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Home canning

The Farmer’s Markets have been very busy this year! If you are missing the feel of the county fairs that we have all missed out on this year due to the pandemic, visit your local farmer’s market. It may just help a bit! There are so many interesting crops that are for sale there along with all of the baked goods, preserves, and much, much more.

With all of the goodies from the farmer’s markets and along with all of the goodies from our gardens, it has also been a very busy time for preserving our food. I have been actively canning, either by hot water bath or by pressure canning as long as I can remember. It has become somewhat of a lost art.

If you are like me and have been canning for a good long time or if you are a new canner, I would suggest going through information on canning would be a good thing to do. This is available online at the U of M Extension’s website. An example is the following website that will talk about home food preservation for enthusiasts to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l9DkwPaDyc&feature=youtu.be and this video talks about how to safely water bath or pressure can tomatoes.

First, remember that not everything you hear or see about home canning is the correct way to do it. Grandma’s recipes that have been given down throughout the years may also place someone at risk for food poisoning. It is not because Grandma didn’t know what she was doing it is because the varieties of produce that we now grow in our gardens are vastly different than what they were doing those times.

There are a lot of videos out there showing how to preserve vegetables in glass canning jars by placing them in an oven or by just turning them upside down on the counter. Do not do this! The jars may seal but the bacteria that are lurking in those jars have not been killed through the pressure and heat that is needed!

I love a good jar of homegrown tomatoes made into chili or homemade tomato soup. But did you know that the acidity (pH) level of tomatoes today is different than what they were even 10-20 years ago? The varieties have changed over the years. As a tomato ripens on the vine, it loses some of its acidity. Clostridium botulinum (otherwise known more popularly as botulism) causes food poisoning. This bacteria thrives at a pH (acidity) level of 4.6. Most tomatoes today as you pick them from the garden, are a pH of 4.6.

This is why the recipes for canning tomatoes have changed with the need to add citric acid, lemon juice or vinegar to the tomatoes that we are canning to lower the acid level (pH) of the tomatoes. This is important for any tomatoes that are being canned “as is”, tomatoes packed in water, tomatoes packed in juice, and tomato juice.

It is important to keep our families safe and follow the newer instructions for canning. If your canning book that came with your canner is older than 1994, throw it away and purchase one of the following books instead. “Complete Guide to Home canning, 2014,” “So Easy to Preserve 6th edition, 2014,” “Ball Blue Book 1994” or check out the National Center for Home Preservation online. You can also call the extension answer line at 800-854-1678 for more information.

Those who are interested in learning more about food preservation can also go to the following website at https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/food-preservation-videos. This covers all of the timely tips for preserving food from canning, drying, freezing, pickling, and much more.

For those of you who might have a dial pressure canner and if you have questions on how to make sure that your dial is accurate, you should check it every year. A low reading could cause a family to become sick from food poisoning. A dial pressure canner can be low or high by 2 pounds but no more. Presto will test dial gauges for no charge. They will only test Presto, National, Magic Seal, Maid of Honor, and Kook-Kwick.

Weighted gauges do not require testing but owners of these types of pressure canners need to make sure that the weights are reacting accordingly by reading your book that came with your canner. All American pressure canners can be check by first calling the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry at 920-682-8627. Generally speaking, you only need to send in the dial gauge and not the whole canner to have it checked. They are generally checked within three days of receiving them and are shipped back to their owner. National Presto Industries Inc. ATTN Gauge Testing 3925 North Hastings Way Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54703-3703 For more information, phone Presto Customer Service: 1-715-839-2121 or 1-800-877-0441.Website: www.GoPresto.com.

Replacement gauges and other parts (e.g. gasket, safety plugs) for canners are often found at stores that sell food preservation equipment or from canner manufacturers. When ordering parts, be sure to provide your canner model number and describe the parts you need.

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