Gardens will soon be overflowing with shiny, red tomatoes, bright green peppers and string beans. Farmers’ markets will be piled high with fresh produce, or you may decide to pick your own fruits and/or vegetables at local farms.

Whatever produce you choose, canning can be a safe and economical way to preserve food at home. Canning favorite and special products to be enjoyed by family is a fulfilling experience and a source of pride for many people.

The advantages of home canning are lost when you start with poor quality fresh foods; when jars fail to seal properly; when food spoils; and when flavors, texture, color and nutrients deteriorate during prolonged storage.

The canning process involves placing food in jars and heating to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that are a health hazard or cause food to spoil. It also causes enzymes that can cause the food to spoil to become inactive. Air is driven from the jar or can during heating, and as it cools, a vacuum seal prevents air from getting back into the product, bringing with it microorganisms to re-contaminate the food.

Safe canning methods

There are two safe ways of canning, depending on the type of food being canned. These are the boiling water method and the pressure canner method.

The boiling water bath method is safe for fruits, low acid tomatoes and pickles, as well as jam, jellies and other preserves. In this method, jars of food are heated completely covered with boiling water (212 degrees).

Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a pressure canner which is heated to a temperature of at least 240 degrees. This temperature can only be reached in a pressure canner.

A pressure canner is a specifically made heavy pot that has a lid that can be closed tightly to prevent steam from escaping. The lid is fitted with a vent, a dial or weighted pressure gauge and a safety fuse. The pressure canner also has a rack. Because each type of canner is different, be sure to read the directions for operating your canner.

— Class offered: To help you be prepared for canning season, a basic Food Preservation class is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28, 4:00 – 6 p.m. at the Powell-Melvin Ag. Center. We will not actually do any canning, but will walk through the steps and familiarize you with the tools needed for successful food preservation. There is no charge to attend.

To sign up for the class, call the Cooperative Extension Center at 910-862-4591.

Quick Sour Pickles

About 25 cucumbers, medium sized

½ gallon cider vinegar

2 cups water

½ cup salt

½ cup sugar

½ cup mustard seed

Wash cucumbers. Remove 1/8 inch slice from blossom ends and discard. Slice cucumbers lengthwise. Pack into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Mix vinegar, water, salt, sugar and mustard seed and bring to a boil. Fill jar ½ inch from top with boiling hot liquid. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath. Yield: 8 pint jars.

Sandra R. Cain is the Extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.
Follow proper procedures for safe canning