A friend visited our office today and provided canning pressure gauge testing training for the nutrition staff. It was the recently retired Cathy Moore. (In case you are wondering, retirement looks good on her.) For over 30 years, she was the one who tested everyone’s pressure gauges to ensure they were accurate and safe for home canning. With her retirement we needed a new plan. Now several of us are trained and at the ready for gauge testing and your canning questions.
Canning has been a popular food preservation method for decades and made a strong resurgence last summer (anyone else not able to find canning lids?). There is something to be said for growing and preserving our own harvest — it’s satisfying and comforting — just what many of us needed in 2020. Although it is a tradition often passed down from generation to generation, it is important to ensure Grandma gave you all the right food safety information.
The canning process involves placing foods in jars and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Air is driven from the jar during heating, and as it cools, a vacuum seal is formed. The vacuum seal prevents air from getting back in and bringing microorganisms with it to re-contaminate the food. To safely home can foods and prevent food-borne illness, research-based canning methods must be followed. There are three safe ways of canning, depending on the type of food being canned. These are the boiling water bath method, the atmospheric steam canner method, and the pressure canner method.
1. Boiling Water Bath Method: The boiling water bath method is safe for highly acidic foods like fruits, tomatoes and pickles as well as jams, jellies and other preserves. In this method, jars of food are heated by being completely covered with boiling water. (Note: lemon juice or citric acid needs to be added to tomatoes.)
2. Atmospheric Steam Canning Method: The steam canner must be used with naturally acidic or properly acidified foods that have a pH less than or equal to 4.6. This includes most fruits, preserves, and pickled vegetables. The steam canner is NOT for low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats. For those foods, we must use the next method.
3. Pressure Canning Methods: Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning low-acid foods. These include all vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Because of the danger of botulism, these foods must be canned in a pressure canner. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a pressure canner and then heated to a temperature of at least 240 degrees. This temperature can only be reached in a pressure canner.
These are the basics, but of course issues and questions will come up. This is where CCE can help. Call us, email us, message us on Facebook, or just stop in. Get planting and happy harvesting.