What you need to know about preserving foods
It’s not too late to preserve your foods.
This is not your grandma’s kitchen. Many generations have bonded over the family tradition of preserving fruits and vegetables at home - passing along recipes and products to friends and family.
Here are the top three tips of home food preservation to keep you and your family safe.
- Back to the basics. The first step in home food preservation is deciding what you are going to preserve and then finding a recipe. Not just any recipe will work anymore; it is important to use research based recipes! These recipes are tested to prove that the methods and products are safe for the consumer. More information and recipes can be found through the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- Not all jars are equal. The best way to choose a jar is stick to the tried and true – many new jars are entering the market, but that does not mean they are safe! Some jars, like packing jars that are used for mayonnaise or spaghetti sauce, will not survive the heat of canning. Inspect any jars before you use them; make sure they are not chipped or cracked. Also, look for jars with expiration dates – that means they were for a one time use only, and are more likely to crack while processing. Never reuse lids, and use lids that have a sealing compound that is not brittle. Even unused lids that are a few years old may not work.
- Preparation is key! In order to finish with a safe product, it is important to stay clean from start to finish. Counters, sinks, cutting boards and utensils should be cleaned and sanitized. Jars should be washed with warm, soapy water prior to use and should be kept hot until filled. Do not use damaged jars. If jars are damaged, they will not seal properly and could result in a dangerous product. Gather all your materials before starting, like jar tongs, a bubble releaser, towels, lids and rims, and your research-based recipe.
Michigan State University Extension recommends that you be very careful while canning at home, the temperatures are very hot, so read and follow your directions carefully to keep you and your food safe. All of these steps are helpful to ensure the food safety of your product and your safety while preserving food at home. It is also important to enjoy the process, have fun, but make sure to follow the directions, one step at a time.
It is not too late in the year to preserve food. You can make jams and jellies using fresh-frozen bags of fruits. You can make pickles with baby carrots. You can dry fruits and vegetables when you find them on sale. You can also process your venison into jerky with a dehydrator, or jars using your pressure canner. Just be sure to follow the same basics when doing so, to ensure a safe product.
If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3463).