Plan Now to Preserve Your Garden’s Bounty this SummerHome canned spaghetti sauce full of the flavor of garden-fresh tomatoes, or strawberry jam bursting with fruit at the peak of ripeness, with the proper equipment and up-do-date recipes, these and other family favorites can be safely canned at home. “Preserving food from your garden or orchard can be a good way to combat the rising prices of food at the grocery,” says Barbara Ingham, University of Wisconsin Extension food scientist, “but be sure to follow research-tested recipes for safe, high quality food that your family will enjoy.”
Recipes that are not precise, mentioning a pinch of this ingredient or a pinch of that ingredient, recipes that are not tested in a laboratory or recipes that contain outdated or inaccurate canning information, can result in products that may be unsafe to consume. Dr. Ingham offers three general guidelines for safe food preservation:
· Inspect and repair any food preservation equipment at the beginning of the season. Now is a good time to inspect canners or food dehydrators to make sure all equipment is in working condition. And start now to collect approved canning jars and lids for use during the season. Canning jars that use two-piece self-sealing metal lids are recommended for home canning. Jars should be free of nicks or scratches. A ‘must’ every canning season are new flat lids; metal screw bands that are not bent or rusted can be reused.
· Have dial-gauge pressure canners tested for accuracy. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. Pressure canners come with either a dial-gauge or a weighted-gauge. Dial-gauge pressure canners should be tested each year for accuracy. Most county UW-Extension offices offer free dial-gauge testing; call ahead for availability of this service.
· Always follow an up-to-date tested recipe from a reliable source. This is perhaps the most important step in preparing for home food preservation, according to Dr. Ingham. Cookbooks and old family recipes are not reliable sources of research-tested recipes. Consult your local county extension office for recipes which will ensure that you are canning safe, high quality foods. The University of Wisconsin Extension has up-to-date recipes in bulletins on safe canning of fruit, jams and jellies, meat, pickles, salsa, tomatoes, and vegetables; and information on freezing fruits and vegetables.
“More tomatoes are home-canned than any other product. And home-canned tomatoes can be so delicious. But many people are still unaware that tomato-canning recommendations changed dramatically way back in 1994,” says Ingham. “I answer questions every year from consumers who are not aware that you must add acid to home-canned tomato products to ensure safety. And this is just one example where even though it’s tempting to return time and again to a family-favorite recipe, it’s important to update your canning recipes as guidelines change. “
County extension offices throughout the country have information on food preservation. In addition copies of the up-to-date Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series bulletins can be obtained at county extension offices in Wisconsin. This information is also available online at www.foodsafety.wisc.edu. Begin the food preservation season by updating your resources so that you can be sure that you are preserving safe, high quality food for your family to enjoy.