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Extension Line

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Makes a Comeback

Canning is making a comeback! This statement comes from Renee Sweers, ISU Extension Nutrition and Health Program Specialist serving Cherokee County. Preserving the harvest from your garden (or someone else's) is a time-honored tradition that is gaining popularity. Home food preservation is not difficult, but in order to be done safely, specific guidelines must be followed.

ISU Extension has always been a go-to source for up-to-date food preservation information. We have recently revised all of our food preservation publications and are introducing a new food preservation course Preserve the Taste of Summer. This course provides both online lessons and hands-on workshops for anyone interested in learning how to safely preserve foods.

Preserve the Taste of Summer covers food safety and canning basics, water bath and pressure canning, making pickles and jams, and freezing and dehydrating foods. Participants can choose which area of food preservation they want to learn about or take the entire course. When the pre-requisite online courses are completed, participants will be able to participate in hands on workshops where they will do some actual canning, freezing, and dehydrating. Registration for the course is done online at www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/preservation/ho....

Here are some common misconceptions I have encountered when teaching about home food preservation.

Although grandma sealed jars of jam with paraffin (wax) on top, it is no longer considered safe. It may not be safe to can the way grandma did. Science has come a long way in almost all areas of life since 'grandma's day' and home food preservation is no exception. Home food preservers should educate themselves on the most up-to-date recommendations and recipes.

A sealed jar is not necessarily a safe jar.

It is true; part of the canning process is creating a vacuum seal in the jar. Unfortunately, this does not mean the product was safely canned. Follow tested recipes and processes to ensure the food is safe to eat.

Experimenting with canning recipes is not recommended.

It is fun and trendy to be creative when cooking, but for canning; a USDA tested recipe should be used. A canning recipe from the neighbor, a random cookbook, the internet, etc... is not necessarily from a tested source. Tested recipes have determined what it takes to get adequate heat penetration to the coldest part of the jar... the center. Tested recipes and processes take into consideration the acidity, density, water activity of the food and even the size of jar being used.

Acid (lemon juice or citric acid) needs to be added to home canned tomatoes.

The acidity of tomatoes varies depending on the variety of tomato, the soil conditions, and even the weather. Lemon juice or citric acid should be added to each jar of home canned tomatoes to ensure adequate acid level. I have visited with experienced canners that are not familiar with this process, although it is not a new recommendation.

Are you interested in learning how to preserve food at home? Do you need to update your canning knowledge? Would you like to learn more about freezing or drying foods? Contact your local county ISU Extension office at 712-225-6196, to learn about food preservation resources or register for Preserve the Taste of Summer at www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/preservation/ho....