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Food preservation update: Don’t experiment when canning

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Cheryle Jones Syracuse

Family and Consumer Science Staff

Soon many kitchens will be filled with canning equipment working hard to preserve fresh produce from gardens and local markets. Now is the time to make sure you are canning safely. There are two major points to consider before beginning canning.

1) Make sure the dial gauge on your canner is correct. It is recommended that all low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats be processed using a pressure canner. 

Dial gauges on these canners should be tested each year to insure that they are correct and that you are processing the food accurately. Dial gauges can be tested free of charge at the NCSU Cooperative Extension Brunswick County Center, 25 Referendum Drive at the Government Complex in Bolivia. This service will be available from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Friday, June 10.

Simply bring the canner’s lid with the gauge attached. It only takes a few minutes for the peace of mind knowing your gauges are accurate. Only canners with gauges need to be monitored. It is not necessary to check canners that control the pressure with weights. If at all possible, we ask that the person who will actually be doing the canning be presenting during the testing. 

This will give them a chance to ask questions about the canner and preserving while the gauge is being tested. If you not to be there on this date, simply bring the canner lid with the gauge attached to the Extension Office before the testing time and then pick it up afterwards. Additional dates and appointments can be made. If you can’t make it this week, call for an appointment. 

2) Make sure you are using safe canning methods. Although many folks have been canning for years and have their favorite recipes, it is best to use procedures that have been updated and tested using current research. This assures safe results. 

A good source of accurate information is the latest issue of the USDA Guide to Home Canning. It was updated in 2009 and is available on the Internet. A good publication that has been around a long time is the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.” Be sure to get the latest updated edition, which is their 100th Anniversary Edition. Another great reference and cookbook is “So Easy to Preserve” published by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Georgia. 

We also have many fact sheets on all types of canning and preserving. These fact sheets are available free of charge by calling the Brunswick County Extension Center at 253-2610.

One more note on planning for your food preservation: Use only recently tested and recipes from credible sources. If you’re the type of person who likes to develop new recipes, this is not the time to do it. Canning is not the place of experimenting. 

Always use a tested recipe and we have plenty to share. This also goes for some of those old recipes you’ve inherited from mom or grandma. These recipes may have been around a long time, but may not be safe to use. We know a lot more now about what makes food “keep” and some of those old-timer recipes just don’t keep up with modern science. That also goes for recipes that can be found on the Internet. 

Just because someone says they work does not mean they have been tested by a food scientist that understands food preservation. Always look to see the source of the recipe. Another thing to keep in mind: Just because a jar lid “seals” does not mean it is safe.

The advantages of home canning are lost when inappropriate and unsafe procedures or recipes are used. Why risk the loss of your time and produce and possibly make yourself or a family member sick by not following up-dated and tested recipes and procedures?

One of the best sources of information on food preservation can be found online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/. This is a national source for research-based recommendations for most methods of home preservation. There is even an online class you can take that is free of charge. Check it out.

The Brunswick County Extension Center will be offering a class on Home Food Preservation from 1-3 p.m. Friday, June 17. This class will discuss the basics of food preservation. The registration fee is $20 per person and includes all instructions and a copy of the “So Easy to Preserve” cookbook. 

For more information on this class or food preservation, contact the Brunswick County Extension Center at 253-2610.