Dos and don’t for homecanning

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Home canning or home food preservation has been a means to save food for later consumption for decades. By canning foods at home, families can save on groceries and enjoy nutritious meals year around. Canning is not hard to do, but there are some guidelines that must be followed to ensure a safe product.
First, get a good research based home food preservation guide. A good canning guide will provide all of the instructions you need to be successful. Home canning guides will give you step-by-step instructions for canning just about any food you can thing of, from vegetables and fruit to meats.

Use the correct canning method. There are two methods for canning foods at home. One method is the boiling water bath method. This method may be used to can fruits and acidified foods including pickles and relishes. Once the fruit or acidified food is placed into jars, the jars are placed in a large pot or canner with simmering water. More hot water is added to cover the tops of the jars. The jars are boiled for a specified period of time and removed and allowed to cool. Once it is confirmed that the jars are sealed they may be stored. This method of canning is safe for the foods previously mentioned. In a boiling water bath, the product will reach a temperature of approximately 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Since bacteria do not thrive in high acid foods like fruit and pickles, this temperature is hot enough to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Another canning method is pressure canning. With this method food is preserved by heating it to 240 degrees Fahrenheit under pressure for a specified period of time. Foods that must be canned under pressure are known as low acid foods. These foods include corn, green beans, okra, peas, and meats. A pressure canner must be used for these foods because the risk for botulism is high when low acid foods are not canned properly. Clostridium Botulinum is the pathogen that causes botulism. This pathogen can be deadly in small amounts. The 240 degrees that a pressure canner reaches is the only way to kill Clostridium Botulinum when processing foods at home.

Pressure canning involves placing hot or warm jars of food into a simmering pressure canner that contains 2-3 inches of hot water. After the jars are placed inside the canner, the lid is locked down. Then the canner must be exhausted for 10 minutes to remove all of the air exhausted. Then the weight is place on the vent pipe. Failing to vent the canner for the recommended amount of time can result in food that is improperly processed. When a steady plume of steam is seen escaping from the vent pipe for 10 minutes a weight is placed over the vent pipe. This allows pressure to build inside the canner. The heat should be adjusted to maintain the correct level of pressure inside the canner. Some pressure canners have a dial gauge that resembles the face of a clock. The gauge shows how much pressure is in the canner. For example, quarts of green beans are processed at 11 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes in a dial-gauge canner.

A weighted-gauge canner is another type of pressure canner. This type of canner has a weight that rocks back and forth several times per minute to maintain pressure. The weight or weights can be placed over the canner vent pipe to maintain 5, 10, or 15 pounds of pressure. Like the dial-gauge canner, a weighted gauge canner must be vented for at least 10 minutes before processing begins.

Never process low acid foods in a boiling water canner. A boiling water canner will not get hot enough to kill Clostridium Botulinum. Always follow the directions from a current research-based canning guide. Grandma’s recipes may have been good for a time, but today’s food goes through many channels that can result in contamination. Using the proper methods for food preservation will result in a safe, good quality product.

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