5 tips for making your own pickles!

pickle slices
Home canned pickles.

Pickles! It seems like everyone wants to make pickles this time of year. We get so many calls related to pickles; I will highlight just a few of the facts that we share with callers.

Ingredients:

  • Use small cucumbers of a variety designed for pickling.
  • Use canning or pickling salt.  Other salts may result in cloudy brine.
  • Use commercially produced vinegar with 5% acidity.  Use white if you are concerned about brine color.
  • Recipes do exist for reduced salt pickles.  Don’t just cut back on the salt in your recipe, the product may be unsafe.  These recipes can be found in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
  • Alum is not recommended in current pickle recipes.  Other products and processes are available.  Check with us at AnswerLine for some ideas.

Remember to use tested recipes for your pickles. Tested recipes will always include a boiling water bath processing time.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Canning Carrots

Canned carrots
Home canned carrots

Are the carrots in your garden ready now? If you want to start canning carrots here are some things to remember.

It takes 2 to 3 lbs of carrots, without tops, to make a quart of canned carrots. So be sure to dig enough carrots for only one canner load at a time.

For a raw pack: wash, peel, and rewash carrots. Slice or dice them. Baby carrots can be left whole. Pack tightly, leaving 1-inchheadspace. Cover with boiling water, maintaining 1-inch headspace.

For a hot pack: wash, peel, and rewash carrots. Cover with boiling water; bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Fill jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Cover with boiling cooking liquid, maintaining 1-inch headspace.

Vegetable

Pack

Jar Size

Minutes of processing

Canner pressure at altitudes of

0-2000 Ft

0-1000Ft

Above 1000Ft

Dial gauge

Weighted gauge

Carrots

Raw or Hot

pint

25

11

10

15

quart

30

11

10

15

Remember to check your altitude. As altitude increases, water boils at a lower temperature (below 212° F). Lower temperatures are not as effective for destroying organisms. Therefore, when using a pressure canner, the pressure must be increased as altitude increases. Refer to the map below to check the altitude of your county, then follow the altitude adjustments in the above table

 

 

 

 

 

Altitudes of Iowa Counties

Shaded areas are less than 1,000 feet • Unshaded areas are 1,000 to 2,000 feet

altitude map

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Botulism poisoning–could this really happen?

Clostridium Botulinum bacteria
Clostridium Botulinum bacteria under the microscope.

We often speak to callers about the possibility of botulism poisoning if they don’t process their low acid vegetables properly. But really, what is botulism poisoning and is there really a risk?

Clostridium Botulinum bacteria live in the soil. The vegetables that we harvest and preserve were either grown in the soil or rain water may have splashed dirt up onto them. It is not uncommon for green beans to have dirt on them; this dirt could contain botulism bacteria.

This bacterium grows well in low acid foods (high pH) and the absence of oxygen. These are just the conditions you will find inside a jar of home canned beans (or other low acid vegetables). The heat of canning from a boiling water bath canner is not hot enough to destroy the bacteria if they are present. The “if” is a big part of this equation. We often speak to people who have processed their beans in a boiling water bath canner for years and “nobody has died yet”. However, if the bacterium is present you will not be able to see, smell, or taste it. Likely your first indication of the contamination in your jar will be symptoms of the poisoning. Botulism toxin is a neurotoxin that may first cause gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation). The neurological symptoms will appear in a very short time—blurred or double vision, difficulty in swallowing, breathing, speaking, dryness of the mouth, and paralysis of different involuntary muscles. Death usually results from respiratory failure.  It takes only a very small amount of the toxin to sicken or kill you.

Since the consequences of ingesting the toxin are very high (possible death), even though the frequency is low, it is important to process vegetables according to the directions in tested recipes. Remember that all of the vegetables that you grow in your garden are low acid and must be processed in a pressure canner.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Getting ready to can green beans

It’s just about time to start canning green beans.  In a good growing year like this one it can be hard to keep up with all the beans the garden can produce.  Canning green beans really isn’t too hard, as long as you have a pressure canner. Using a water bath canner to process green beans is really unsafe, no matter how long you boil the beans. The boiling water bath canner can never reach the high temperatures (240°F) that you can achieve in a pressure canner.  Green beans and other low acid vegetables must be canned in a pressure canner.

For best results, clean and prepare the beans—don’t plan to can damaged beans.  The beans won’t improve after canning so eat those spotted beans fresh and preserve the unblemished beans. You can choose between hot or raw packs—check out these detailed instructions.

Remember if you have a dial gauge canner, the gauge should be checked yearly.  We have a list of locations in Iowa that do this testing.  A weighted gauge does not need to be checked but if you live in a location with an altitude above 1000’ you will need to adjust the weight upward by 5#.  (Instead of processing at 10# you would adjust the weight necessary to 15#).

As always, we are ready to help with your canning questions at AnswerLine.  Just give us a call on our toll-free number 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota, or 1-888-393-6336 in South Dakota. If you do not live in any of those states you can reach us at 515-296-5883. You can also send us an email, leave us a message on our facebook page, or comment on the blog.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Time to make Jelly

Strawberries are ready at the “pick your own” farm near my home. My family enjoys fresh strawberries, but if I pick more than we can eat in a few days I enjoy making strawberry jam.

These days we have several different options for preserving jams and jellies. We can make freezer jam or the cooked jam that can be preserved in canning jars. Any jam or jelly recipe should be followed exactly as written. You should not double or cut these recipes in half—the jelly may not set if you do.

Freezer jam is the easiest product to make. You simply prepare the fruit, stir in the instant fruit pectin and ladle the jam into clean jars. After a short standing period the jam is refrigerated or frozen. Remember, you can’t can freezer jam.

Strawberry jelly1
Strawberry jam ready to process.

Cooked jam or jelly takes a bit more effort. Fruit or juice is prepared, then heated, pectin is added to the juice or fruit, sugar added, product boiled for a minute, and lastly the jam or jelly is placed into clean jars with ¼ inch of headspace. The product is processed in a boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes (10 minutes if the altitude at your home is over 1000 feet and under 3000 feet).

If this puts you in the mood to make some jam, check out the recipes at these sites: Preserve the Taste of Summer publications through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Or, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also find recipes on the package inserts of commercial pectin packages. If you have any questions, please contact us at AnswerLine.

We are always happy to help you.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

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