Don’t Get in a Pickle – Preserve Your Food Safely
It’s spring time in Denton County, and our office is being flooded with questions as everything starts to bloom and people move outdoors to prepare their seasonal vegetable gardens. One thing that comes when planting a vegetable garden is an eventual abundance of produce. Canning is a great way to preserve your fresh produce so that it can be enjoyed year-round. But if you’re canning, make sure to do it safely; and now is the time to prepare.
Choosing the right equipment is the first step in safe home food preservation. There are two methods for canning; using a water bath canner or a pressure canner. To prevent the growth of bacteria, foods high in acid with a pH below 4.6 can typically be processed using a water bath canner (i.e. pickles, jams, jellies, most fruits). Foods low in acid with a pH greater than 4.6 need to be processed using a pressure canner (i.e. most vegetables including green beans, meat and poultry products, etc.). Also, it is important to use proper mason-like canning jars made for home canning use and not commercial mayonnaise-type jars. Be sure to inspect your canning jars to make sure that they are free of any cracks, chips or defects. Most canning jars have a lifespan of about 13 years but the canning lids must be replaced after each use and should be purchased new every year to guarantee a good seal.
If you are planning on using your dial-gauge pressure canner this season, it is recommended that you have your gauge inspected for accuracy. It is recommended that this is done annually. You can have your gauge checked by sending it to the manufacturer or by making an appointment with your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office to have it checked locally in a matter of minutes. Schedule an appointment in Denton County by calling 940-349-2882.
The recipes you use for canning are just as important to the safety of the product as the process you use. Outdated recipes or recipes that use improper processing procedures or times can prove to be deadly. Good sources for canning recipes include current Extension publications, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, manufacturers of home food preservation supplies (be sure to use current recipes). My favorite resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Not only do they have great recipes to try, the site also includes online tutorials and great publications with more information. Links to these resources can be found on our webpage, denton.agrilife.org.
If you are interested in learning more about the basics of home food preservation and how to pickle products at home, our office with be providing a hands-on pickling class in partnership with Sustainable Denton on June 3, from 10:00 – 12:00 noon at the MLK Recreation Center. For more information on how to register, contact the Denton County Extension Office at 940-349-2882.