As the summer draws to a close and harvesting season is amongst us; canning, pickling, and preserving season is here too. The number one priority when preserving your harvest is the safety of the finished product by destroying any bacteria, and molds that might cause foodborne illnesses. One of them being botulism, caused by a toxin in bacteria. The bacteria can grow, especially in improperly processed home-canned foods.
Have no fear home-canning foods is still a great way to preserve your harvest. It is recommended to use recipes that have been tested and are from reputable sources. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015, So Easy to Preserve, 6th edition, along with the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, 37th ed., 2014, are all great places to start on your canning/preserving journey. Another note is any earlier editions of these books are not recommended because science is always changing, and recipes are updated along with the new science. If you’re looking for reliable resources online, add EXTENSION to your google search looking for .edu websites to help you find those reliable resources.
Adjusting your processing time based on the altitude of where you live will ensure your food is preserved safely. If you live in Sidney, Savage, or Fairview the altitude is under 2,000 feet, where if you live in Lambert the altitude is over 2,000 feet. The altitude of where you live can change the processing times, or if you’re using a pressure canner the lbs. of pressure you will need to process your product. These adjustments are made to ensure heat is distributed evenly and for long enough to produce a safe product.
The acid level of what your planning on processing will also affect the method used to preserve them safely. Low-acid foods such as vegetables (except most tomato’s), meats, fish, and poultry, need to be processed at a higher temperature, which is only reached by using a pressure canner. Where high-acid foods such as fruits (with naturally high acidity), tomatoes with the added acid, and pickled products can be canned in either a boiling water canner or a pressure canner. Tomato’s grown today have a lower natural acidity (pH) level and will need to be acidified before canning to help prevent botulism.
Using a pressure canner (dial or weighted gauge) and a boiling water canner are two recommended methods of preserving your harvest using the canning process. Using a convection oven, dishwasher, pressure cooker/saucepans, and open kettles are not recommended methods for preserving because they don’t prevent the growth of bacteria’s such as botulism.
Did you know if you use a dial gauge canner that you should get it checked yearly for accuracy? Have no fear; this is a free service offered at your local MSU Extension office. In addition to getting your dial gauge checked, MSU Extension offers a variety of resources on canning safety. From walking you through safe canning practices, helping you determine what went wrong, reliable, research-based information is available.
Contact the Richland County Extension office at 433-1206, or stop in at 1499 N Central Ave, Sidney for more information.
Information referenced from MontGuide Home-canning Using Boiling Water Canners and Pressure Canners and Utah State University: Avoiding Common (Major and Minor) Canning Mistakes.