BY MARY ANN LIENHART CROSS
County Extension Director, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
WARSAW — This week I am writing my weekly column on food preservation safety because you need to understand the science behind canning vegetables, fruits, pickled products, jams jellies, fruit spreads, fruit and vegetable sauces, and meat products. I have had several phone calls and emails with out-of-date food processing techniques and times and using unsafe recipes that have been obtained on the internet from very unreliable sources.
Please know that when you are using out-of-date food processing techniques or times and recipes that have not been researched, you are putting everyone who consumes these products at risk for a food borne illness and that could be deadly.
When we are cooking on the stove, in the oven or microwave. You cook the food and it is tasty and sometimes not; the family eats it or they don’t, but these forms of cooking don’t put people’s health at risk. You do put their health at risk when you experiment with food preservation techniques – especially canning. I cannot stress enough just don’t do it. When spending your time and money on food preservation be sure to only use up-to-date recipes, recommendations and processing times.
When you are using the internet for a source of food preservation information there are several reliable sources that I recommended; they all have the United States Department of Agriculture food preservation research as the base of their information. The National Center for Home Food Preservation can be found at http://nchfp.uga.edu/index.html
; The Jarden Home Brands Ball/Kehr website address ishttps://www.freshpreserving.com/
; and Purdue University ‘Let’s Preserve’ publications can be obtained at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/
Most county Purdue Extension offices will supply you with free copies of publications if you visit the office. At your Elkhart County office, we have printed copies available and we can leave packets of publications for you after hours in our foyer that is open 24/7 for your convenience. If you only need a few publications we can mail them, but when your request is for several we ask that you pick them up to make the best use of tax dollars.
Here are a few easy to answer questions that you might find helpful:
Question: Is it safe to can vegetables and fruits without salt?
Answer: Yes, salt is used for flavor only and is not necessary to prevent spoilage. One exception: Don’t ever alter or change the amount of salt in pickling recipes as the salt works towards another purpose other than just flavoring.
Question: Is it safe to can fruits with sugar?
Answer: Yes, but I would not recommend it. Sugar is added to improve the flavor, retain the texture and shape, and help stabilize color. The sugar is not a preservative but it makes a huge difference in the quality of the product. A light sugar syrup is 1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water.
Sugar syrup is made by mixing water or juice extracted from some of the fruit. The mixture is heated to dissolve the sugar and is kept hot until ready to use. You can also use unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice or white grape juice as good packing liquids for many fruits. These can be bought frozen as a concentrate and used as is or diluted with water. Juice can also be extracted from some of the fruit that is being canned or from fresh apples, pineapples or white grapes. To extract, thoroughly crush the ripe, clean fruit. Heat the juice to simmering over low heat, strain through cotton or linen dish towel or cheese cloth. The easy way is to buy the frozen concentrate.
Here is to eating all the great summer and fall produce now and preserving it properly for the future.