By Nikki Honosky, Extension Associate
The summer heat has settled in and, pretty soon, it will be time for canning all of the produce that has grown over the last few months. Depending on if you had planted anything in your own private garden, it shouldn’t be long before it starts to produce, depending on the type of plant. The time is also approaching for various berries, such as blackberries, to be picked. No matter what you deal with, something that they all have in common is that they can be canned.
Canning can help preserve for later all of the produce that you have harvested. Canning can be versatile, because you don’t have to keep the produce in its original form. The process allows you to can it in various forms, such as jam, jellies, soups and more, and helps to save on preparation when you get it out for use later.
While canning can be incredibly useful, it is important to do so safely. The most important safety measure is to use a pressure canner instead of the traditional water bath method. While you can use the water bath method for certain foods, it is unwise to do without a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker helps to can food safely due to the high temperatures it uses. The high temperatures help to prevent the risk of botulism, which can become a deadly toxin. Also don’t get just any pressure cooker. Ensure that the one you get is specifically meant for canning. When canning, make sure that you follow the most recent canning instructions carefully.
The next important safety measure is making sure your equipment is properly cleaned and sanitized. This mostly relates to your canning jars and lids. First, clean the jars and lids with hot, soapy water and make sure to dry it thoroughly. Then get a few decent-sized pots and fill them with water. Next, heat the water until it is near to a boil. Have one pot for your jars and another for your lids. Let them sit long enough that they’re sanitized enough for use. Use tongs or something similar to get them out of the water and then let them sit enough to dry. Make sure you are careful when dealing with both the jars and lids due to the extreme heat.
Once you have properly prepared your produce in whatever method you desire, place it in the jar. Properly place the lid on correctly. Place your jars in your pressure cooker and ensure the lid is sealed. Start heating up the pressure cooker until it reaches the desired temperature. Monitor the pressure cooker to ensure the temperature stays constant for the desired length of time. Once done, make sure the pressure cooker cools off enough for you to retrieve the canning jars. Lay out a towel on a nearby counter to place the jars on. Let the jars cool off and inspect them periodically to ensure that they are sealing properly. You can tell which jars have been properly sealed by inspecting the lids. There should be an indentation in the lid if it is sealed. If a jar doesn’t seal, don’t keep it, because unsealed jars can be dangerous.
You can easily learn more about this by doing research on the Internet or by asking those that are experienced with canning goods for advice. If you have any questions, you can contact me at the WVSU Extension Office at the Welch Armory. I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (304) 320-5446.