Alliance Bank in Sulphur Springs

Expecting Garden Produce? Preserve Foods Safely!


Johanna Hicks

Gardens have begun producing delectable vegetables and fruits!  If you have an abundance, home food preservation just might be the solution to have these delicious foods year-round!  However, special efforts must be made to keep them safe for you and your family.

Organisms that cause food spoilage – molds, yeasts, and bacteria – are present everywhere in the air, soil and water.  Enzymes that may cause undesirable changes in flavor, color and texture are present in raw fruits and vegetables.  When fruits and vegetables are canned properly, they are processed hot and long enough to destroy organisms that make people sick in addition to spoilage organisms.

Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning all vegetables (except tomatoes, which can use a boiling water bath).  The recipes that specify only pressure canning have so many low acid ingredients that they are only safe when canned in a pressure canner at the specified pressure.  Jars of food are placed in a pressure canner which is heated to an internal temperature of at least 240° F.  This temperature can be reached only in a pressure canner.  The Clostridium botulinum (botulism) microorganism is the main reason pressure canning is necessary.

Vegetables are considered IMPROPERLY canned if any of the following are true:

1)      The food was NOT processed in a pressure canner.

2)      The gauge of the canner was inaccurate.

3)      Up-to-date researched processing times and pressures were not used for the size of jar, style of pack and kind of food being processed.

4)      Ingredients were added that were not in an approved recipe or the proportions of ingredients were changed.

5)      The processing time and pressure were not correct for the altitude at which the food was canned.

So, what about fruits and tomatoes?  These may be processed in a boiling water bath canner.  However, because some tomatoes can be slightly low-acid for canning purposes, added acid is required for water bath canning of plain tomatoes, juice, and sauce.  Any big metal pot may be used if it is deep enough so the water can cover the jars by at least one inch and still have ample room for boiling (two or four inches above jar tops).  The canner must have a tight-fitting lid and wire or flat metal rack with plenty of open spaces in it.

Canning jars should be checked closely for cracks or chips.  Jars specifically designed for home canning use are required.  Commercial food jars, such as mayonnaise or pickle jars break easily and may not seal.  Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well.   Keep them hot until they are filled and placed in the canner.

Two-piece metal canning lids also need to be prepared for use.  The flat lids can be used only once for sealing new products, but the ring bands may be reused as long as they are in good condition.  Do not reuse lids from commercially canned foods for home canning.

When selecting produce, choose fresh, firm fruits and fresh, young, tender vegetables for canning.  The sooner you can get them from the garden to the jar, the better!  For even processing, sort the fruits and vegetables by their size and ripeness.  Rinse all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, whether or not they are to be peeled.  Do not let them soak – they may lose flavor and nutrients.  Handle them gently to avoid bruising.

You may use the raw pack (putting raw vegetables into jars), or the hot pack (heating vegetables in water or steam before packing).  Most foods should be packed tightly, except for starchy vegetables (they expand during processing).  For either pack, use enough liquid to fill around the solid food in the jar.  Each fruit or vegetable has directions for correct head space.

Well, that’s the basics of getting your produce ready to can.  The most important part is using the correct processing time for the container and type of produce.  Many publications are available from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, 1200-B W. Houston, in Sulphur Springs.  We also have publications on drying fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Give us a call at 903-885-3443, and we’ll be glad to prepare a packet for you!

You can also check out the post at for more details on food-borne illness, symptoms, and higher risk individuals.


Dairy Recipe Contest Reminder

Excitement is building for the 2015 Hopkins County Dairy Festival!  The Dairy Recipe contest has been part of this celebration for a long time.  However, due to low entry numbers, the contest was cancelled in 2014.  Don’t let that happen this year!  Make plans to enter.  It is fun and doesn’t cost anything, except the cost of your ingredients!

Written entry (includes copy of the recipe and contact information) is due on or before June 15, and the actual contest will take place on Saturday, June 20, with registration of the actual dishes between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., judging at 1:30 p.m., and awards presentation around 2:45 p.m.  Contact our office or check out Hopkins County Family and Consumer Sciences Facebook page for more details.


Closing Thought

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” – Eleanor Roosevelt


Johanna Hicks

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Family & Consumer Sciences

1200-B W. Houston

P.O.Box 518

Sulphur springs, TX 75483

903-885-3443 – phone

903-439-4909 – Fax

[email protected]

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