CLINTON – Making homemade jams to give for Christmas was such a satisfying experience, Maureen Collins-Kolb wanted to repeat it.
So the newlywed from Clinton turned up Wednesday at the DeWitt County Extension Office to learn how to get the best results from water bath and pressure canning methods of food preservation, a class set to be offered again in Decatur on Monday evening.
“The first thing I'm going to make is strawberry jelly,” she said.
One takeaway from the class, taught by Caitlin Huth, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, is that canning procedures and recipes handed down by granny may no longer be safe.
Tomatoes and tomato juice, for example, can no longer be safely processed in a water bath without adding lemon juice or citric acid because breeding has made the fruit less acidic. By the same token low-acid produce, such as green beans and beets, should be preserved using a pressure canner to ensure destruction of bacteria that cause botulism, a type of food poisoning that can be deadly.
Huth advises using only tested recipes developed after 1985.
Out-of-date food preservation methods include the “open kettle” heating of foods/sealing in jars without processing and trying to use jars not designed for home canning, a pressure cooker instead of a pressure canner and paraffin wax instead of a lid.
Huth also said it's not a good idea to “help” a jar seal by pressing down on the lid while it's cooling.
She added that advance preparation is the key to success and that recommended tools include a canning rack, wide-mouth funnel, lid lifter, jar lifter, bubble freer, scale and cutting board.
“We don't cover all these things to scare people off,” Huth said. “You can eat well and save money, and we promise you can do this.”