Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Don't Have to be a Grandma to Can

Food preservation is making a comeback in certain circles. With Michelle Obama’s kickoff of the White House kitchen garden as part of the Let's Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity, there has been an increased interest in gardening. This has resulted in more vegetable gardens in public spaces and fresh vegetables are becoming more available in schools, parks, churches and backyards. Penn State has joined this initiative with their Harvest 4-Health 4-H and nutrition education programs for youth. 

In addition to home and shared gardens, there is more access to local fruits and vegetables through farmer's markets this summer. USDA reported a 17% increase in farmer’s markets in the U.S. from 2010 to 2011(USDA - AMS, 8/8/11). In my mostly urban county, fourteen markets are listed in” The 2011 Consumer’s Guide to Pennsylvania Farm Markets” issued by the PA Department of Agriculture. I can think of several more that have arisen this summer and others just across the county line.

With the gardening season at its peak, some gardeners and consumers wish to preserve this bounty for the cold winter months. I remember my grandmother “putting up” enough jars of vegetables and fruit to last through the winter.  However, food preservation 2011 has taken a new turn. Today’s food preservationists are looking to learn how to save the summer bounty in their freezer, by dehydration as well as in jars. They also want recipes that meet their dietary needs – salt free, sugar free, organic, etc.  While some have an abundance of food in their home gardens, enough fresh fruit and vegetables can be purchased from a good vendor to make jams, jellies, salsas, pickles and other recipes where quanity is not the goal.

Many Penn State Cooperative Extension offices are offering classes on home food preservation. You can find these by going to : and clicking on your closest county. In Delaware County, we will be offering food preservation classes on Wednesday nights during August.

Even if your county isn't offering food preservation classes, Penn State has many food preservation resources.  On the PSU food preservation website,,
you can find recipes, suggestions for equipment purchases, food preservation Q and A's, and articles on current related topics.
The PSU Let's Preserve fact sheets provide "how to" guides to saving PA grown fruits and vegetables for later use. Each pamphlet is focused on specific fruits and vegetables. Some commonly requested fact sheets provide preservation guides on green beans, tomatoes, pickles, peaches, jams and peppers. A monthly Let's Preserve newsletter is also available.

In addition, some Extension offices will test your pressure canner guage for accuracy. If improper techniques are used, food preserved can be unsafe. Botulism is a deadly bacteria that likes to grow in improperly canned foods. All information and publications issued by Penn State Extension and the Penn State website is up-to-date and reflects the most recent research regarding preserving food safely.

Enjoy the fresh taste of locally grown produce this summer and contact us if you want to savor this in January. We can help make this happen.

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