Preserving the Harvest

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

This time of year, there is a wide variety of fresh, local produce being sold at farmer’s markets or being grown in home gardens. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to do with it all! One solution is home food preservation. This includes canning, dehydrating, and freezing so that those fresh items can be enjoyed year round.

Home food preservation is nothing new; it has played a very important role throughout history. However, it is important to stay up-to-date on this evolving topic. The USDA continues to evaluate preservation methods and recipes to help ensure the safety of the food. This is especially important when home canning foods. There are two safe methods, water bath or pressure canning, to choose from depending on the food being canned.

Water bath canning is used for high acid foods. Some foods, such as fruit, are naturally acidic. Other foods, such as pickles, have acid added to them in the form of lemon juice or vinegar. The combination of acidity and heat from the boiling water helps to prevent spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria and spores.

Pressure canning must be used for processing low acid foods such as meat and vegetables. Without the high acidity acting to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and spores, it is necessary to heat the product to a higher temperature. The temperature reached by boiling water is not high enough, therefore a pressure canner is used to reach a much higher temperature for a certain period of time.

If using a dial gauge pressure canner, it is important to make sure it is properly calibrated before canning. This can help to ensure that the food reaches the proper temperature during processing. Richmond County Extension Center provides this service for free, through appointment with Family and Consumer Science Agent Alyssa Anderson.

Once you have chosen the item and method of canning you wish to use, it is important to find a recipe from an USDA approved source such as University of Georgia’s So Easy to Preserve or through your local Cooperative Extension.

Interested in learning more about home food preservation? The Richmond County Extension Center will be having a series of classes related to canning, dehydrating, and freezing throughout the summer. For more details and to register visit richmondces.eventbrite.com or call Alyssa Anderson at 910-997-8255.

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 910-997-8255.