Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Preserving the Fruits of Your Labors

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

We are in the season now where you may lock your car doors for fear of uninvited zucchini popping up.  Or, you may be preserving some of your labors from the garden.  Either way, let’s talk about food preservation today.  Much of this information comes from MSU Extension MontGuides on food preservation. 

Safely canning foods at home requires using processing methods that not only preserve the food but also destroy bacteria and molds that cause foodborne illness, such as botulism.  Botulism, caused by a toxin of the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum, can be fatal.  This bacteria can grow and reproduce in improperly processed home-canned foods.  Protect yourself and others when sharing home-canned foods by learning safe preservation techniques.  The safest recipes and resources are those that have been researched and rigorously tested by the United States Department of Agriculture and Extension Services associated with land-grant universities.  Many home-preserved recipes are not tested for safety, so it is critical to use research-based resources. 
Liberty County residents work together raw-packing peaches during an
MSU Extension workshop.
There are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before beginning any home food preservation.  First, what is your altitude?  In order to decrease the risk of food-related illness and death, determine the correct home-canning processing times and pressures for your altitude.  While water boils at 212°F at sea level, it boils at a much lower temperature at higher altitudes.  Consequently, at higher altitudes home-canned foods must be processed for longer times or at higher pressures. 

Secondly, is the food you are planning on preserving a low-acid or high-acid food?  Most high acid foods, such as fruits and properly acidified tomato products, such as salsa, can be processed using either a boiling water canner or a pressure canner.  Other foods, such as many of your vegetables, as well as meats will need to be preserved using a pressure canner. 
One quick note on salsas, in recent years, the recommendations for safely canning salsas have changed.  As tomatoes grown today may have less acidity, they need to be acidified before canning by adding 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart.   When canning salsa, only use recipes based on USDA recommendations. These salsa recipes have been tested to determine a safe level of acidity.

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