“The crisp late afternoon air reminds you that this might be the last barbecue of the season. You gather with friends for great food and fellowship, enjoying the bounty you preserved at the peak of freshness earlier in the season. Compliments to the chef are doubly satisfying because you have canned these gems yourself. A juicy melt-in-your-mouth grilled Flank Steak with Honey Glazed Red Onions takes center stage. On a plate bursting with flavor, crisp vegetables of bright yellows, reds and greens present a visual treat, served as heart side dishes. And what barbeque would be complete without your famous Boston Baked Beans, rich with molasses and brown sugar that play opposite dry mustard, onions and salted pork. Yummm! The volleyball game commences. Frisbees fly high. Children frolic on the swing set. Guests gather in clusters for impromptu and long overdue conversations. But you notice people often meander back to the food table to sample just a little more. On this brisk fall day and through the winter months, how rewarding to know that the secret to bringing new flavors to your table is the wholesome goodness of food you preserved when days were long and warm.”
As I read this excerpt from the Ball Blue Book, I picture a beautiful September day with friends and family, after spending the summer canning produce from my garden. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like an event you would partake in, but you may relate to having tons of produce every year. Maybe you should try canning your produce! Before you get started buying supplies, do you know the difference between your pressure canner and a water bath canner? Do you know what foods could possibly make your family sick if they were improperly canned?
Pressure canning is a method of canning which allows you to process low-acid foods. These include foods like tomatoes, okra, asparagus, meats, seafood, soups, beans, and more. For low-acid foods, in order to destroy all bacteria, their spores, and the toxins they produce, they must be heated to a temperature of 240 degrees and held there for a certain amount of time specified by the research based, tested recipe you are reading. I say research-based, tested recipe because these are the recipes that have been shown to present no more harmful bacteria, spores, or toxins after processing. It is very important for us to can products correctly, especially when dealing with low-acid foods because of the risk of botulism.
If you are interested in learning how to pressure can your produce safely, join our workshop on May 19 on pressure canning vegetables. We will be making two recipes that will teach you how to properly can low-acid foods so that you will be prepared to can this summer! This is a hands-on workshop where you will learn how to can two different items and receive research based information to make sure you are canning safely! This workshop will be held at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office, 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton. If you would like to sign-up for a class, please call 910-592-7161. For more information about upcoming classes, please visit our county website, Sampson.ces.ncsu.edu and look under the Family and Consumer Sciences tab. Happy canning!
Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences extension agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161.