Preserving home-grown goodness


By Pamela C. Outen
N.C. Cooperative Extension
Summer brings an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables to our area. Whether you are planting a garden, and more people seem to be growing their own produce this year, or planning on visiting our local farmers’ market, now is the time to learn or review proper methods of home canning. Food safety is key to preserving fresh produce. To ensure the safety of home-preserved food, select the proper processing method. The processing method — boiling water bath or pressure canning — will depend on the acid level of the food that you are preserving.

Jams, jellies and preserves are processed in a boiling water bath. Because jellied products have a high acid content, the spoilage bacteria that might be present can be killed easily when they are processed in a boiling water bath. This step can significantly increase the shelf-life of jellied products.

Other foods that are high in natural acid, that have been fermented or have enough added lemon juice or citric acid to make them high in acid can be safely processed in a boiling water bath. The presence of natural or added acid prevents the growth of the harmful bacteria that causes botulism. Examples of high-acid foods include all fruits except tomatoes and figs that are not acidified sauerkraut, pickles and relishes.

If tomatoes and figs are properly acidified, they can be safely processed in a boiling water bath. Tomatoes and figs must still be acidified if they are to be pressure processed.  Not properly acidifying tomatoes and figs before either type of processing could result in an unsafe product.

All low-acid foods should be processed in a pressure canner. This includes all meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables as well as acidified tomatoes and figs. All of these foods contain very little natural acid. When very little acid is present it takes a temperature of 240° to kill harmful bacteria. The only way to get this higher temperature is to process food in a pressure canner.

That is a very quick overview of food safety and preservation tips. Perhaps as you read this article you were asking, “What in the world is a boiling water bath, or how do you acidify tomatoes?”  Nationally, Cooperative Extension is recognized as a research based source of food preservation information. Your local Cabarrus County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Program is your source of up-to-date food preservation information. I welcome phone calls, office visits, or e-mails with your food preservation questions.

We also offer Dial Gauge Pressure Canner lid testing to ensure your gauge is registering the correct amount of pressure. Just call our office and schedule a time to bring your lid in and have it tested before the canning season gets really busy.

This year we are pleased to offer a hands on workshop entitled the “Basics of Home Canning.” This workshop is designed for the beginner with little or no canning experience. If you are an experienced canner, it will provide an update on current USDA recommendations. The workshop will be offered Monday, June 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at our Cabarrus Extension Office, 715 Cabarrus Avenue West, Concord. This workshop is designed to teach canning safety, types of equipment, proper canning methods, boiling water bath and pressure canning. Each participant will learn and leave with an example of a boiling water bath and pressure canned product. Cost is $20 and includes all written materials, food, class supplies and a light snack and beverage. Participants will want to bring a bag lunch.

To enroll in this workshop please register at: Family and Consumer Science, class 4102. Class size is very limited so you are encouraged to register early.

I hope you will enjoy the bounty or our summer fruits and vegetables and preserve some to enjoy this winter!

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