Canning is a fun resourceful way to preserve an abundant harvest from your garden, however if it is done incorrectly, home-canned foods can lead to serious and even fatal food-borne illnesses. The following are 10 tips for canning at home safely.
#1 Always start with a clean preparation area, and the fresher the foods are the better. Make sure there is not any damage to any of the jars, such as nicks and cracks. Make sure all of your equipment is sterilized clean and working well.
#2 If you are canning low-acid foods, always use a pressure canner, this includes most vegetable except for tomatoes, seafood, poultry, and meat.
#3 If you use a pressure canner with a dial gauge, have it tested each year. You can also have your pressure canner checked to ensure that the gaskets are in good shape and that vents, safety valves and edges of the lid are clean.
#4 It is important to always use tested recipes that have up-to-date, researched canning times. Good sources of tested recipes include the National Center for Home Food Preservation at nchfp.uga.edu, Extension service websites and companies that produce home canning supplies such as Ball at www.freshpreserving.com.
Recipes from cookbooks, personal internet sites, and older Extension publications should not be used.
#5 You should never alter ingredients in tested recipes, because changing the ingredients in a tested recipe can make that recipe unsafe for home food preservation and consumption.
#6 When you begin to fill your jars, you should always use the correct headspace. (Headspace - the space in the jar that is between the lid and the top of the food or liquid.) Having too much or too little headspace can affect how the lid seals and the quality of the final product.
#7 Once the jars have been processed (canned), you should check the lids within 12 to 24 hours to make sure that they have a good seal. If you have a jar that did not seal properly, the food should be frozen or refrigerated and eating within 48 hours, or you can reprocess it within 24 hours.
#8 Label the lids with the name of the food and date. If you canned more than once that day, you should add a batch number to the label. That way, if you see signs of spoilage, you can identify the batch number and pay special attention to those jars.
#9 To prevent spoilage, store your canned foods in a dark, cool, dry place. If food is stored in a humid place, the moisture can cause the lids to rust which can lead to spoilage. Periodically check your jars for signs of spoilage.
#10 To enjoy the best quality of your canned goods, use them within ONE YEAR.