Four Tips for Preserving Foods
By Debbie Moellendorf
With the summer growing season underway, people are beginning to harvest fruits and vegetables from their own gardens, local farms or farmer’s markets. This also means the arrival of canning season as we look for ways to preserve those fruits and vegetables for future use.
As you are pulling your pressure canner and other canning supplies out of storage to begin preserving, here are some tips and resources for a successful home canning season:
1. Start with a research-tested and current recipe. Just because a recipe is in print, doesn’t mean it’s safe for you and your family. Start with a recipe that has been tested to make sure that the product is safe and high quality. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension has many booklets and bulletins that explain how to preserve food safely. If you are interested in canning, freezing, drying, making jams and jellies or even pickling and fermenting, Extension has a resource for you. You can find them at fyi.extension.wisc.edu/safefood/recipes or stop by the Extension office located in the lower level of the Lincoln County Service Center at 801 N Sales Street in Merrill.
2. Start with equipment in good working order. A boiling water canner should have a flat bottom, so that it fits nicely on the stove top, and a tight-fitting lid. A pressure canner will have either a dial-gauge or a weighted gauge. Dial gauge canners should be tested every year for accuracy. You can get it tested, free of charge at the Extension office here in Lincoln County. We use a tester provided by Presto and it is the best way to ensure the accuracy and safety of your dial gauge pressure canner. Just bring in your dial gauge pressure canner to the Extension office. Please allow us a few days for testing so please plan ahead.
3. Assemble jars and other items. Use only standard home canning jars, not old mayonnaise jars. Check jars to make sure they are not chipped or cracked. Always use 2-piece lids; purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down on storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted. It’s fine to reuse canning jars, as long as they are not chipped or cracked. Garage sales can be great places to locate used canning jars, just make sure they were designed for canning. Other items that come in handy for home canning include jar fillers, tongs, and lid wands.
4. Leave your creativity behind! Home canning is one area where being creative can lead to food safety disasters. So begin with an up-to-date, research-tested recipe and carefully follow the directions. Don’t make ingredient substitutions, unless they are allowed, and follow the recipe directions through all the steps. Don’t substitute dishwasher canning, oven canning, or open-kettle canning for an approved canning method – boiling water canning or pressure canning.
The University of Minnesota Extension has developed short, informational YouTube videos that provides a hands-on look at food preservation methods and food safety. So, whether you are new to home food preservation or are just looking for a refresher on the best practices these can be a great resource. You can find these free at bit.ly/PreservationBasics.
For more information or questions about Food Preservation, visit our website at https://lincoln.extension.wisc.edu/, follow us on Facebook at lincolnuw extension, call 715-539-1072 or stop by our office located in the lower level of the Lincoln County Service Center at 801 N. Sales Street in Merrill.
Debbie Moellendorf is a Positive Youth Development and Health and Well Being Educator who works for the UW-Madison Division of Extension Lincoln County.