Home Food Preservation Workshops
The old ritual of spring-cleaning always included getting the kitchens scrupulously clean in preparation for the canning season. This sanitary purge was intended to minimize spoilage organisms, such as mold, yeasts and bacteria, which are present in soil, water and the air around us. That’s still the goal of anyone preparing to do home canning. We can control these organisms adequately by the way we handle food in a clean environment and by following recommended safe procedures in “putting up” food.
You can choose form several methods of food preservation, including canning, freezing and drying. All can help assure safe food for later use, so choose a method that best suits your needs.
Canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars or cans and are heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal. The vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating the food within the jar or the can. High acid foods such as fruits and tomatoes can be processed or “canned” in boiling water, while low acid vegetables and meats must be processed in a pressure canner at 240 degrees F.
Pickling is another form of canning. Pickled products are also heated in jars at boiling temperatures to destroy any other microorganisms present and form a vacuum in the jar.
Jams and jellies are high in sugar. The sugar binds with liquid making it difficult for microorganisms to grow. To prevent surface contamination after the product is made and thus prevent possible yeast or mold growth, these are canned, frozen, or refrigerated.
Freezing reduces the temperature of the food so that microorganisms cannot grow. Some however, still may live. Enzyme activity is slowed but not stopped during freezing.
Drying removes most of the moisture from foods. As a result, microorganisms cannot grow and enzyme action is slowed down. Dried foods should be stored in airtight containers to prevent moisture from rehydrating the products and allowing microbial growth.
To avoid the disappointment of a spoiled product after all the effort of canning, use-to-date directions and recipes, standard canning jars and two-part lids (flats and screw bands). Be sure to follow the directions for pre-treating the brand of flats you use. Always process fruits, pickles, jam and jellies in the boiling water bath. When pressure canning, use the 10-pound weight; and for dial gauges, use 11 pounds pressure.
Don’t get creative with canning recipes. For instance, salsa has become a popular home-preserved product. Some people like to concoct their own combination of ingredients. However, the mixture may not be acid enough for the boiling water bath to produce a safe product and a pressure canner might be required for processing. The safest procedure is to follow a researched recipe that specifies the boiling water bath or the pressure canner. One safe alternative would be to freeze the sauce.
Food technologists also advise us to avoid following home canning methods of celebrities, old cookbooks, “back to nature” publications and out-of-date leaflets. Information on canning and other food preservation methods is available from the Randolph County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension at 112 West Walker Avenue in Asheboro or at 336-318-6000.
If you are interested in learning more about home food preservation or just to brush up on the newest information, you should plan to attend the upcoming class series entitled “Canning and Food Preservation Made Easy Hands-on Workshops”. The program consists of a series of six classes. You can choose to attend all six or only the ones you want information about. All the classes will be held at the Randolph County Center from 6:00-9:00pm and each class cost $5 to attend. “Basics of Preserving” will be on May 12. We will discuss the background information about why certain foods are preserved using pressure canners and others ca be processed using a water bath. On May 26, Jams and Jellies will be the focus. “Pickles” will be held on June 9. The simple dos and don’ts of pickling will be discussed. The fourth class on June 23 will be “Just Can It- Green Beans” and will cover the basics of home canning of green beans. “Freezing Fruits and Vegetables” will be held on July 7. The final class on July 21 is “Salsa and Tomatoes”. This class will cover the basics of home canning of tomatoes products.
Call our office at 336-318-6000 for more information. Pre-registration is required and class size is limited.