Do I really need to use a boiling water bath or pressure canner?
Garden vegetables are just coming in, but many gardeners are already thinking about how they can best preserve their fresh foods for use throughout the year. If you plan on canning foods then “yes” is the answer to the question above!
All home-canned foods must be processed in a boiling water bath or pressure canner to minimize the risk of food poisoning and food spoilage. Bacteria, molds and yeasts grow quickly on the surfaces of fresh foods. Oxygen and the enzymes that cause food to spoil are found throughout fresh fruits and vegetables.
Proper canning practices will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, yeasts and molds; remove excess oxygen from the food; destroy spoilage enzymes and help form strong vacuum seals on jars.
Acid helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in canned food. Foods naturally high in acid (most fruits) or foods that have been acidified with lemon juice or vinegar (like pickles, salsa or tomatoes) can be safely processed in a boiling water bath canner.
However, all fresh vegetables, meats and other low acid foods must be pressure canned to prevent the growth of the bacteria that cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.
To ensure that your home canned foods are safe, it is important to:
• Use only research‐based recipes, like those found in the “USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning” or on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
• Follow those recipes closely.
• Use only recommended canning jars and self-sealing lids; do not reuse jars from mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.
• Use the correct processing method (boiling water bath for high acid or acidified foods; pressure canner for all fresh vegetables, meats and poultry).
• If using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and care.
• Process for the entire length of time specified in the recipe.
• Allow jars to cool naturally so that good vacuum seals can form.
If you are using a canner with a dial gauge. it is important to check the gauge for accuracy at the beginning of each canning season. You can contact the Madison County Cooperative Extension Service at 623-4072 to set up an appointment to have yours tested.
A weighted gauge should maintain its accuracy, as long as you don’t drop it or plug the vent.
If you would like more information on canning sign up for one of our upcoming food preservation classes.
The Food Preservation 101 class will be offered Thursday, June 26, from 10 a.m. to noon. On Tuesday, July 8, the class will be conducted from 10 a.m. to noon, and again from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Canning, drying, and freezing methods will be shared.
An in-depth and hands on workshop, Food Preservation Boot Camp, will take place July 10, from noon to 4 p.m. Space is limited, so sign up soon.
Cost for any of these classes is $5. Call 623-4072 and specify the class you will be attending. We suggested that you bring your own Ball Blue Book with you.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.