Safe Food Storage for Fruits and Vegetables
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Dehydrating is an economical way to preserve certain foods since it requires very little equipment. And the significant reduction in size from fresh to dehydrated makes dried foods easier to store.
Proper canning techniques – which include sustained high heat – destroy enzymes, stop the growth and activity of microorganisms that cause foods to spoil and contribute to food poisoning, and create a vacuum seal to prevent further spoilage.
Trust me, canning is not difficult. But following the rules and paying attention to detail are critical to ensure safe food and high-quality results. Before you start, I highly recommend that you get your hands on an updated canning book such as the Ball Blue Book, or contact your local county extension agent so you have all the step-by-step canning information needed.
Foods can be canned in either a pressure canner or a boiling-water canner. Acidic foods with a pH of 4.6 or lower can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner (212 degrees Fahrenheit). These include fruits, jams, jellies, relishes, most tomatoes, and anything pickled in a vinegar solution, such as pickled vegetables. To increase the acidity of low-acid tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice or 1⁄2 teaspoon citric acid per quart of processed tomatoes.
Low-acid foods are processed at a higher temperature (240 degrees) using a steam pressure canner with either a weighted or dial gauge. These include all seafood, meats, milk and fresh vegetables, with the exception of tomatoes. This is where canning can become a bit more complex. If you’re new to canning, it’s best to start with something simple like blackberry preserves or dill pickles.
Other canning essentials include glass canning jars designed to withstand heat shock. Use jars with narrow openings for semi-solid foods like jams and sauces. Wide-mouth jars are easier to pack and retrieve pickles, peaches and other solid foods. Each jar will need a two-piece lid consisting of a new metal vacuum lid and a metal screw ring (band). Rings may be reused, but lids must always be new. You’ll also need a funnel for filling jars, a heat-resistant spatula for removing air bubbles, a rubber-coated lifter for removing the hot processed jars from the canner, and a cooking timer.