Master Gardener tips for the Panhandle – Week of August 22, 2022

By Jeanne Murray, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener

Are you planning to can some of your garden produce? 

Garden produce can be preserved by two canning methods, the water-bath or the pressure canner. Water-bath canning is for produce with high acidity, like pickles, most fruits, sauerkraut, tomatoes, jams and jellies. The pressure canner is used for low-acid foods, like vegetables, meats, sea foods and salsas without added acid. Improperly canned produce may result in a deadly food poisoning.

Do you need to adjust your canning time or pressure for high altitude, or can you use the recipe as printed? 

In western Nebraska, we need to adjust a printed canning recipe for high altitude. For altitudes between 4000 and 6000 feet, add 10 minutes to the time for a water-bath canner. A pressure canner needs to be at 13 pounds pressure for the designated time. 

Are atmospheric steam canners safe to use for canning?

Only two models have been tested to be safe, the “Back to Basics” and the “Victorio” according to the University of Wisconsin Extension Food Safety Division. Only naturally acid foods like peaches, pears and apples or acidified foods as salsa or pickles may be safely canned. Twenty minutes need to be added to the processing time for our altitude. See Guidelines for using a Steam Canner for Home Food Preservation for complete directions on their use.

Sea salt vs. canning salt? 

When canning, use pickling or canning salt. It contains no fillers or non-caking materials which can turn the brine cloudy. Sea salt contains minerals from the ocean which can turn the brine undesirable colors. Salt is not required to prevent spoilage, unless it is a fermented product like sauerkraut or dill pickles. Use iodized salt or sea salt as a flavoring when preparing the final product or dish.

Hot Pack vs. Cold Pack? 

Raw pack means putting raw, unheated food directly into jars. Boiling liquid is poured over the food to obtain proper headspace. Food is packed tightly. It will shrink during processing. Hot pack means heating the food to boiling and packing the hot food and boiling liquid into jars. Pack loosely as shrinkage has already taken place. Hot pack yields better color and flavor when water bath processed.