When it comes to flavor and taste, few things compare to home-canned produce fresh from the garden. The home canning and preserving season will be here before we know it, so now is a good time to start preparing.
Preserving food from your garden or orchard can be a good way to combat the rising prices of food at the grocery. But be sure to follow research-tested recipes for safe, high quality food that your family will enjoy.
Recipes that call for “a pinch” of this or that ingredient; recipes that are not tested in a laboratory; or those that contain outdated or inaccurate canning information, can result in products that may be unsafe to consume. Below are three general guidelines for safe food preservation:
- Inspect and repair any food preservation equipment at the beginning of the season. Now is a good time to inspect canners or food dehydrators to make sure all equipment is in working condition. And start now to collect approved canning jars and lids for use during the season. Canning jars that use two-piece, self-sealing metal lids are recommended for home canning. Jars should be free of nicks or scratches. A “must” every canning season is new flat lids. Metal screw bands that are not bent or rusted can be reused.
- Have dial-gauge pressure canners tested for accuracy. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. Pressure canners come with either a dial-gauge or a weighted-gauge. Dial-gauge pressure canners should be tested each year for accuracy. Most county UW-Extension offices offer free dial-gauge testing; call ahead for availability of this service.
- Always follow an up-to-date tested recipe from a reliable source. This is perhaps the most important step in preparing for home food preservation, according to Ingham. Cookbooks and old family recipes are not reliable sources of research-tested recipes. Consult your local county UW-Extension office for recipes that will ensure you are canning safe, high quality foods.
More tomatoes are home-canned than any other product. But many people are unaware that tomato-canning recommendations changed dramatically way back in 1994. For example, you must add acid to home-canned tomato products to ensure safety. Even though it’s tempting to return to a family-favorite recipe, it’s important to update your canning recipes as guidelines change.
You can find the most up-to-date recipes, how-to videos, online lectures and more to help you safely can fruit, jams and jellies, meat, pickles, salsa, tomatoes, and vegetables; plus information on freezing fruits and vegetables at the “Safe and Healthy: Preserving Food at Home” blog at http://fyi.uwex.edu/safepreserving.
Many UW-Extension county offices are offering workshops on the most up-to-date home canning practices. Information for contacting county offices is available at http://yourcountyextensionoffice.org.