Safe Preserving Using a Steam Canner

Home canned peachesThe University of Wisconsin–Madison published research saying that an Atmospheric Steam Canner is safe to use for home canning of acidic foods such as fruits, or acidified foods such as salsa or pickles, as long as the following guidelines are observed:

  • Foods must be high in acid, pH of 4.6 or below.
  • A research-tested recipe developed for a boiling water canner must be used with the Atmospheric Steam Canner. Do not rely on the recipes that come with the steam canner.
  • Jars must be heated prior to filling with hot liquid, the steamer must be vented so that the jars are processed in pure steam at 212o F for 45 minutes or less. Cooling must be minimized prior to processing.
  • The steam canner may be used with recipes approved for half-pint, pint, or quart jars.

For further information: fyi.uwex.edu/safepreserving/2015/06/24/safe-preserving-using-an-atmospheric-steam-canner/.

Safe Home Food Preservation

Preserve the Taste of Summer LogoInterest in home food preservation has increased due to the popularity of local foods and gardening. With more people preserving food, there is concern about whether the resulting food products are safe to eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the most common cause of foodborne botulism in the United States is from home-canned vegetables because proper procedures were not followed. It is important to keep food safety in mind every step of the way when preserving foods at home.

  1. Follow food safety guidelines when preparing the recipe.
  2. Always use up-to-date tested recipes and directions from a reliable source because knowledge and recommendations change over time with scientific developments. Ignoring recommended procedures can result in home canned products that will make you and your family very ill.
  3. Use the appropriate canning method. The acidity of the canned food product determines whether or not it should be processed in a hot water bath canner or in a pressure canner.
  4. Have the dial gauge on your pressure canner checked each season. Weighted gauges remain accurate and do not need to be tested. Contact your local extension office for information on how to get your dial-gauge pressure
  5. canner tested.

ISU Extension and Outreach offers the Preserve the Taste of Summer (PTTS) program that provides a thorough review of research-based, safe home food preservation practices, includes eight online lessons as well as four hands-on workshops (requires completion of online lessons), and is available statewide. The cost ranges from $25 to $100 depending on the level you choose.
Participant evaluations show that the program increases knowledge of safe home food preservation practices and is well received by those who have participated. One participant said, “I would never have attempted home canning before the online lessons. Now I know how to do it correctly and will attempt home canning.” Another stated, “I plan to make homemade jams and can tomatoes. I wouldn’t feel confident in trying these out before taking this workshop. Great opportunity!”
To register for PTTS, visit www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/preservation/home.html.

Home Canning 101

The incidence of people preserving food by canning in the oven or in the dishwasher is increasing as many gardeners and home cooks are looking for a shortcut to preserve their canned tomatoesfresh produce at home. However, these are unsafe canning practices. Using unsafe canning practices can cause a deadly foodborne illness called botulism, which is virtually undetectable.

It is estimated that there are 55 actual cases of botulism annually in the United States. Although this is small in comparison to other foodborne illnesses, the death rate associated with foodborne botulism is as high as 17.3 percent. The cause for each case was inappropriate home canning methods, not recognizing the signs of food spoilage, and unawareness of the risk of botulism from home canned foods.

Signs of food spoilage in home canned products include:

  1. Bulging lids and unsealed jars
  2. Dried food starting at the top of the jar
  3. Rising air bubbles and unnatural color
  4. Unnatural odors
  5. Spurting liquid
  6. Cotton-like mold growth on top of the food surface and underneath the lid

Botulism causes a very deadly type of foodborne illness that begins usually within 72 hours after consuming the contaminated food. Symptoms can include digestive upset, blurred or double vision, difficulty swallowing or breathing, paralysis, and eventually death.

Canning in the oven and dishwasher does not heat the food in the jars to a temperature high enough to kill any and all pathogens that may be present in the food. It is important to remember that a sealed jar does not mean food inside the jar is safe to eat. It takes less heat to seal a jar than it takes to make the contents safe. Depending on the type of food, ALL canning must now be canned in a boiling water canner (high acid foods) or a pressure canner (low acid foods).

To ensure that your home canned goods are safe, be sure you are using recipes that follow the most current canning guidelines. Significant changes were made in 1994 that are critical to the safety of some processes. These included changes in canning tomatoes, pickles, and meat processing. Also, other recipes were reviewed and updated for safety and food quality. In 2006 and again in 2009, canning guidelines were reviewed and revised. For this reason, all recipes should be 1994 or later.

Some recommended resources include:

Food Safety: Home-Canned Salsas

Cooks love to experiment with salsa recipes and many want to preserve their winning combination by canning. Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (such as onions and peppers), with high-acid foods (such as tomatoes).

The type and amount of ingredients as well as the preparation method are important considerations to safely preserve homemade salsa. Improperly home-canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in botulism poisonings. A USDA-tested recipe using the type and amount listed for each ingredient can ensure a safe, home-canned salsa. salsa

Changing the type or amount of ingredients alters the acidity of the product, making it unsafe. If you have a personal favorite that is not a tested recipe, it is best to eat your creation fresh, store it up to one week in the refrigerator (40°F or below), or freeze it. Most salsas should retain good quality for up to one year in a freezer maintained at 0°F.

Acidity – Acid ingredients help preserve canned salsas and make them safe to store on the shelf. The acids are usually commercially bottled vinegar (at least 5% acidity) or lemon juice. The amount of vinegar or lemon juice in a recipe for canning cannot be reduced.

Tomatoes – Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have more flesh or solid tissue, producing thicker salsas. Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm tomatoes. Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines.

Peppers – Use only high quality peppers, choosing your favorite such as sweet bell, jalapeno, habanero, etc. Do not exceed the total amount (pounds or cups) of peppers in any recipe.

Spices and Herbs – Amounts of spices and herbs in these recipes (black pepper, salt, oregano, pickling spice, dried red pepper flakes, and ground cumin) may be altered.

Other – Red and yellow onions may be substituted for each other. Do not exceed the total amount of onions in any recipe.

Food Preservation Publications and Recipes:

Preserve the Taste of Summer

canning jarsHave you been browsing the garden catalogs and planning your garden? What plans have you made for preserving the bountiful fruits and vegetables from the garden?

Now is the time to learn more about food preservation so that you are ready to “put it up.” Consider Preserve the Taste of Summer, an online and hands-on course that covers food preservation and food safety basics, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and jam and pickle making.

Learners can choose the level of participation they want and the topics that most interest them. A hands-on workshop is included for most levels of participation. To learn more go to  

The Preserve the Taste of Summer webpage includes information on registering for the Preserve the Taste of Summer course, dates, and locations of hands-on workshops, a food preservation resource list, and ISU Extension and Outreach food preservation publications that can be downloaded and printed.

July Brings New Food Preservation Program

Preserve the Taste of Summer is now being offered by Iowa State University Extension Nutrition and Health program specialists. This comprehensive program includes both online lessons and hands on workshops. The program is a great opportunity for anyone age 18 years or older interested in learning safe food preservation techniques. Youth age 17 years and younger are welcome to participate but will need a parent or guardian also in attendance.

First, complete both online general overview sessions and any online method-specific sessions, if you are interested in further information.

General overview sessions include:

  • food safety
  • canning basics

Method-specific lessons include:

  • canning acid foods
  • pressure canning low-acid foods
  • preparation and canning of pickled and fermented foods
  • making and preserving fruit spreads
  • freezing food, storage of frozen and refrigerated foods
  • drying foods

Each regionally-based workshop will begin with a brief review of information presented in the overview lesson.

The anticipated workshops are:

  1. hot water bath canning (salsa making) and freezing
  2. jams and dehydrating
  3. pickle making
  4. pressure canning

Contact your local Extension office and ask for the nutrition and health program specialist for more information.

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