Canning recipes return to older versions

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

By Staff
This week I have the pleasure of giving my colleague and friend, Amelia McGrew, Regional Extension Agent for Foods Safety, Preparation, and Preservation, the opportunity to answer some of your canning questions in this column.
Your Summer Canning Questions Answered
Canning season is well underway and this year we are receiving many calls relating to canning using “Grandmas” old recipe. There is something slightly different between last year and this year's calls. This time around we are receiving calls from people who are canning for the very first time due to the rising food prices they are experiencing at the grocery store.  Calls vary from preserving summer squash, requesting fig recipes, to inquiring about processing times for different fruits or veggies.
Whether you are canning for survival or fun, please keep in mind that a lot of the canning methods have changed since Grandma started out.  For the sake of your family's health only use research tested recipes. You'll find tested recipes and answers to common canning problems in the updated Home Food Preservation book published in Alabama.  For now, I have compiled a short list of some of the most frequently asked questions and answers. Enjoy.
Q> Can summer squash be canned
A>  It is not recommended due to growth of microorganisms.  It is recommended that summer squash be frozen instead.
Q> Can food be re-canned if the lid does not seal?
A> Canned food can safely be re-canned if the unsealed jar is discovered within 24    hours. To re-can, remove the lid and check the jar sealing surface for tiny nicks.  Change the jar; if necessary, add a new treated lid and reprocess using the same    processing time.
Q> When canning pickles, is it dangerous for the garlic to turn blue or green
A>  No.  It is only a reaction between the acid in the vinegar and the color pigment in the garlic.  This will happen when garlic is not fully mature, thoroughly dried or not fully peeled.
Q> If my recipe doesn't call for processing, do I need to do so
A>  Many recipes passed down through the years or found in older cookbooks do not include instructions for processing. The foods are usually canned by the open kettle method, sealed and stored. Foods prepared in this manner present a serious health risk – particularly low acid foods. To minimize the risk of food spoilage, all high acid foods should be processed in a water bath canner or pressure canner and all low acid foods such as fresh vegetables and meats in a pressure canner. Fruits and vegetables should be canned at 11 pounds.
Q> Why should foods be packed loosely in a jar
A>  This allows the liquid to circulate in the jar and carry heat to the food so the microorganisms and enzymes will be destroyed.  Over packing can also cause liquids to boil out of the jars.
Q> Should liquid lost during processing be replaced.
A>  No. Loss of liquid does not cause food to spoil, though the food above the liquid may darken.
Q> Why did my fruit become soft and mushy after canning?
A>  Fruits should be firm ripe but not soft for canning.
Q> Can lids be used a second time?
A>  No.  The composition is damaged by the first use.
Q> If I find mold growing inside a jar of canned food, can I just scrape it off and eat         the food?
A> Mold growth in foods can raise the pH of the food. In home canned products, this   could mean that the high acid products could become low acid and therefore run the risk of botulism or other bacterial spoilage. Thus, any home canned product that shows signs of mold growth should be discarded. The exception to this is jellied products. In these the high sugar content would prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum. In jellied products, remove any surface mold plus 1/2 inch of the good product underneath and then use the rest immediately. Jellied products with extensive mold should be discarded.
An extended list of canning questions and answers can be found on the University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation.
If you have any questions regarding canning that were not mentioned, please contact Amelia McGrew, Regional Extension Agent for Foods Safety, Preparation, and Preservation at the Mobile County Office (251) 574-8445 or email at