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Preserve foods at home

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canning jars with various foodsby Courtney Davis, Denton County Extension Agent – Family & Consumer Sciences

An abundance of homegrown fruits and vegetables often triggers the desire to can foods at home.  While this can be a fun and rewarding way to keep foods long after the season ends, care must be taken to assure that foods canned at home are safe to eat.

Following research-based methods and using tested recipes are just things to consider when canning foods at home.  Not all recipes for home canning have been tested for safety. Sources of tested recipes include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, USDA, and manufacturers of home canning equipment and supplies. Recipes from cookbooks, outdated Extension publications and the Internet should not be used.

Using the right equipment when canning is also important.  Some foods can be preserved using a water bath canner but others must be processed in a pressure canner. If the right canning method is not used, then the finished product could make people very sick. Also, make sure that the equipment you have is in good working order.  Experts advise that dial gauges on pressure canners be tested annually to make sure they are accurate.  In addition, canners should be checked to make sure they are in good working order.

There are many other aspects to canning that one needs to consider, including jar size, headspace, and recommended processing (canning) times.  All of these can influence the safety of the final product.  As a County Extension agent, the last thing that I want to do is tell someone that the food they have just spent hours canning has to be thrown away or redone, however, if one did not use a tested recipe, if unsealed jars were not identified within 24 hours after canning, or if jars were not processed properly (i.e. using a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner) I may have no other choice.  Nobody likes to throw away food, but nobody wants to get sick (or worse) from eating food that has been preserved incorrectly.

A free educational program on the overview of home food preservation techniques will be offered at the Emily Fowler Library, 502 Oakland St., Denton on Saturday, June 11, from 2–4 p.m.  This program will provide information on using both a pressure canner and a water bath canner, freezing and dehydrating foods.  In addition, we will be on hand to check your dial gauges for accuracy at no cost.

For more information about home food preservation, contact Courtney Davis, Denton County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences at 940-349-2882 or cmdavis@ag.tamu.edu.

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