By KATHY SMITH
Canning food at home can be a great way to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables that you either grew yourself or purchased from local farmers.
However, if you don’t do it the correct way, you can cause serious illnesses and even death from food-borne illnesses. Make sure the foods that you prepare at home are safe for you and your family by following these recommendations.
• Begin with a clean area to prepare the food. Make sure that your kitchen is clean and sanitized and clutter free.
• Make sure you have the freshest food possible. Avoid using produce that has a lot of blemishes and is not very fresh.
• Always use a pressure canner for canning low-acid foods. This includes most vegetables, except for tomato products; seafood, poultry and meat.
• Make sure that your canning equipment is clean and works properly. If you are using a pressure canner with a dial gauge make sure it is accurate. They can be tested and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can test them. Check the gaskets; make sure it is in good shape. Check the vents, safety valves and edges of the lid and make sure they are clean.
• Check your jars and lids. Check for nicks and cracks. Use only Mason jars that are approved for safe canning. New lids are a must when canning. Rings should be replaced if they are rusted or have dents.
• Always use tested recipes that have up-to-date, research processing times. The National Center for Home Food Preservation and companies that makes home canning supplies are good resources. Current Extension publications are also good resources. Recipes from cookbooks, the personal internet sites and older Extension publications should not be used.
• Do not alter ingredients in tested recipes. Changing the ingredients in a tested recipe can make that recipe unsafe for home food preservation.