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Canning fresh produce this winter

It's the dead of winter, but that doesn't mean the season of canning fresh produce is over. With the use of hoop houses, cold weather crops, and other methods of prolonging the growing season there are plenty of fruit and vegetables to can during the winter.

The joy of canning fresh fruit and vegetables is the same as when Grandma did it, but canning methods have been improved over the years to reduce the risk of botulism. Vera Massey of the Boone County Extension office is seeing an increasing number of people who are canning for the first time or returning to it after a very long hiatus.

USDA guidelines have been revised over the past 20 years. “It’s like having surgery. If I’m going in for surgery, I don’t want the techniques they used 30 years ago I want the techniques that will reduce risk. It’s the same for when we can our foods,” says Massey. The way tomatoes are canned today is much different than it was years ago because most modern tomatoes are low acid. Tomatoes must contain sufficient acid to can safely, and bottled (not fresh) lemon juice or citric acid must be added to produce sufficient acid levels, whether you are using a boiling water canner or pressure canner.

Jellied products must be processed in a boiling water canner to prevent mold growth. Don’t use paraffin to seal jars of jellies or jams, Massey says. When the wax topper is used, toxic yeast or molds can grow.  If mold is present on jellies or jams, do not scrape the mold away. Discard the entire contents to prevent poisoning. The source of canning methods should always be taken with a grain of salt, as the USDA doesn’t support most. A popular method found online is oven canning. According to Massey, this is not safe because ovens do not provide sufficient heating to destroy harmful bacteria and produce a proper seal. There is also a risk of jars exploding.

If you have a supply of produce this winter season, proper canning methods will ensure you have tasty fruit and vegetables all season long.

Sources: Vera Massey and the University of Missouri Extension

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