Canning Safety

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.

The Canning Couple: Turkey Stock

In our recent Getting-Started Guide to Canning post, we introduced Matt and Marsha Wood, our very own “Canning Couple.” In this post, Matt and Marsha use their holiday leftovers to make turkey stock.

By Matt Wood, Data Network Manager

Cleaning up after the family Thanksgiving get-together, my sister-in-law got onto Marsha about the turkey and bones that she was just going to throw away. I suggested turkey stock in the pressure cooker. Marsha looked up a recipe for turkey stock on the Internet, but doesn’t remember the site she found it on. It called for bay leaves, salt and pepper with carrots onions and celery, and enough water to cover the bones. I later found Pressure Cooker Diaries with general directions.

What we used

  • Pressure canner
  • Turkey bones
  • Celery, carrots and an onion
  • Salt, Pepper, Poultry seasoning
  • 7 quart jars, 6 ½ pint jars, zipper freezer bags
  • New lids and bands

Making the stock

  1. Cut up 4 stalks of celery, 6 baby carrots and 1 onion into a 22-quart pressure canner.
  2. Place turkey bones with a little meat into the pressure cooker.
  3. About 1 tablespoon each of poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. We didn’t have any bay leaves.
  4. I added 14 quarts of water – enough to cover the bones by 2 inches. ( I did not think about breaking up the bones as it is a 22 quart pressure canner!)
  5. Close and lock the lid.
  6. 12-quarts-stock-jpgHeat the pressure canner until steam starts to escape from the regulator vent. This took over an hour because of the amount of liquid.
  7. Once the weight giggled I checked and the pressure was 15 pounds per square inch (PSI). Lower heat to just maintain 15 PSI.
  8. Process for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat, let pressure cooker cool. This took several hours.
  10. Once cooled, remove the bones, then strain.
  11. I brought the stock back to a boil adding some additional poultry seasoning and salt.

Can the stock

  1. Please see previous posts and the National Center for Home Food Preservation for complete canning directions.
  2. Wash pressure cooker, jars, rings and new lids. Preheat jars and lids.
  3. Fill jars with stock within 1 inch of the top of the jars.
  4. Place bottom plate and 4 cups of water in pressure canner.
  5. canned-turkey-stockPlace 7 quarts in bottom of canner, Then insert spacer, place ½ pint jars in canner.
  6. Lock lid on canner.
  7. Heat on high until weight giggles and pressure is at 15 PSI, reduce heat process for 25 minutes.
  8. At end of processing time, remove from heat and let the canner cool.
  9. Once pressure reaches 0 and the canner is cool, unlock and open the lid.
  10. Remove the jars from the pressure canner using a jar lifter and place upright on a towel, allowing to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.

I did get a bunch of jars of stock. I also put some of the stock (5 or 6 quarts) into freezer bags, laid them flat on cookie sheets and put them in the freezer.


I had about a quart left that I made turkey and dumplings by substituting turkey for chicken in Paula Deen’s recipe.

The Canning Couple: Blackberry Jam

In our recent Getting-Started Guide to Canning post, we introduced Matt and Marsha Wood, our very own “Canning Couple.” In this post, Matt and Marsha take a stab at making and canning their own blackberry jam.

By Matt Wood, Data Network Manager

Blackberry jam is one of our favorite fall and winter treats. We adapted this recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s recipe, modified for fruit pectin using Ball’s Pectin Calculator.

What You’ll Need

  • Pressure canner
  • 4 cups crushed blackberries (or six 6-oz. containers)
  • 6 tablespoons fruit pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (optional)
  • 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 half-pint (8 oz.) jars with new lids and bands

Washing_jarsPreparing Your Canning Equipment

  1. To preheat the jars, wash the jars, lids and bands. Set aside the lids and bands.
  2. Insert the bottom spacer into your canner.
  3. Fill the canner with warm tap water, 2 to 3 inches deep.
  4. Place the empty jars onto rack in inner pot.
  5. Close but do not lock the canner lid.
  6. Heat the pressure canner until steam starts to escape from the regulator vent. Jars will be preheated when steam starts escaping the regulator port. Keep the jars in the canner, with the lid closed but not locked, until ready to fill with jam.

Making the JamSmashing_blacberries

  1. Clean the berries by rolling them back and forth in an open towel. If dirt is obvious on the berries, rinse carefully in cool running water and drain thoroughly.
  2. Crush the berries one layer at a time using a potato masher.
  3. Place crushed berries in an 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in fruit pectin. Add butter, if using.
  4. Bring mixture to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  6. Return to rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Remove from heat and skim foam from top of jam if necessary.

Preserving the JamFilling-jars

  1. Open the pressure canner lid and remove one hot jar. Close but do not lock lid to keep remaining jars hot.
  2. Ladle jam using a jar funnel into the hot jar, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  3. Wipe away any jam from the rim of the jar and center a lid onto the jar. Twist on a band until fingertip tight.
  4. Return the filled jar to the pressure canner and repeat the preceding steps until all jars are full.
  5. Close and lock the lid with all full jars inside.
  6. Pressure_canner_building_pressureApply heat to the pressure canner. Once steam escapes from the canner for one minute, place the pressure regulator.
  7. Once the pressure canner reaches pressure, start the processing timer. Process for 5 minutes at 15 PSI.
  8. At end of processing time, remove from heat and let the canner cool.
  9. Once pressure reaches 0 and the canner is cool, unlock and open the lid.
  10. Remove the jars from the pressure canner using a jar lifter and place upright on a towel, allowing to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.

We’d love to see your jam canning successes! Post them in the comments below.

A Getting-Started Guide to Canning

By Bonnie Dunn, Extension Specialist

Imagine opening your freezer in the dead of winter and removing a small jar of strawberry jam. Your kitchen fills with the aroma of fresh, ripened strawberries, bringing a little bit of summertime into the cold winter months. The reason you have that wonderful aroma? You made your own strawberry jam using proper food preservation techniques.

Food preservation is the process of treating and handling food in such a way as to stop or greatly slow down spoilage while maintaining nutritional value, texture and flavor, and preventing the growth of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. Common methods of preserving food include drying, freezing, vacuum packing and canning. Let’s take a closer look at canning, a common at-home preservation method.

What You’ll Need

If you are interested in canning smaller amounts of fruits or vegetables, the food preservation companies have made it simple. There are several companies that sell food preservation equipment at budget-friendly prices. Look for a low-cost starter kit that comes with a heat resistant rack, lifter, pint jars (with lids and rings) and a recipe book. This allows you to preserve food using the water bath method in your own large stockpot. This is a great way to give canning a try before you invest in other, more expensive types of equipment. The glass jars used for canning come in small- and wide-mouth varieties. The wide-mouth jar is best for larger pieces of fruit, such as peach halves, and also for larger pickles or beets. Just shop around online and read user reviews to help make an informed choice that works for you.

A Great How-To Guide

One of the oldest and most reliable resources on food preservation is from the USDA. Everything you need to know about canning and food preservation is available in the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning. This resource is for people canning for the first time or for experienced canners wanting to improve their canning practices.

Canning is certainly more involved than some other preservation methods, so arm yourself with the knowledge and equipment you’ll need to preserve your fresh foods for year-round enjoyment.

Meet “The Canning Couple,” Matt & Marsha Wood

“I have worked at West Virginia State University for over 30 years in various positions, largely related to Information Technology. I originally learned canning and food preservation from my grandmother and great aunt. I watched them and helped after school during my childhood.

“Earlier this year, after 27 years of marriage, my wife, Marsha, and I began canning. Our reasons were varied, but primarily we were concerned over the rising costs of food and were still reeling from the loss of two freezers full of food during the 2012 derecho, which knocked out power for several days. Plus, we were also interested in a little quality couple time!

“So I went back to my roots and renewed my interest in the canning process, starting with research into some good resources for information. A couple of my favorites are the National Center for Home Food Preservation (where you’ll find the guide Bonnie references above) and the Food Network website.

“We’ll be sharing our canning experiences here on the Extension Matters blog, including our personally tested recipes and photos of our process. Whether you’re an experienced or beginning canner – or just someone with an interest in getting started – we hope you’ll join us!”

– Matt Wood, WVSU Data Network Manager