NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Get Ready for the Canning Season

canning, food preservation, canning guidelines

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh vegetables. But with proper preparation and planning, you can enjoy produce from your garden, grocery store or local farmers market all year long.

Canning properly so your food is safe is a must, so check to make sure you have up-to-date and appropriate equipment for the canning you plan to do.

Did you know that canning guidelines have changed through the years as scientists learn what is and isn't safe? The U.S. Department of Agriculture canning guidelines underwent a major overhaul in 1994, and in 2006, canning guidelines were reviewed and revised. Follow only current research-tested canning recipes, such as those from USDA/Extension or Ball.

If you intend to can low-acid foods such as most vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, you will need to use a pressure canner. A properly working pressure canner will reach a temperature of 240 F. Processing low-acid foods for the proper amount of time in a pressure canner kills harmful and potentially deadly bacteria.

Be sure to have your pressure canner’s pressure gauge checked annually for accuracy. Gauges can be checked at the county Extension office.

When canning acidic foods such as fruits, pickles, jams, jellies, sauerkraut and most tomato products, you will need to use a boiling water-bath canner. When you can tomatoes, you also need to add lemon juice or citric acid to acidify them because some tomato varieties are lower in acid than others.

You should examine the rest of your equipment to see if you need to buy anything new. For example, check all jars for cracks, dents and chips. Throw away any damaged jars because they may not seal properly, which is a safety hazard.

If your jars are very old and have been reused many times, you may need to purchase new ones because the old ones can break under pressure and the heat. Mason jars are best because they are designed specifically for home canning.

After examining your jars, inspect your lids and screw bands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that home food preservers use two-piece, self-sealing metal lids. Throw away used lids; never reuse them. You can reuse the screw bands as long as they are not damaged or bent.

Next, be sure your canning instructions are up to date and reliable. Recipes from family and friends may be tempting to use, but you don’t know if they were scientifically tested for safety.

Visit the NDSU Extension Service’s website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation for free canning information and some tasty, research-tested recipes. You also can contact your local office of the NDSU Extension Service or visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at http://nchfp.uga.edu/ for more information.

Remember, with proper planning and preparation, canning can be safe and easy, and you can enjoy summer’s bounty any time of the year.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist

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