Chilton County 4-H students enjoy canning workshop

Published 1:47 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Wonderful smells and tastes were the highlight of the Chilton County 4-H canning workshop at the Chilton County Extension Office on July 25.

As students crushed berries for jam, the delicious smells of the fruit began to build anticipation.

Samuel Chrishon said smelling the jam while it cooked was what he enjoyed most.

“I just like coming to the Extension Office,” Chrishon said. “It sounded really interesting to do canning, and I love jelly, so it sounded like something I would be interested in.”

Natalie Ford said she enjoyed learning the new skill.

“I thought it would be a great experience to learn how to can,” Savannah Hayes said.

She said she wanted to learn and be able to help her grandmother “because she cans a lot.”

Hayes’ favorite part was squishing the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries for the Very Berry Jam.

Hayes said instructor Extension Agent Janice Hull “was very nice in helping us.”

Throughout the presentation, Hull shared safety information and tips for getting a delicious and safe product. She showcased a number of tools helpful in the process.

A wooden spoon is recommended for stirring recipes made for canning.

“They don’t recommend that you use aluminum because it can have a chemical interaction (with the acid in the food),” Hull said.

While many of the students had grown fruits and vegetables, only one had any experience canning.

Hull explained that canning was a way to preserve fruits and vegetables the growers may not otherwise be able to eat before they went bad.

During the cooking process, Hull added a tablespoon of butter to keep the jam from foaming.

Hull used the water bath canning method during the presentation. However, she said for low acid foods, the pressure canning method should be used.

Once the jam was cooked, students took turns scooping it into small canning jars making sure to fill to the space from the top outlined in the recipe.

In the water bath canning method, the filled canning jars are placed in a large pot of boiling water long enough for air to escape and properly seal the jars.

Hull emphasized the importance of using USDA certified recipes when canning to ensure the food will be safe from bacteria forming without refrigeration.

“This jam can actually sit on the shelf for a year,” Hull said. “Not that it would last that long because this is going to be good.”

Hull said no sugar or low sugar canning recipes with pectin would still have to be refrigerated to preserve the food, and it would be safe to eat for four weeks.

When using pectin to help the jam gel to the correct consistency, only one batch can be made at a time.

Hull said if a recipe is doubled and the amount of pectin doubled, it will not gel properly. She said it is also important to check the expiration date on the product before using.

Canning jars should be washed in a dishwasher or by hand and then sterilized before use. Hull said she puts her jars in an oven at 215 degrees for 30 minutes to sterilize them. Sterilization can also be done in boiling water.

Lids and rims should be washed in hot, soapy water. The lids cannot be used multiple times, but the rims can.