Home Food Preservation

preserved foods: fruits and vegetables

Last Friday I hosted a workshop for home canning. It is always a fun one and I hope the ladies who came learned some valuable information. I wanted to share some of it with my readers in case any of you are thinking of canning at home.

The number one lesson that I hope my participants take home from my canning workshops is this: ALWAYS use a recipe that is specific for the food you are canning, and is from a reliable source such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It is also very important to follow the recipe precisely. Deviating from the listed ingredients, processing time or canning method could lead to dangerous and disastrous results.

The next thing is to use the proper canning technique. Higher acid foods such as fruits, jellies and pickles can be processed safely in a boiling water canner. Lower acid foods like meats and veggies must be processed in a pressure canner for food safety. AND a pressure cooker is not a pressure canner. To be safe for canning, a pressure canner must be large enough to hold at least four quart sized jars.

I also want all of my home canning peeps to know that the county extension offices (in Oklahoma) can test your pressure canner gauge if it is a dial gauge from Presto, National, Maid of Honor, Magic Seal and Kwik Kook brands.  These dial gauges should be tested annually to ensure they are accurate. They can be replaced very inexpensively if they are not reading properly.

For canning newbies:

Water bath canning or boiling-water canning is processing fruits, jellies, salsas, pickles (high acid foods) in a pot of boiling water. The pot needs to be big enough so that the water level is one or two inches above the tops of the canning jars. The water must be boiling, and the lid must be on the canner for the entire processing time. A rack must be used in the bottom of the canner to allow for water circulation all the way around the jars.

Pressure canning is the use of a pressure canner that has been pressurized by a dial or weighted gauge with a locked lid. This is used for low acid foods like vegetables and meats. Again, a rack should be used in the bottom of the canner.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for recipes and instructions on canning, freezing, drying and curing foods. Some other great canning resources include:


As an Extension Educator, I am asked to judge county fairs,sometimes the canning section. The most common mistake I see when judging canning is the headspace. If you are using a specific and reliable recipe, it will tell you the proper headspace. Headspace is the amount of room between the top of the liquid and the bottom of the flat lid. The recommended head space will be 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch, 1 inch or 1 1/4 inch or 1 1/2 inch depending on what is being canned. A quick and easy reference for most headspace measurements is this little diagram:



If you would like to know more about canning, please contact your county Extension Educator for Family and Consumer Sciences. If you don’t have one, you could call me at 405-258-0560.

Happy canning!

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