Extension Education: Food Preservation Tips Offered
Food preservation is a way of life for many families in Wyoming. Fruits, vegetables and meats fill shelves as we prepare for winter.
As research has evolved over the years, so has the knowledge of safe practices in food preservation.
University of Wyoming (UW) Extension emphasizes the importance of following scientifically researched and tested home canning recipes to ensure the safety and quality of preserved goods.
Below are some reminders on how to practice food safety while canning or preserving.
1. Choose the right canner: Utilize a boiling water canner for high-acid foods like fruit, fruit spreads, pickles and most tomatoes. Low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, beans and combination foods require a pressure canner.
2. Gauge accuracy matters: When using a pressure canner, check the pressure dial gauge annually to ensure accuracy. This attention to detail ensures canned goods are safe to consume.
Most UW Extension offices offer free pressure gauge testing.
3. Frost awareness: Tomatoes affected by frost should not be used for canning, as frost changes the acid level. Harvest tomatoes before the frost.
4. Salsa thickness: Home-canned salsa tends to be thinner than its store-bought equivalent. To create a thicker consistency, use a tested recipe from 2014 or later and add extra ingredients upon opening the jar.
Note approved salsa recipes are designed for pint jars. Do not can salsa in quart jars, as there is no approved recipe.
5. Be cautious with double batches: While most recipes can be doubled, avoid doubling sweet fruit spreads, as they might not gel properly. If one needs a larger yield, prepare the recipe multiple times.
6. Say no to the open kettle method: When making fruit spreads, avoid the open kettle method, which involves heating the food to boiling, pouring it into jars, applying lids and allowing heat within the jars to seal the lid.
All foods must be processed in boiling water or under pressure to destroy pathogens and ensure a strong vacuum seal.
7. Adjust for altitude: Adjust processing time or canner pressure for higher altitudes where water boils at lower temperatures. Lower temperatures are less effective at killing pathogens. It is always better to go over time or pressure, not under.
If the gauge ever drops below the proper pressure, increase heat until it reaches the correct pressure, and then start the cooking time over again.
8. Proper cooling and sealing: Use a jar lifter to remove canning jars straight up and out of the canner without tipping, set the jars a couple of inches apart for cooling and allow water on the lids to air dry.
Do not retighten rings.
Test lids after 12 to 24 hours to ensure they donʼt spring up when pressed with a finger. If the jar did not seal, it can be reprocessed or stored in the refrigerator to be consumed within several days.
Alternatively, the food in an unsealed jar can be frozen and consumed at a later date.
9. Storing sealed jars: Remove ring bands from tightly vacuum-sealed jars for easier detection of broken vacuum seals.
Gently wash the lids and jars without disturbing the seals, then label and date the jars. Store jars in a clean, cool, dark and dry place and avoid stacking them directly on top of each other.
10. Rely on reliable sources: Reliable food preservation methods are designed to kill or control the growth of C. botulinum and other disease-causing organisms.
Follow U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) canning guidelines and use research-tested and approved recipes from trusted sources, including university Extension websites, reputable books and official canning organizations.
Avoid untested methods from unreliable sources.
11. Seek guidance: Those who are new to food preservation should seek guidance from experienced individuals, friends or a local Extension educator. Personal safety – and the safety of those we feed – depends on accurate and up-to-date preservation methods.
UW Extension strongly recommends individuals avoid untested canning methods and recipes from unreliable resources such as magazines, cookbooks, unvetted websites, relatives and friends.
When looking at recipes online, always refer to the original resource. If the recipe is not from a reputable source, use the resources suggested above to find a similar recipe.
For more information and research-tested recipes, visit university Extension websites such as the UW Nutrition and Food Safety website at uwyoextension.org/uwnutrition/category/food-preservation/, the Ball website at freshpreserving.com or the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at nchfp.uga.edu.
Reputable books include the “USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning” and the “New and Updated Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.”
Remember, preserving food using the latest research-based methods is essential for our well-being.
Vicki Hayman and Melissa Cook are University of Wyoming Extension educators in Weston and Big Horn counties, respectively. Hayman can be reached at email@example.com or 307-746-3531 and Cook can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-568-4160.