Preserving the Harvest
With all the rain we have received lately, gardens are flourishing and produce is already being harvested! Our office has received some phone calls about home food preservation, and I wanted to share some basic information to get you started in the right direction.
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, they are heated hot enough and long enough in the jar to destroy organisms that can cause food-borne illness. This heating (or processing) also stops the action of enzymes that can spoil food quality.
Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning all vegetables (except tomatoes). Because fruits and tomatoes have a high acid content, processing can be done in a boiling water bath canner. Fruits can also be processed in a pressure canner, but it can take more time overall.
The Clostridium botulinum microorganism is the main reason pressure canning is necessary for vegetables. Though the bacterial cells are killed at boiling temperatures, the spores they form can withstand boiling. 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.
Boiling water bath canners are available in several types, but any big metal pot may be used if it is deep enough for the water to cover the jars by at least one inch and still have ample room for boiling (two to four inches above jar tops). The canner must have a tight-fitting cover and wire or flat metal rack with plenty of open spaces in it.
Canning jars should be free from nicks, cracks, or chips. Jars specifically designed for home canning are required. Commercial food jars such as mayonnaise or pickle jars break easily and may not seal. Use only half-pint, pint or quart sizes. Wash jars in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and keep hot until filled and placed in the canner.
Two-piece metal lids must be prepared for use. The flat lids can be used only once for sealing new products, but the ring bands can be reused as long as they are in good condition. Do not reuse lids from commercially canned foods for home canning.
When selecting produce for canning, select fresh, young, tender vegetables and fresh, firm fruits. The sooner you get them from the garden to the jar, the better. For ease of packing and even cooking, sort the vegetables and fruits by size and ripeness. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly whether or not they will be peeled. (Dirt contains some of the bacteria hardest to kill.) Do not let fruits and vegetables soak; they may lose flavor and nutrients. Handle them gently to avoid bruising.
At this point, canning of fruits and vegetables differs, so if you need more information, our office has publications to guide you through each step of the way, including raw packs and hot packs, closing the jars, processing times, and testing the seal. As a special note, unsealed jars of food need to be treated as fresh. The food can be eaten immediately, refrigerated, frozen or reprocessed. If you reprocess the food, the whole processing time must be repeated.
Do not taste or use canned fruits or vegetables that show any signs of spoilage. A bulging lid or leaking jar is a sign of spoilage. When you open the jar, look for other signs such as spurting liquid, an off odor or mold. All spoiled canned foods should be discarded.
Our office has publications on canning vegetables, canning fruits, and jams & jellies. These are free, and each publication offers a wealth of information!
Hopkins County Dairy Festival
This annual event will kick off with a ribbon cutting on the downtown square at noon on Friday, June 10. That evening, the Dairy-Airs Hot Air Balloon Festival will take place, along with the 5-K Milk Run. More hot air balloons, Dairy Show, Parade, Dairy Festival Queen contestant cow milking contest, and ice cream freeze-off will take place on Saturday, June 11. Be sure to join the festivities! Additional activities will take place throughout the week, ending on Saturday, June 18 with the Dairy Festival Queen’s pageant – “Dance to the Moosic”. Tickets may be purchased from any of the contestants, or at the door. Watch for more information in the coming days.
4-H Members Prepare for Exchange Trip to Virginia
Hopkins County 4-H’ers have been in the news a lot lately! We have some outstanding 4-H’ers, so we are proud to be sending a group of members and chaperones to Smyth County, Virginia for a 4-H Exchange Trip later this month. They will have a space at the Market on the Square, Saturday, June 11, to raise funds. Items available for sale will be neck wrap coolers, custom-made notepads, treats in a mug, body scrubs, framed t-shirt art, raffle for a hand-crafted quilt, and more. Be sure to look for the green and white table cloths! That’s where you will find their friendly faces.
When you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by life, find a quiet place, inhale deeply, and take refuge in the Lord! – anonymous