Did you put out a garden this year while staying safe at home? I did, and now the plants are starting to produce more veggies than I can eat. This weekend I will be spending some time dusting off the canner to pickle my favorite, beets! Home food preservation is a fantastic way to preserve it now and enjoy it later. But, before I start, I must stop and ask myself, “What methods are safe?”
If you’re looking to “can” produce from your garden, there are only two safe methods: boiling water bath canning and pressure canning. Boiling water bath canning is safe to use when canning high-acid foods, which are the majority of your fruits and pickled foods. Pressure canning is required when canning low-acid foods, which includes most vegetables and meats.
Low acid home canned foods are associated with Clostridium Botulinum. It has an 8% fatality rate and patients require hospitalization. Botulism toxin is a neurotoxin; it attacks nerve cells and paralyzes them. Symptoms appear 4 to 8 hours after eating contaminated food and begin at the head and work slowly downward. The danger of Clostridium Botulinum is the number one risk to our home canned foods, and why we must ensure proper canning techniques are being used.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when canning foods, is placing hot food in a jar and letting it cool. The jar appears to have sealed but it does not have a vacuum seal that has removed all the oxygen from the jar. In order to create a vacuum seal you must submerge jars in a boiling water bath or pressure canner. Canned foods should also only be made using USDA approved recipes. You can find these recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, So Easy to Preserve and the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
If you have never preserved food before, and want to learn how, I would encourage you to join us for our Virtual home food preservation workshops that are going on now. On Tuesday, I will be sharing step by step instructions for pressure canning. You can register for this series, watch previously recorded lesson and find recipes here: puext.in/food-preservation
Reminder: pressure canner dial gauges should be tested for accuracy each year. This can be done at the Montgomery County Extension office. Contact me at 765-364-6363 to ensure I am here when you bring your canner lid in for testing. Do not hesitate to call at any time with canning questions. It is better to be safe than sick.
Monica Nagele is the Montgomery County Extension Educator and County Extension Director, Health and Human Science. She is a registered dietitian. The Extension office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at email@example.com.