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Advice for Home Canners and People Who Eat Canned Foods

Advice for Home Canners and People Who Eat Canned Foods 8/2/19A variety of tips and recommendations for safe and successful home canning were provided in last week’s column.  This week I will continue down that path, and also include recommendations for storing canned foods to maintain quality and safety.

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.  The way canning lids are engineered and manufactured has changed over the years.  For that reason, it very important to follow the manufacturer's directions for preparing the canning lids.  In many cases, it means NOT boiling the lids as had been recommended in previous years.  Boiling the lids when they are not meant to be boiled can result in jars that unseal during storage.

The surface of the jar that the lid sits on should be clean, smooth and free of any nicks or food pieces. Typically, it is recommended that the rings be tightened to be “finger-tip tight” before processing.  Tighter than that is not necessarily better, because over-tightening the rings can result in buckled lids and failure to seal.

Jars of home canned foods that have sealed properly should cool for at least 24 hours.  The metal rings should be removed before putting them on the shelf to use and enjoy in the coming months. 

Light may cause food in glass jars to change color and lose nutrients, and temperatures above 100 F can cause food to spoil. The acid in foods such as tomatoes and fruit juices can cause commercial cans to corrode.

Anyone who uses home-canned or commercially canned foods should follow these food storage recommendations:

  • Store home-canned and commercially-canned foods in a cool, clean, dry place where temperatures are below 85 degrees. Temperatures in the 60- to 70-degree range are ideal.
  • Use home-canned foods within one year for best quality.
  • Commercially canned low-acid foods (such as green beans and peas) can be stored up to five years, according to the USDA.
  • Use high-acid commercially canned foods (such as tomato-based products) within 12-18 months.  Foods stored longer will be safe to eat if they show no signs of spoilage and the cans don't appear to be damaged, but the food's color, flavor and nutritive value may have deteriorated.

Food containing the botulism toxin generally doesn't taste or look unusual, although the lids on commercial cans may provide a clue that the food is contaminated. NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist Garden-Robinson recommends throwing away any commercial cans that are swollen or bulging and food from glass jars with bulging lids. She also advises against tasting food from swollen containers or food that is foamy or has an uncharacteristic smell.

Visit NDSU Extension's newly updated food preservation website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for the latest guidelines on canning, freezing, drying and pickling foods. Contact your local Extension office for more information about safely preserving a variety of foods.

Photo source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mason-jar-canning-lids-shiny-467822/ (downloaded 8/6/19)

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