NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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Advice for First-time and Experienced Home Canners

 

canned cukes

 

There are many wrong (unsafe) ways to can food.  Avoid them.  If you’ve used unsafe practices in the past and “gotten away with it,” consider yourself lucky, and switch to safe practices now.

There are lots of places to find ideas and recipes that are unsafe to use.  Don’t use them.  Consequences can be deadly. 

Improperly canned foods allows spores of the bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, to survive.  Even a tiny taste of such a contaminated food can cause sickness, or death.  

However, using safe, research-based recipes decreases the risks of developing food poisoning from home-canned foods.

As the canning season gets into full swing, it is critical to use up-to-date equipment and research-tested methods.  For example, home-canned tomatoes need to be acidified with lemon juice or citric acid and properly processed to be safe.

Use high quality ingredients and the proper equipment.  To safely can low-acid foods such as vegetables, meat and many food mixtures, a pressure canner and standard canning jars with new two piece lids are essential.

Don’t believe claims about canning in dishwashers and ovens, and don’t be tempted to try those methods.  They are not safe!  Jar breakage is a risk and improper/inadequate heat penetration are two of the reasons why it is not safe.

Unfortunately, ideas about canning in dishwashers and ovens do pop up on Facebook and Pinterest and other sites, and people do talk about them.  But the bottom line is they are not safe methods for canning food.  Period.

Canning in electric multi-cookers is also not safe, although you may see a “canning” button on the front control panel of the appliance.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not support the canning processes in these appliances. 

Following the USDA methods, by using stovetop canners for which the methods and recommendations were developed is the safe way.  Be sure to follow the recommendations and recipes precisely.

Foods such as salsa, which is a mix of acid and low-acid ingredients, need to be acidified properly with lemon juice or vinegar using a tested formula and processed according to current recommendations.

NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson states, "If you have a favorite salsa recipe that has not been research-tested, it's safest to freeze it rather than can it.”  She continues, “If you use a commercial salsa mix, follow the directions closely. Do not add extra onions and peppers because those ingredients will affect the acidity and the safety of the canned food."

Improperly prepared lids result in jars that don’t seal.  That is a frustrating problem, and one that is costly in terms of wasted time and money.  Therefore, next week this column will discuss how to prepare the canning lids correctly. 

Photo Source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/24013072@N05/6027549049 (downloaded 7-29-19)

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