Common Food and Recipe Issues When Canning

Home food preservation has become very popular. It is wonderful to preserve your own fruits and vegetables to fill your pantry, but it is important to always follow the latest research-based canning methods and recipes when preserving foods at home. These can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation and individual state Extension offices such as . The following practices are no longer considered a safe way to preserve foods and a few important points for safe home canned products:

Using old or untested recipes is not recommended. Recipes must be evaluated in a laboratory to assure the acidity and processing requirements are met.

Do not to change or add anything to a tested recipe except dry spices and dried herbs.

Only researched based salsa recipes should be used. They are formulated to have enough acid to prevent botulism. Increasing the amounts of vegetables or adding different vegetables changes the acidity levels and can result in botulism. The type of peppers can be interchanged if the total amount remains the same. More lemon juice or vinegar can be added if a tarter flavor is desired.

Only use good quality produce that is free of disease and mold. Over ripe produce is often lower in acid making canning unsafe.

The acidity level of many foods including vinegar has changed over time. Using today’s food products might require different processing times or amounts than a few years ago.

Adding any kind of thickener including any kind of starch or flour is unsafe. The only time it is safe is as part of a scientifically tested recipe.


The amount of salt in any product EXCEPT pickles can be changed based on personal preference. The amount of sugar in the syrup for canned fruit can be reduced safely but can change the color and texture of the fruit and the quality deteriorates quicker. There are recipes designed and tested for reduced sugar.

Elderberries cannot be safely preserved at home due to the acid level of the fruit. Elderberries or juice can be safely frozen.

Mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash is no longer considered safe to can but can be frozen. Pumpkin and winter squash can be canned when cut into 1-inch cubes, the correct processing time and method must be used.

Canning summer squash or zucchini is no longer considered safe. It is best to freeze or pickle summer squash or zucchini.

Not all tomatoes have an adequate acid level (pH) and need an acid added to prevent botulism. Bottled lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes. Check for correct amounts at

Enjoy preserving your fruits and vegetables safely!

For more information, contact your local Nebraska Extension Office or on the web at: Nebraska Extension In Our Grit, Our Glory.

UN–L for Families

Nancy Frecks, Extension Educator

Nebraska Extension