal.
Jars are endlessly reusable (well, until they break!), whereas lids need to be replaced. Having extras around and ready to go is handy.
Note: When you buy wide-mouth jars the lids fit all sizes - half-pint, pint, and quart.
Ball Company makes a nice "Home Canning Kit" that contains all the basics, plus a booklet on how to can and a "bubble freer" (I always just use a skewers or thin knife), if you would need to buy all the items listed here. Be forewarned: The kit comes with 6 pint jars. Pint jars are the size I use the most frequently (as do most canners), but if you don't plan to use them, buying the necessary items separately may make more sense.