UNIVERSITY PARK – Mid-summer is a satisfying time for home growers and gardeners. From asparagus to peas and from strawberries to rhubarb, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables ripen and become ready for picking.
Home food preservation methods allow for these fruits and vegetables, and many others, to be enjoyed all year. A Web site offered by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences provides guidance for safely preserving fresh foods.
The site is updated regularly and offers advice for saving a garden’s harvest. It provides links to many recipes instructing how to dry fruits, how to turn them into jams and jellies, and how to freeze and can foods safely.
New to the site this year is a link to the new Food Preservation Blog, which is updated regularly with tips home food preservers can use as the gardening season progresses.
While home food preservation and canning have many benefits, there are some risks, according to Luke LaBorde, associate professor of food science, who recommended that consumers consult the website for information about ensuring the safety and quality of their preserves.
“The biggest danger involved with home food preservation is the possibility of foodborne illness,” Laborde said. “If foods are canned incorrectly, Clostridium botulinum spores may live through the canning process and grow once the products are cooled.”
These spores produce a highly potent toxin that causes botulism, a potentially fatal disease.
“It’s important to use scientifically tested recipes when canning” warned LaBorde. “Apples, peaches and berries can be processed in a boiling-water canner because they contain natural acids that prevent growth of dangerous botulism spores. But low-acid foods — such as green beans, corn and soups — must be processed in a pressure canner that achieves high enough temperatures to destroy the heat-resistant spores.”
Effective methods of canning also kill most spoilage molds, bacteria and yeast and prevent heat-resistant types from growing by removing oxygen from inside the jars.
When done safely, home food preservation is a great way to save money on what may seem like continually growing grocery bills. Canning also can help to preserve produce’s nutritional value, which is lost quickly once crops are harvested.
“Canning can help you save money, get the most out of your garden and have nutritional produce all winter long,” LaBorde said. “Penn State’s Food Safety Web site provides information that makes it easier for new and seasoned canners alike to safely enjoy the process and product long after the summer has gone.”
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State University