I had the privilege this past weekend to work in the garden with my parents. I can only hope that one day my garden will look like Dad’s, it’s just a picture. While picking the green beans and husking corn in the early morning, the conversation was very reminiscent from when “the kids” used to be there to help. It struck me that sometimes we are so busy with the challenges of life, we forget about our own history. The practice of putting food away for the winter has been more than preservation, it’s a tradition. I can’t tell you the number of people who have called saying “I haven’t canned in years, but my son or daughter wants to learn, can you help me?” The answer is yes, please call the office and we’ll answer your questions and provide calibration of your pressure canner if needed.
Through the years there have been changes to the methods that we practice. We talked about how it used to be and what’s different now. Following are a few bullet points that others may find helpful.
*24 hours from harvest to preservation. As we strive to keep the best nutritional value and flavor, it’s best to work your food quickly. That means planning ahead to make sure that we have the bags or lids or jars ready to go before the food. This year it seems especially hard to locate jar lids, so if you don’t have them on hand you may need to rethink your preservation method. Keep the product in the shade and with air circulation if possible. Safe handling will be the key to high quality outcomes with your produce.
*Freezing is really the most economical method of preservation and really is the most time efficient. Before you try a large quantity, try a sample of the food for your family to try. Make sure that it meets your expectations before planning to do a large quantity. Think about your end product, and package food for favorite recipes for speed in meal preparation.
*Make sure you are using the most current times for your recipe. Canning food is no time to estimate as botulism can be deadly. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation (https://nchfp.uga.edu/index.htm) where you will find a great library of tested recipes. They also have a great curriculum for youth to learn the tradition at an early age.
OhioLine (https://ohioline.osu.edu/topic/food) is Ohio State University’s library where you can also find details for canning, freezing or drying your favorite foods. If your recipe is dated prior to 2006, you should take a look at the new guidelines, find a similar one and follow it to ensure safety. If Google is used, please include “Extension” or find a site that’s .edu for tested, research-based recipes.
*If canning, please read the instructions on the lid packaging. Most of the newer lids DO NOT need to be heated before using, simply wash, rinse and set aside to be ready to place on the jars.
*Headspace is very important as each recipe has been tested with that amount of room. The time is set to drive the air out of the jar so the seal keeps the food safe at room temperature. Be as accurate as possible in measuring headspace (great job for the kids!)
*Pressure canning on a glass top range is not recommended as for many it will void the warranty if it shatters under the weight and heat. First read your owner’s manual for clarity. If you need another heat source, the National Center provides the following information for your consideration:
https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/smoothtops.html Look for a burner diameter that is no more than 4 inches smaller than the diameter of your canner. In other words, the canner should not extend more than 2 inches from the burner on any side. This is a common recommendation, but also make sure this is the recommendation for your canner brand.
- For electric burners, you want the wattage to be about equal to that of a typical household range large burner. We have been successful bringing a boiling water canner to boiling with one that is 1500W/120V, but household range burners are more typically 1750W or higher and this kind of wattage may actually be a better choice if you can find it. We have not yet tried using a pressure canner on a portable electric burner.
At least one pressure canner manufacturer advises not to can on any outdoor heat source. Your pressure canner can be damaged if the gas burner puts out too much heat. Higher BTU burners could also produce so much heat that the recommended come-up time for canning could be altered, potentially producing an unsafe final product.
Food preservation is a wonderful way to save the bounty of the summer for fall and winter. It’s a way to continue family traditions and share family history. Please give me a call if you have questions about methods or safe practices, 330-264-8722
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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