HOMEGROWN Life: How to Can Safely

| 9/4/2013 11:32:00 AM

canned cukesHere in the Bay Area, we planted our tomatoes, eggplants, and tomatillos in the spring. A couple of weeks later, we planted peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans, and corn. Now, we’re be busy harvesting and preserving our bounty through drying, freezing, and canning.

Thinking ahead to our own canning made me think about how preserving has gained in popularity in recent years, and how I’ve see some really great recipes out there on the interwebs. I’ve also seen some really dangerous ones that scare me. I’ve seen so many bad ones, in fact, that I’ve decided I’m not going to judge canned goods at events anymore unless the recipe and canning process are included along with the sample. You can’t simply shoot from the hip and make up recipes that “sound about right” and expect them to store at room temperature for extended lengths of time. There’s a science behind canning to ensure safety that I can’t stress enough.

So, I figured that with our canning season fast approaching, and already here in many other parts of the country, we should discuss some guidelines on how to can safely.

The Rules

1. Just because a recipe is on the Internet doesn’t make it safe.

Be critical of every recipe you see on the Internet. If it’s not pressure canned, check to make sure it has enough acid, is processed long enough, and uses low-acid ingredients, especially if it is raw packed. If it’s high acid, make sure it is water-bath canned long enough. The USDA has safe canning guidelines on its National Center for Home Food Preservation site that you can use as a cross-reference. Avoid any recipes that have dairy, eggs, and pureed low-acid food (such as lemon curd, pumpkin butter, and pureed bananas) and don’t instruct you to keep the finished product in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time (usually a month) or to freeze it.

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