LIVING WELL: Never too early to consider home canning
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Feb 19, 2014 | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s been a rough winter, but if you have checked your calendar lately, March is nearly upon us and the weather will soon turn the corner and head towards spring. With spring you have gardens and the Farmer’s Market, and with gardens and Farmer’s Market comes home canning.

Home canning can be an economical way to preserve foods that are in season for use when they can no longer be purchased or picked fresh. If you are getting into home canning for the first time, it can be a costly investment up front, but if you can foods annually, that cost becomes less and less.

The main pieces of equipment needed are the water-bath canner and the pressure canner. All home canned foods must be processed in a boiling water bath or pressure canner to minimize the risk of food poisoning and food spoilage. Bacteria, molds and yeasts grow quickly on the surfaces of fresh foods. Oxygen and the enzymes that cause food to spoil are found throughout fresh fruits and vegetables. Proper canning practices will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, yeasts and molds; remove excess oxygen from the food; destroy spoilage enzymes and help form strong vacuum seals on jars.

Acid helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in canned food. Foods naturally high in acid (most fruits) or foods that have been acidified with lemon juice or vinegar (like pickles, salsa or tomatoes) can be safely processed in a boiling water bath canner. However, all fresh vegetables, meats and other low acid foods must be pressure canned to prevent the growth of the bacteria that cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.

To ensure that your home canned foods are safe, it is important to:

• use only research-based recipes, like those found in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website

• follow those recipes closely

• use only recommended canning jars and self-sealing lids; do not reuse jars from mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.

• use the correct processing method (boiling water bath for high acid or acidified foods; pressure canner for all fresh vegetables, meats and poultry)

• if using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and careprocess for the entire length of time specified in the recipe

• allow jars to cool naturally so that good vacuum seals can form

If properly sealed and stored in a cool, dry place, home canned food should keep for up to two years. However, for best quality, use within a year. Canned food stored in a warm place may lose some of its quality in a few weeks or months, depending on the temperature. Dampness may corrode metal lids, causing leakage and spoilage of the food.

Be aware that if something goes wrong in the canning process, mold and other harmful bacteria can develop in the jars. Mold growth in foods can decrease the acidity of the food. In home canned foods, this could mean that the acid level has become low enough to allow the growth of bacteria that cause botulism or other foodborne illnesses. Any home canned food (including jam and jelly) that shows signs of mold growth should be discarded.

Signs of spoilage include:

• unsealed jar

• bulging lid

• streaking of dried foods that start at the top of the outside of the jar

• rising air bubbles inside the jar

• unnatural coloring of the food inside the jar

• spurting liquid when the jar is opened

• unnatural odors when the jar is opened

• mold growth (white, blue, black or green) on the food surface or under the lid

Have you ever thought that your recipe for homemade salsa or green tomato relish would be a big hit if you canned it and sold it? Many people have great family recipes that they would like to sell at local Farmers Markets and certified Roadside Stands. This can be possible by becoming a Homebased Microprocessor.

A certification workshop to become a Homebased Mircroprocessor will be held March 5, 2014 from 9:30 AM-3:30 PM at the Trigg County Extension Office located at 2657 Old Hopkinsville Road, behind Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance. The workshop is the first step in a series which includes recipe approval (at a cost of $5 per recipe), verification of an approved water source, and annual certification by the Kentucky Food Safety Branch (with a certification fee of $50 per year). To qualify, farmers or processors must live and farm in Kentucky. The final product must contain a fruit, vegetable, nut or herb grown by the farmer/processor. Products may be sold from the farm, registered farmers markets or certified roadside stand. Once certified, Homebased Microprocessors may sell products such as canned tomatoes and tomato products, pickled fruits and vegetables, salsa, barbecue sauce, pepper or herb jellies, pressure-canned vegetables, and low- or no-sugar jams and jellies.

For more information, or to register for the workshop, visit, or contact Debbie Clouthier at 859-257-1812 or

Sweet Cider Apple Butter

Yield: about 4 pints

6 pounds apples (about 24 medium)

2 cups sweet cider

3 cups sugar

1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon cloves

To Prepare Pulp: Wash apples, Core, peel, and quarter apples. Combine apples and sweet cider in a large saucepot. Simmer until apples are soft. Purée using a food processor or food mill, being careful not to liquefy. Measure 3 quarts apple pulp.

To Make Butter: Combine apple pulp. Sugar and spices in a lard sauce pot, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Ambrosia Conserve

Yield: about 6 (1⁄2 pints)

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, chopped (about 5 pounds)

1/3 cup grated orange peel (about 2 medium)

1 cup orange juice (about 2 medium)

5 cups sugar

1 cup coconut

1 cup maraschino cherries

1⁄2 cup slivered almonds

Combine pineapple, orange peel, and juice in a large saucepot. Simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Cook rapidly almost to a gelling point. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat; stir in coconut, cherries, and almonds. Ladle hot conserve into hot jars, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece cap. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Tomato Jelly

Yield: about 4 (1⁄2 pints)

3 pounds tomatoes (about 9 medium)

1 package powdered pectin

1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

1⁄2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

4 cups sugar

To prepare juice: Was tomatoes; drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters. Simmer tomatoes until they are soft and lose their shape. Strain tomatoes through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Measure 2 cups tomato juice.

To make jelly: Combine tomato juice, powdered pectin, ginger, salt, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

For more information, contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 270-522-3269.

Information for this article obtained from Debbie Clouthier, Extension Associate for Food and Nutrition, University of Kentucky; College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Recipes with this column are from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving published by Jarden Home Brands, 2009.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
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