Resurgence in home gardening has led to renewed public interest in home food preservation.
Learning and using proper food handling and safety practices for these foods, as well as purchased foods, is essential to prevent food-borne illness.
Quality counts when choosing your fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing, so it is important to always use only high-quality produce. You also should review the basic guidelines of food preservation every year.
We recommend testing the accuracy of dial gauge pressure canners annually. This can be done at the Garfield County Extension Office. You only need to bring the lid of your dial gauge canner. Testing is done to ensure low-acid foods are properly processed to prevent bacterial growth from bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This pathogen causes botulism, which can be deadly.
If you still have the book that came with your canner, re-read the processing procedure. Many people who have dial gauge canners forget the canner must be “vented.” This means after adding two quarts of water and the filled jars to the canner, you need to wait and allow steam to pour steadily from the vent (or petcock) for 10 minutes to force all the air from the canner. The canner must be filled with steam, not air, or the proper temperature of 240 degrees may not be reached. If your canner is more than five years old, processing times in your canner instruction book may not be correct. Request current information from our office, or you can purchase the “Ball Blue Book of Preserving” from a local store or order it online.
It is important you do not retighten screw bands when jars are removed from the canner. Check seals when jars are cool. If you do find an unsealed jar, do one of the following:
• Refrigerate the food and use within two to three days.
• Freeze the contents of the jar if found within 24 hours. Drain vegetables before freezing them.
• Reprocess the food. Remove lids, empty contents into a pan, heat to boiling, pack into a clean jar using new lids. Process again for the full processing time. The quality of twice processed foods may be poor, either soft in texture or darkened color.
• If more than 24 hours has passed since processing, throw out the food. It may not be safe.