Preserving produce

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by 50connect editorial

Growing interest in gardening and farmers’ markets, a desire to increase the number of fruit and vegetable servings for health and to trim food costs, and the popularity of television food shows are stimulating interest in home cooking and food preservation.

preserving harvest produce

Follow the recipe to ensure success and safety.

Growing interest in gardening and farmers’ markets, a desire to increase the number of fruit and vegetable servings for health and to trim food costs, and the popularity of television food shows are stimulating interest in home cooking and food preservation.

Home food preservation requires some time, but advances in food safety, science, and technology have simplified the process of preserving fresh fruits and vegetables at home, according to Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist and Rapid Response Center coordinator.

Preserving food at home need not be difficult, explained Blakeslee. Key rules are applicable to all home methods, including canning and freezing:

NOTE: Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, free of dents, bruises, insect damage and mould.

Preserve foods as quickly as possible after harvest, preferably within 24 hours.

Choose an up-to-date, tested recipe, and follow the directions

If using a sugar substitute, choose a recipe formulated with the substitute rather than sugar to ensure success. Following directions is critical. The acid content of recipe ingredients will dictate the methods needed to preserve foods successfully. High-acid foods, such as those used with fruit - jam-making - and tomato products, must be boiled in a hot water bath for a specific time to kill harmful microorganisms or pathogens that may be present in food.

The dangers in varying a recipe - adding more of one ingredient and less of another - can alter the chemical balance required to preserve food safely and can compromise quality, said Blakeslee, who offered this example: In recipes for homemade salsa, which are popular with gardeners, tomatoes are typically the high-acid foods, and onion and green peppers the low-acid foods. Increasing the quantity of onions and green peppers, but reducing the quantity of tomatoes alters the balance between high- and low-acid foods.

“Changes in a recipe change results,” Blakeslee said, who noted that changes may threaten food safety and quality.

Use recommended food storage containers in good condition.

Glass canning and jam jars that are free of chips, nicks and cracks and used previously only for food can be sterilized and re-used. Buy new lids and re-use screw bands only if they are free of rust and dents that may inhibit their ability to seal.

“Mayonnaise jars can only be used for water bath processing and if a 2-piece canning lid will fit the jar,” Blakeslee said. “Canning jars are, however, recommended for all canning because they are tempered to withstand heat during the water bath and pressure canning process.”

Read - and follow - directions and safety recommendations for cookware used in home food preservation.

“Dial pressure gauges on a pressure canner should, for example, be checked annually,

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