Advertisement

Tips on how to preserve foods at home

August 06, 2013|Lynn Little

Growing interest in gardening and farmers’ markets, a desire to increase the number of fruit and vegetable servings for health, and trimming food costs have stimulated interest in food preservation.

Preserving food at home is not difficult; however, it is important to follow some key rules for preserving food by canning and freezing:

• Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, free of dents, bruises, insect damage and mold.

• Preserve foods as quickly as possible after harvest, preferably within 24 hours.

• Choose an up-to-date, tested recipe, and follow the directions exactly (www.uga.edu/hcfp). Following directions is critical. The dangers in varying a recipe — adding more of one ingredient and less of another can alter the chemical balance required to preserve food safely and can compromise quality.

• Tested recipes for high-acid foods, such as jams and jellies, and tomato products, will have processing recommendations for hot water bath canning. Low-acid foods, such as green beans, must be processed in a pressure canner. Follow recommended processing methods and times in the up-to-date, tested recipe you are using.

• Dial gauges on a pressure canner should be checked annually. You can call University of Maryland Extension — Washington County Office at 301-791-1504 to make an appointment to have your dial pressure gauge checked.

• Use recommended food storage containers in good condition. Glass canning (mason) jars that are free of chips, nicks and cracks and used previously only for food can be sterilized and re-used. Use new lids each time, however you can re-use screw bands if they are free of rust and dents.

• If you plan to freeze fruits and vegetables follow the recommendations for preparation, including blanching and packaging. (www.uga.edu/hcfp).

• For proper storage of frozen foods it is important to use containers designed specifically for freezing foods You can use rigid containers (either glass or plastic), flexible bags and wraps and vacuum packaging. Be certain that all containers are washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed and drained prior to use.

• Label and date home canned or dried foods and store them in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or closet; label and date fresh frozen foods as well. As a general rule, use within a year.

• Use common sense. If the seal on a canning jar has failed or a jar leaked, discard it. If food is off color or has an unusual texture or odor, throw it out without tasting it.

Home food preservation can be safe, successful and fun, but it is important to follow directions exactly. You will be able to enjoy summer fruits and vegetables in healthful meals throughout the fall and winter months.

For more information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation, www.uga.edu/nchfp. Another excellent resource is the “Ball Blue Book,” originally published by the makers of Ball canning jars. The “Blue Book” is sold at hardware and other stores selling canning supplies, available at the library and on the Internet at www.homecanning.com.

You can also call University of Maryland Extension — Washington County office at 301-791-1504 for answers to your food preservation questions.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|