Food Preservation Resources and Reminders from Cass County Extension
With fresh garden produce ripening and local farmers markets in full swing, August and September are peak times to preserve food. “Preserve the Taste of Summer”, a resource from Iowa State University Extension, is a great place to start for local residents with an interest in food preservation who want to make sure they are following the latest practices to produce safe food.
“Preserve the Taste of Summer” resources are available as free, printed publications from your local ISU Extension office, or can also be downloaded from www.extension.iastate.edu/storeas a free PDF (just type preserve the taste of summer in the Search box in the upper right corner). These resources cover topics from canning fruits and vegetables to pickling, freezing and drying. Each publication addresses a specific type of food preservation, and includes recipes and time/temperature recommendations to ensure safely preserved food.
“Preserve the Taste of Summer” is also the name of a food preservation program offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreachthat includes both online lessons and hands-on workshops, teaching the most current USDA-approved food preservation recommendations. It is a great opportunity for anyone age 18 years or older who is interested in learning safe food preservation techniques. The next hands-on workshop in the local area is a Salsa (hot water bath) canning workshop, planned for September 14 at the Henry A. Wallace Center near Orient.
Interested participants will need to view preliminary training videos to qualify them to attend the class. Participants can view these courses independently, online, at any time by visiting www.extension.iastate.edu/families/preserve-taste-summer and registering for the program. They will need to print a certificate at the end of each course to bring to the workshop. The classes can also be viewed at the Cass County Extension office, for those who do not wish to participate online, by calling 712-243-1132 and setting up a time to view the course videos. Total training time to watch all of the required courses is about two hours.
There are four levels of participation for which a person can register. To attend the workshop in September, register at the Silver Level ($50.00). This fee will include the on-line lessons and your attendance at the workshop. You will leave the workshop with a jar of properly canned salsa and additional food preservation materials. Barb Fuller, Nutrition and Health Specialist and a Master Food Safety Advisor for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will lead the workshop.
“We want Iowans to gain the knowledge of safe food practices, which is why we have the general overview as a requirement,” Fuller said. “We also want them to be able to identify safe recipes that are tested, as well as understand that there is a risk to food preservation. We want them to know the steps to avoid those risks.”
Regarding the preliminary videos, she added, “Our intent is that people will come to the hands-on workshop ready to can their foods, and not need two or three hours of discussion before we begin.”
Fuller also cautions against looking for shortcuts to home food preservation, noting that preserving food by canning in the oven has been a hot topic this summer.
“Whether the information was shared by a well-meaning friend, or found as a “quick and easy method” on the internet, oven canning is NOT a safe shortcut”, says Fuller. “Many individuals have shared they have tried, or have heard about, oven canning. Just because a jar is sealed doesn’t mean the food inside is safe to eat. I’ve had people say to me- ‘I haven’t gotten sick from it.’ I tell them they are probably very lucky! Botulism is a big concern.”
Food “processed” in the oven will not necessarily be heated hot enough or long enough to produce a safe product! Oven regulators may not be very accurate and the hot air in the oven may not circulate efficiently enough to heat the food in the jars. In addition, dry heat penetrates jars very slowly. Canning jars are not designed for dry heating either and make quite a mess if they explode!
“In addition, think of the wasted resources when finding out your food may not be safe to eat”, Fuller adds, “People spend a great deal of money, time, and energy canning food. It is disheartening to tell someone their (improperly) canned food could make someone they love very sick.”
Do not put your families’ health and the quality of your food at risk for the sake of a shortcut- like oven canning. Be sure to only use research-based methods and tested recipes for SAFE home food preservation, such as those mentioned above from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach online store.You can also call ISU Extension and Outreach’s AnswerLine at (800) 262-3804 to talk directly with a Home Economist. AnswerLine hours are Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m.-noon and from 1:00-4:00 pm.
As a reminder, the Cass County Extension office also offers free testing of pressure canner dial gauges. Only the lids, with gauge attached, need to be brought in for the testing, and testing can be done at any time, although those who would like to have their lids tested while they wait are advised to call in advance to ensure someone is available to assist them.
For more information, to register for a class, or with questions, please contact Kate Olson at email@example.com call the Cass County Extension Office at 243-1132;or Barb Fuller at 641-202-1843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the Preserve the Taste of Summer program can also be found at www.extension.iastate.edu/families/preserve-taste-summer.
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