The Ohio Valley has been enjoying near perfect summer weather with enough occasional rain to provide one of the best growing seasons on recent record. With tomatoes ripening on the vine and corn in tassel, farmers and home gardeners are about to reap a bountiful harvest of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. If only these wonderful foods could be available year round.
Home canning of fruits and vegetables allows just that. Wonderful home grown foods can be available throughout the year by preserving them. Ohio State University Extension provides the knowledge necessary for home food preservation or "canning" which allows the produce from local farms and gardens to be preserved for later use.
"With an increased interest in growing and purchasing foods locally, there has also been an increased interest in home food preservation," explained Polly Loy, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator. "In this global economy, many people want to know the source of food products and what is going into the foods they are eating and feeding their families. Canning produce from your own garden or local producers can be healthy and rewarding."
Traditionally, OSU Extension has been the expert voice for food safety regarding home canning and still provides services to update experienced home canners and introduce new canners to techniques for safely preserving all types of foods. In order to insure the safety of home preserved foods, very specific instructions regarding processing methods, times and temperatures must be followed.
Techniques for canning various foods depend on the food itself. High acid foods such as pickles, tomatoes, salsa, fruits and jams can be safely preserved using the simpler hot water bath method. Low acid foods, including corn, green beans and meat must be processed in a pressure canner to reach the higher temperatures required to insure the safety of the finished product.
"Some people are hesitant about canning because they are nervous about using a pressure canner," said Loy. "I recommend that a first timer start with jams or salsa to see how they like canning before progressing to low acid canning which requires the expense of purchasing a pressure canner. Freezing low acid foods is an alternative that also avoids the need for a pressure canner."
Home food preservation is the topic of a free session to be held at the Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County Office on Wednesday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, 101 North Market St., St. Clairsville (in the old Thoburn Church across from the police station). This learning opportunity is designed as an introduction for people new to home canning and as an update for experienced home canners. Topics will include proper equipment and techniques for safely canning all types of fruits and vegetables with particular emphasis on determining which foods require pressure canning and which can be safely preserved using the boiling water method.
Pressure canner gauge testing will be available after the session for no charge. Home canners with equipment that utilizes the dial type gauge are encouraged to have the gauge tested every year to insure that pressure canners are heating to the temperatures necessary for safe canning. Pressure canners that utilize a weighted gauge do not need to be tested. In addition to insuring that gauges are working properly, home canners should inspect the rubber gaskets that seal the unit for any signs of wear. If a gasket appears dry, cracked, brittle or broken, it should be replaced. Other features of home canning equipment which should be inspected include the safety plug, closing devices, handles and safety valve. Not all models of canners have all of these features.
To register for the free home food preservation session, call 740-695-1455.