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Canning class teaches safe food preservation

Staff reports

WEST UNION — As local gardeners and farmers start to harvest their bounty, some will begin canning their food to enjoy their home-grown goodness long into the winter months.

Zona Hutson, WVU Extension Service, Doddridge County extension agent, is offering a class for people to learn how to preserve food as safely as possible.

“WVU Extension Services has taught pressure canning for decades,” she said. “We’re trying to teach people the science behind preserving food.”

Hutson said misconceptions of what processes are safe for certain foods a person preserves could cause serious illness.

“People think that if a jar is sealed it’s safe,” she said.

On July 16, Hutson said, people will be able to choose between a class at the extension office at 461 Main St. between 10 a.m. and noon or the 6 to 8 p.m. class at the Center Point Outpost Library on West Virginia 23 to learn procedures that will help avoid the pitfalls of preserving food.

She said the method of boiling jars should be reserved for only the food that has high acid content.

“Peaches, apples, a lot of fruit is fine to preserve with boiling,” she said.

But foods low in acidity should always be pressure canned, she said. Because of the lack of acid, Hutson said, foods like green beans, potatoes, peas, beans and meats have the risk of being a breeding ground for botulism.

She said in boiling water, the temperature reaches only 212 degrees, but in a pressurized pot, the steam reaches 240 degrees. She said the higher temperature and pressure are too much for the botulism spores to survive.

“Tomatoes are borderline questionable,” she said.

Due to the tomato’s moderate acidity, Hutson said, some canners add citric acid to bring the acidity to safe levels before using the boiling method of preserving.

Hutson said that people shouldn’t break out the pressure cooker they use for their Thursday evening pot roast to preserve food.

“A pressure canner is much different than a pressure cooker,” she said.

Hutson said the proper use of a pressure cooker along with techniques on sterilizing jars and food preparation will be discussed during the class. She said people will be provided with everything they need to pressure can food during one of the free two-hour classes.

For more information or to sign up for one of the free classes, contact the WVU Extension Services, Doddridge County at 304-873-1801.

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