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Are Canners Passed Down for Generations Really Safe?

BY KIM HUGHES – COUNTY EXTENSION AGENT

Many canners are passed down or bought at estate sales or yard sales. The only way to know if the canner is working properly is to have it tested to ensure the safety of the food being processed.

If your canner isn’t working properly the foods in the jar can be under-processed and can increase the chance that botulism spores may still be present in the jars.

Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning meat, poultry, seafood, and low acid vegetables.

Pressure canners destroy the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum, which can be found in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct time and pressure in pressure canners. A canner operated at a gauge pressure of 10.5 pounds of pressure provides an internal temperature of 240°F.

If Clostridium Botulinum bacteria survive and grow inside a sealed jar of food, they can produce a poisonous toxin. Even a taste of food containing this toxin can be fatal.

Pressure canners for use in the home have been extensively redesigned in recent years. Models made before the 1970’s were heavy-walled kettles with clamp-on or turn-on lids. The older models are still safe, as long as the dial is accurate; they are just heavier.

Newer models will have a jar rack, gasket, dial or weighted gauge, an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent port (steam vent) to be closed with a counterweight or weighted gauge, and a safety fuse.

Green beans and tomatoes are among the most popular vegetables for home canning. Because of their low acidity, vegetables such as green beans must be processed in a pressure canner.

Test your equipment yearly, before the canning season begins for accuracy.  If you have questions concerning canning or want to test your canner lid & gauge come by the Polk County Extension office at 211 DeQueen Street, Mena, e-mail me atkhughes@uaex.edu or call 479-394-6018.

We also have the newest edition of “So Easy to Preserve” for sale in our office as well as free publications with updated U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for home canning. If your home canning recipes are older than 5 years old, it is time to come get new ones with the latest recommendations.

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