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By Barbara Elkins OSU Extension Office
As I drive through the countryside I observe many beautiful home gardens this spring. Summer is here and many of you will be thinking about preserving some of the abundance of your labor.
It seems very timely for these tips and information on the standards of home canning. It’s even more important for those of you who love to enter your projects in the county fair.
While home canning is strongly encouraged, consideration must be given to the prevention of botulism. If home canning is not done in the proper way it could cause botulism. However, if processed properly, you can have fresh healthy food for all year.
Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness caused by a poison most commonly produced by a germ called Clostridium botulinum.
This germ is found in soil and can survive, grow and produce a toxin in certain conditions such as when food is improperly canned. The toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you or even cause death. You cannot see, smell, or taste botulinum toxin, but even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.
In order to prevent this from occurring, the following procedures must be followed. First of all cleanliness and sanitation should be practiced at all times during the process of home canning.
What you put in the jar will stay in the jar until you open it. I hear every year, “My mama or grandmother never did this and we survived.”
It’s a different world now and you may be lucky for many years, but it only takes one time to make you sick or even die from food poisoning.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided a complete guide to home canning. Here are their basic guidelines.
First of all you must have a properly sized pressure cooker that meets USDA recommendations for pressure cooking. Also, it’s handy to have a hot water bath cooker as well.
Using standard canning jars with standard two piece lids and rings is also a recommendation. Mayonnaise, mustard or pickle jars are not recommended. For fair exhibitors, only standard canning jars and lids will be judged.
Check for quality of product. All fruit and vegetables should be at peak of ripeness. Food should be as close to the same size as possible.
Please find below head space for foods. Head space is very important in the prevention of bacteria growth. All low-acid foods with a pH level greater than 4.6 must be pressure cooked to preserve them. High acid foods, soft spreads, and pickled foods may be hot water bathed to preserve them. The measurements are from the top of the jar down.
• Head space for- Low Acid foods- 1 to 1 and ¼ inch headspace
Green Beans, all other beans, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, greens, peas, okra, soup mixtures, beet, mixed vegetable
• High Acid foods- ½ inch
Fruits, fruit juices, tomatoes, tomato juice, kraut
• Soft spreads- ¼ inch (No paraffin)
Jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, and butters
• Pickled foods- ½ inch
Pickles of all kinds, relishes, salsa, picante sauce
Home canning is an excellent way to preserve garden produce and share it with family and friends. It is also a source of pride for the home processer as long as all standards are met.
For more information you may go to the USDA website at USDA.gov and find the complete guide to canning or you may call or visit the OSU Extension office located on the east side of the courthouse or call at 580-889-7337 and ask for Barbara.
Also, we have available testing pressure cookers at no cost. Have fun and enjoy your home canning projects.