Food preservation is a great way to preserve fresh produce for later use. The main concern when preserving food is to do it properly to prevent foodborne illness. 

Summer is right around the corner and gardens are ready for harvest. You can find seasonal produce flooding the local grocery stores and farmers markets. If you are in need of preserving your harvest, K-State Research and Extension can hook you up with the best, most reliable and up-to-date resources. 

Karen Blakeslee, K-State’s Rapid Response Center coordinator, has developed simple and complete guides to canning all of your food safely.

Whether you water bath can, steam can, pressure can, freeze or dry your fresh produce and foods, there are proper precautions for each process. Water bath canning and steam canning are used for higher acid foods. This includes fruits, sweet spreads, pickled products, tomatoes, salsa and some other tomato products. Acidity in these foods may be natural, as in fruits, or added, like when pickling foods. Lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar are the three substance options when lowering a food pH to a more acidic level. The temperature reached when water bath canning is effective for killing yeast and any mold organisms. 

If the temperature ever drops too low, crank it up to the proper temperature and start again. No use risking bacterial growth in your homegrown foods. 

On the contrary, foods with a higher pH ought to be processed in a pressure canner. These foods include vegetables, vegetable mixtures, red meats, wild game meats, poultry, seafood and fish. 

Pressure canners may be used to can some high-acid or acidified foods like tomatoes, apples, berries, cherries, purees, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, plums and rhubarb. It is extremely important to process foods accurately so that bacteria does not form and cause food poisoning. A pressure canner’s dial gauge ought to be checked for accuracy. If the gauge reads high or low by more than two pounds at five, 10 or 15 pounds pressure, replace it. 

Two parts of canning often overlooked are utilizing the correct processing time in correlation to one’s altitude and the style of cooktop used. Processing time must be modified for elevation as required by a tested recipe. When water bath or steam canning, the canner bottom must be completely flat with a smooth surface stove top. Kitchen technology has been extremely innovative, yet has caused some issues when it comes to home food preservation. Some brands of pressure canners are not recommended on smooth cooktops. Excessive heat reflecting down on the surface can damage the cooktop. Discoloration, burner damage, cracked glass tops or metal fused to glass top have all happened. Please read the manufacturer’s recommendations for your smooth cooktop. No one wants to replace a glass stove top or stove.

Canners are an investment, so take care of this piece of equipment. Clean and store properly. Prior to storing, clean canner efficiently and clean the vent of your pressure canner. Simply draw a clean string or narrow strip of cloth through the opening to rid any debris from hole. When storing your canners, keep in a dry location with clean crumpled paper towels inside. This will help in absorbing any moisture or odors. Place the lid upside down on the canner for ventilation and never seal the lid when storing. 

Food preservation is a fun way to keep your garden harvest through the year. Be sure to do it safely. For a complete guide of Kansas State’s “Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe,” written by Karen Blakeslee, visit your local K-State Research and Extension Leavenworth County office at 613 Holiday Plaza in Lansing. For other questions on this topic and others, contact me at 913-364-5700 or chelsim@ksu.edu

Chelsi Myer is the Leavenworth County agent for K-State Research and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences.