Safe Food Preservation

By Susan Littlefield

Are you still putting up pickles the way your Aunt Agatha always did? Do you can your beans and tomatoes the way your mother showed you years ago? Although these passed-down recipes and techniques may be family treasures, they may also be dangerously out of date. According to Suzanne Driessen, food safety educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, safe canning recommendations have changed significantly over the years. "If you are using canning recipes that date before 1994, then it's critical to set those aside and find an up-to-date recipe that has been tested for safety. Older recipes could put you and your family at risk for botulism or other illnesses," she states in a recent University of Minnesota (UMN) news release.

She also cautions against creating your own canning recipes or tweaking ones that do meet research-based standards. What may seem like a minor variation, such as adding extra garlic or onion to a recipe, may change the acidity of the canned food enough to make it unsafe. Driessen also suggests making sure that all canning recipes, especially ones found on the Internet, meet current safety standards and notes that most canning supply company and university Extension websites provide reliable information.

One such current and accurate source is the UMN Extension Food Safety: Preserving and Preparing website. This offers the latest information on canning, freezing, drying, pickling, jam and jelly making, and storage. It also provides information by food type -- fruits, vegetables and herbs, tomatoes and salsa, meat and fish, and eggs and dairy. You can watch a 12 minute video that covers the latest research in home food preservation and view 20 5-minute food preservation modules that cover a wide range of topics from preserving herbs to pressure canning. You can even subscribe to a home food preservation newsletter that covers a variety of timely topics.

To check out this great resource and learn more about safely preserving your garden's harvest, go to: UMN Extension Food Safety.

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