Safety crucial to proper canning

Published 2:38 pm Monday, June 18, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Food safety was the primary focus of a canning workshop at the Chilton County Extension Office on June 18.

Alabama Cooperation Extension System Extension agent Janice Hall said if fruits and vegetables are not canned properly bacteria can grow in the food and cause people to get sick.

“We have had cases where people have actually died from not canning things properly,” Hall said.

There are two methods of canning — water bath or a pressure.

“In a water bath canner, you only want to can high acid foods,” Hall said.

She said fruits are high in acid and can be used in the water bath canning method. Vegetables are not high in acid, so the pressure canning method should be used. Tomatoes can be used in either method because of the acidity.

Adding vinegar to the vegetables in pickling increases the pH level, making it more acidic, allowing the water bath method to be used, Hall said.

When pickling, it is important to use canning or pickling salt. Hall said if regular salt is used, the product will be cloudy and will not look tasty. She said a trick to getting crunchy pickles is to soak them in ice water for two hours prior to pickling.

The importance of using research-based, USDA approved recipes when canning was also emphasized. Each attendee received a copy of a cookbook with such approved recipes. Each recipe outlines which canning method should be used for the recipe.

Attendees were also warned against buying canned products that there was not a USDA recipe for at a farmer’s market.

As more research is done, recommendations change. Hall said canning pecans is no longer considered safe. However, freezing them is still considered safe.

Glass jars specifically designed for canning must be used. Hall also recommended using specially designed jar lifter, bubble freer and a funnel to keep from getting burned or making a mess. Only jars that are specified as being freezer safe can be used in the freezer, Hall said.

Using the correct sized jar is also crucial, Hall said, otherwise the process will not work properly.

Leaving the proper amount of space between the product and the lid of the canning jar is important to proper canning. Hall said if too much space is left, there will be air in the product. If not enough space is left, the lid could be damaged.

The lid consists of a flat lid and a ring that screws on top and around the flat lid. Hall said both should be cleaned and placed in hot water before using, but should not be boiled. Hall said the flat piece of the lid cannot be reused.

During the workshop, Hall demonstrated making peach jam, explaining that sugar and water or pectin can be used.

There are low sugar or no sugar pectin options.

“It is actually a naturally ingredient in the fruit itself, and what they do is extract it from the fruit and turn it into a powder,” Hall said.

If artificial sweetener or other sugar substitute is used in the jam or jelly, the product will need to be refrigerated because it will not have the same preservation qualities as sugar. The refrigerated product should be safe to eat for up to six weeks.

Products with sugar in it that are canned properly are safe on a shelf for a year, Hall said.

The USDA puts out a “Complete Guide to Home Canning,” which is available online at

Hall said local extension offices can also answer specific canning questions.

The Chilton County Extension office can be contacted at (205) 280-6268.