Routt County CSU Extension: Home canning with confidence |

Routt County CSU Extension: Home canning with confidence

Karen Massey/For the Steamboat Today

Home food preservation is challenging and requires a lot of time, energy and resources. It is important to do it correctly so that you can serve it to friends and family with confidence.

It's that time of the year when home canners call the Extension office for food preservation advice.

Mostly, the calls come from nervous cooks who have spent hours canning a recipe that they found on the Internet. They want to verify that those beautiful cooling jars on their counter will be safe to serve the family.

Sometimes, the questions come from people who grew up watching Grandma preserve produce from the garden, and they want to give it a try.

I'm glad they call for advice because home food preservation is challenging and requires a lot of time, energy and resources. It is important to do it correctly so that you can serve it to friends and family with confidence.

If you are considering home-canning for the first time, or it has been a while since you pulled out that pressure canner, let me give you a few tips from the food safety experts at Colorado State University:

• Start with fresh, quality ingredients. Select produce at its peak of freshness and flavor, and choose varieties that are best suited for canning. Food preservation takes time and effort, so don't compromise your final product by starting with overripe or bruised produce. Remember, the process of preserving food does not improve its quality, it just makes it safe to store at room temperature.

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• Use jars and lids intended for home canning. Old mayonnaise jars or other jars from commercially processed food are made of thinner glass and can break during processing. Mason jars and lids made specifically for home canning assure a good seal and less breakage, and they can keep your canned goods safe for one to two years on the shelf.

• Use a tested recipe and follow it precisely. Our understanding of safe canning practices has changed throughout the years. Grandma's "tried and true" methods of canning may not be safe with the new types of produce that are being grown. By using up-to-date canning instructions from reliable, tested sources such as the Ball Blue Book, USDA and Extension, you can be assured of a safe product.

• Adjust your processing for our high altitude. When preserving food at higher altitudes, processing time and temperatures should be adjusted. We need to extend the food's exposure to heat during processing in order to destroy microorganisms. How we adjust our processing differs depending on whether the food is high-acid or low-acid. For high-acid foods, such as pickled products and most fruits, you will need to increase the time the product is processed in a boiling-water canner. For low-acid foods, such as most vegetables, salsa, sauces and meats, you will need to process the product in a pressure canner, adding additional pressure to account for our altitude.

Preserve the bounty of your garden and your farmers market produce with confidence by using tested recipes adapted for high altitude, prepared with quality ingredients and equipment. Feel free to contact the CSU Extension’s Routt County office with your canning questions.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. With questions, call 970-879-0825 or email

For more

Canning enthusiasts, consider entering your home-preserved food in the 100th Routt County Fair. Not only will it be a fun way to participate in our county fair, but you also will meet other food preservers and receive valuable feedback from the judge.

Check-in for the Home Arts Exhibit Hall (for Routt County residents only) will take place at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden from 1 to 8 p.m. Aug. 13. For more details, contact Karen Massey at the Extension office, look for the 100th annual Routt County Fair Book in businesses across the county or find the Fair Book online.