Extension Line

Tips for making home food preservation safe


We received a great deal of rain last week and now my garden is producing more veggies than I can eat. This weekend I will be spending some time dusting off the canner to pickle my favorite, cucumbers! 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. Tomatoes are borderline acidic so it is important to add an acid such as lemon juice when canning tomatoes. Pressure canning is required for low-acid foods because of the risk of Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum can survive 5 1/2 to 12 hours of boiling, so to destroy it, water must reach 240 degrees F which can only be achieved under pressure. C. botulinum has an 8% fatality rate according to the World Health Organization.

Some general guidelines to help get you started.

• Use only tested recipes from the USDA, these recipes can be found in: USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, So Easy to Preserve or the Ball Blue Book. All recipes should be from 1994 or more recent editions to ensure safety.

• Use mason jars because they withstand higher temperatures. Do not use single use jars like jelly or mayonnaise.

• Only tighten lids finger-tip tight.

• Be careful not to tilt jars. Use a jar lifter to place jars into canner.

• Processing time doesn’t start until water is boiling or pressure is met.

• Let jars rest in canner for five minutes, this will reduce the loss of liquid from the jar.

• Do not leave jars in canner overnight. This could allow for other spoilage organisms to grow.

• Do not turn jars upside down.

• Allow jars to cool 12-24 hours. Press the center of the lid to see if it is concave.

If you are a beginner or someone who has been canning for years, reviewing guidelines each year is important. Produce and procedures are constantly changing, so it is important to make sure you are finding the most recent recipes to ensure safety.

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 mwilhoit@purdue.edu.


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