Safe, high quality home canned foods begin with the right equipment used properly. Why risk losing your time and food dollar through spoilage? Before you begin canning this season:
— Check and assemble equipment to see what you have and what you need.
— Check jars and bands. Discard chipped jars and rusted or distorted bands.
— Have your pressure gauge checked if you use a dial gauge pressure canner. Mary Lou Woods, Bradley County cannery supervisor, can test gauges if you call her for an appointment at 728-7031. She will also schedule appointments to use the cannery for canning produce this summer season. Locally grown produce can be purchased at the original Bradley County Farmers Market located on Peerless Road Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The original Bradley County Farmers Market Celebration is scheduled for Saturday, June 23.
— Check seals on last summer’s produce. Make plans to use up last summer’s produce (both frozen and canned) to make room for new products and to prevent waste.
— Check files to make sure your food preservation information is complete and up-to-date.
Home canner’s questions
Q. I have several peanut butter, pickle and quart-sized mayonnaise jars I would like to use for canning. Is it safe to use these jars?
A. It is best to use only Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids for home canning because they are designed to withstand high temperatures. There is a greater chance other jars will break, especially in a pressure canner. Make an investment in canning jars that you can use for more than one season.
Q. I have lids left over from last year. Is it OK to use them?
A. You can use your lids from last year if you will be using them for the first time. The gasket that forms the seal around jars when they are cooling is good for 5 years from the date of manufacture. But once lids have been used, there is a good chance they will not seal again. Always inspect new lids before using to be sure they are not dented, deformed lids, or lids with gaps or other defects in the sealing gasket.
Q. How long is it safe to store canned food?
A. For optimum quality, use home-canned food within one year. After a year, quality of food goes down, but is still safe as long as the seal is still intact and there is no sign of spoilage. Always store canned foods in a cool, dark place, preferably between 50 and 700 F. Higher temperatures will cause food to lose quality.
Q. Which pressure canner is more accurate — the kind with a dial or the one with a weight control?
A. Both are accurate if used and cared for according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some people prefer to read numbers on a dial; others like the sight and sound (“jiggling” noise) of the weighted gauge. Dial gauges should be checked each year before canning to be sure they are measuring pressure accurately. Call 728-7031 to arrange a time to have your dial gauge checked free of charge at the Bradley County Cannery.
If you have food preservation questions you’d like addressed in the “Home Canner’s Column,” call the local Extension office at 728-7001. We look forward to and invite your questions.