Preserving precautions: Safety measures to take while canning food

The UAF Cooperative Extension in Palmer offers free gauge testing for pressure canners
Foods with higher acidity like fruit can be canned using a boiling water bath. Vegetables and...
Foods with higher acidity like fruit can be canned using a boiling water bath. Vegetables and meats should go in a pressure canner.(Heather Hintze)
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 4:01 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) -Fall brings an abundant harvest for farms like Bushes Bunches, which has piles of giant zucchini, beets and potatoes.

Their fresh vegetables have people hungry for Alaska grown all year long.

“A lot of people have been coming in wanting more, more for canning and preserving for the winter. It’s very understandable with the economy the way it is right now,” said store manager Crystal Kumpula.

Before people start canning, they need to know what they’re doing.

“We have a lot of people coming along who are doing this for the first time,” said Julie Cascio.

She’s a professor of health, home and family development for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service in Palmer.

Cascio said it’s crucial for people to make sure their equipment is safe, especially when using a pressure canner.

“They have to be flat on the bottom because if they have been rounded, it means they’ve gone dry at some point which loosens the metal and it’s not strong enough to do the food processing any longer,” Cascio explained.

The type of food being canned will determine which method to use. Fruits, berries and sometimes tomatoes have enough acidity they can go in a boiling water bath. Pressure canners can be used for meats, fish and vegetables.

The cooperative extension offers free testing for pressure gauges.

Food in a pressure canner needs to reach 240-degrees for a certain amount of time. The type of food being canned and the size of the jar being used will determine how long it needs to stay in.

Cascio said those are important factors because improperly canned food can collect dangerous bacteria.

“If you were to ingest something that had the clostridium botulinum in it, then your nerves would stop working. Your eyes, you’d be unable to open your eyes,” she said.

She also advises people follow research-based recipes that are proven to be safe if followed correctly. Canning is no time for experimenting, she said.

“If you’re adding more vegetables to a product that has fruit in it as well, you’re actually changing the pH value and that makes a difference on how long it should be canned,” Cascio said.

Canned goods should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.

People who need their pressure gauges tested can contact the UAF Cooperative Extension to set up an appointment.

There are also food preservation classes on canning jams and jellies, sauerkraut and even walrus.

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