Tips for safe home preserved foods

Getting ready for water bath and pressure canning season.

It is never too soon to start planning for preserving the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables that your garden or farmer’s markets have to offer. Whether you are home preserving fruit, vegetables or meat it is important to check your equipment and supplies. 

For both water-bath and pressure canning, Michigan State University Extension recommends using manufactured canning jars with two-piece canning lids with sealing compound and screw bands. Check all canning jars for cracks, chips or nicks, such defects can result in breakage or sealing failures.

High acid food, such as fruit, acidified tomatoes, pickled products, jam, jellies and preserves can be processed in a water bath canner. Inspect your water bath canner for pits or holes. Replacement jar racks are available where canning supplies are sold. A large covered stock pot that is deep enough to allow water to be 1 to 2 inches over the tops of the jars can be used as an option for smaller batches. 

There are two methods for packing food to be water bathed: raw and hot pack. Raw pack involves thoroughly washing prepared food, packing it tightly, then adding boiling hot water over the food. Hot packing is bringing food to a boil and simmering for 2 to 5 minutes and promptly packing into clean, hot canning jars. 

Pressure canning is the only safe method of preserving low-acid foods. Low-acid foods include vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. Pressurized steam creates the required temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher that is needed to destroy the bacterial spores naturally present in these foods. As the jars cool, a vacuum is formed, sealing the food in the jars and preventing any new microorganisms from entering and spoiling the food.

MSU Extension offices offer pressure canning dial gauge testing. It is recommended each year to have dial gauge pressure canners calibrated for safe food preservation. Pressure canners with weighted gauges do not need to be tested. 

Preserving foods at home is a safe and fun way to feed your family healthy, whole foods, as long as the method of processing follows the science-based recipe. Check with your local MSU Extension office for more researched-based information and recipes.

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