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Food Preservation season has arrived. It’s important when processing your fresh fruits and vegetables this year, you follow the USDA guidelines to keep your family and loved ones safe.
Basic guidelines for home food preservation include knowing the acidity of the food you would like to preserve. Low acid foods like corn, peas, lima beans, asparagus, green beans, spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, and okra are greater than 4.6 and require a pressure canner. At an altitude of 2,000 to 4,000 feet add 2 pounds of pressure to your dial gauge pressure canner. If your elevation happens to be over 4,000 then you would add 3 pounds of pressure to your dial gauge pressure canner. If you have the weighted gauge type pressure canner then use the 15-pound weight.
If you have decided to process high acid foods, then a water bath canner will process your produce safely for your family. High acid foods include tomatoes, pears, kraut, peaches, cherries, apples, blackberries, plums, apricots, gooseberries, pickles, and lemons. Since our Land Grant Universities had been so proficient at developing tomatoes with a lower acidity level it is recommended to add a 2 table spoons of bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid to each quart of tomatoes. Again, we must adjust for our altitude here in Macon County. 1001 to 3,000 feet add 5 minutes to the processing time in your water bath canner. If you live at 3,001 to 6,000 feet then you will need to add 10 minutes to the recommended processing time in your water bath canner.
Canning jars may be used for years as long as they are clean and free of scratches and chips. Heat jars and lids in simmering water. Be sure not to boil the lids. When filling your jars refer to your recipe for the correct headspace. Once your items are correctly processed it is best to let them cool on the counter for 24 hours. Then check to make sure they are correctly sealed. If not they may be reprocessed.
If you are processing low acidic food, it is very important to have your dial gauges on your pressure canner checked for accuracy before use each year. Gauges that read high cause under-processing and may result in unsafe food. Low readings cause over-processing. Pressure adjustments can be made if the gauge reads up to two pounds high or low. Replace gauges that differ by more than 2 pounds.
To have your pressure canner checked please call the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Macon County office at 828-349-2046 to make an appointment.
If you have any more questions please call the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Macon County office.