Contact Barbara Ingham, 608-263-7383, firstname.lastname@example.org
Home-canned spaghetti sauce full of the flavor of garden-fresh tomatoes or strawberry jam bursting with fruit at the peak of ripeness can bring a touch of summer to a Wisconsin winter. With the proper equipment and up-do-date recipes, these foods 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, that call for “a pinch of this” or “a pinch of that”; recipes that are not tested in a laboratory; or recipes that contain outdated or inaccurate canning information, can result in products that may be unsafe to consume. 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 is 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 Ingham. Cookbooks and old family recipes are not reliable sources of research-tested recipes. Consult for recipes that will ensure 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. Visit The Learning Store at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/ and follow the links from “Home and Family.”
“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. 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.“
“Food safety is, and should be, a primary concern when home canning any type of food, from pickles to meat. The University of Wisconsin-Extension sets itself apart in providing research-based information,” says Ingham. Many county UW-Extension offices have copies of current Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation bulletins. This information is also available online at http://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.