Submitted by: Rita Tanksley Mississippi State Extension Agent
According to the Mississippi State University Extension service, at least 30 million Americans rush out each summer to beat inflation with a garden hoe and a jar lid. Many of these gardeners have produced some prize-winning blisters and backaches. They have reached a low level of despair with jelly that didn’t gel, pickles that didn’t pickle, and preserves that didn’t preserve. Other gardeners, though, have found they had a hidden talent for a “green thumb.” They have showered friends and loved ones with fresh-from-the-garden produce and take-home presents. They have packed their pantries with home-preserved fruits and vegetables. Home canning gives a great feeling of pride and accomplishment. It brings family members together in creative activity. It provides security in having food within an arm’s reach. It offers a supply of food prepared according to family preferences and special dietary needs. Spoilage and botulism are always threats to home canning. To produce home canned foods that are safe to eat, always use the right equipment. When you desire to can fruits and vegetables, heat them at a temperature high enough and long enough to destroy spoilage organisms and stop enzyme action. Do this processing either in a boiling waterbath canner or a steam pressure canner. The type of canner you use depends on the kind of food you’re canning. For fruits, tomatoes, and pickled vegetables, use a boiling water bath canner. These foods contain enough acid to be processed safely in boiling water. For common vegetables (except tomatoes), use a steam pressure canner. Processing these low-acid foods safely in a reasonable length of time takes a temperature higher than a boiling water bath. Before you use a steam pressure canner, be sure to check all parts for safe operation during canning. Before and during the canning season, clean the “petcock” (small valve used to lower pressure) and safety-valve openings by drawing a string or narrow strip of cloth through them. Also have the pressure gauge checked for accuracy to be sure your processing temperature is high enough to keep the food from spoiling. (If you don’t know how to check your pressure gauge, bring it to the Winston County Extension Office at 460 Vance Street in Louisville any Monday or Thursday during the month of June between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. and we will check it for free.) If you have a weighted gauge on your pressure canner, clean it thoroughly. Check dial gauges for accuracy before use each year. Low readings cause over-processing and may indicate the gauge is inaccurate. Make sure your canner is clean. Wash it if you have not used it for some time, but don’t put the cover in water. Wipe the lid with a clean, damp cloth and dry it well. For more information on food preservation and to find out about future canning workshops, call Rita Tanksley at the Winston County Extension Office at 662-773-3091. The information for this article was taken from the publication “The Complete Guide to Home Canning” which was produced by Dr. Jason Behrends with the Mississippi State Extension Service.