Answer by: Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agent
As gardens and orchards begin to produce in abundance, it is time to preserve these foods for future use. Home food preservation is easy, but proper guidelines must be adhered to for safe and long-lasting products.
Over the past years, many guidelines for home canning
have changed because of acidity levels, amounts of botulism and updated research about the safest methods. Consider these 10 tips for successful home canning.
• Produce is best canned when at its prime. Firm, ripe produce is best. Avoid bruised, over or under ripe products.
• Adjust for altitude. At increased elevations, it takes longer to boil water because of the lower temperatures. To be effective in killing bacteria growth, it is critical to increase canning times and adjust the pressure. Most books are written for elevations between zero and 1,000 feet. Know your elevation and adjust as directed.
• Know the acidity of foods since this determines the method for canning. High-acid foods, such as fruits, are safe to process in the water bath canner. Tomatoes need to have acid added for this process. Low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats need to be pressure canned in a proper pressure canner.
• Understand proper, safe canning methods. The only two approved and recommended processes are water bath canners for high-acid foods and pressure canners for low-acid foods. Pressure canning is the only safe method that will kill botulism spores. Always remember to vent the pressure canner for 10 minutes before putting on the weight. The steam canner is not recommended at this time for either acidic or low-acid foods. Processing times have not been adequately researched to achieve a safe product. Ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, crock pots, open kettles or the sun are not approved canning methods and should not be used.
• Salt and sugar are not preservatives for canned fruits and vegetables. Sugar is necessary in jams and jellies but can be omitted in fruits. Sugar increases the texture, color and flavor of the product. Vegetables are safely canned when salt is omitted, however, salt is necessary for canning pickles.
• Remember to remove the jar ring. Following a 12-hour cooling period of a processed product, remove the ring, wipe the jar, label it and place it on the shelf. Never reuse a flat lid in processing foods.
• Proper storage increases shelf life. When foods are stored in a cool, dry, dark atmosphere, the shelf life of the food is increased. For best use of the product, enjoy it within a year.
• Some foods should not be home canned. Breads, cakes, butter and flour are not safe for home canning. No approved methods are available for these products. Botulism can grow when oxygen is removed and the product is under processed.
• Don’t use grandma’s recipes. These recipes may be a treasure, but many of them are no longer considered safe practices. Make sure you are using an updated canning guide that has been revised since 1990. Current guidelines are available at the USDA canning site or in a current Ball Blue Book. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ ) where you can download safe and current information.
• Always keep safety in mind when canning. Knowledge and recommendations change over time with scientific developments. Use up-to-date recommendations rather than the practices of past generations.
Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Cooperative Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-797-0810, Julene.firstname.lastname@example.org.