By Kaye Kasza
CSU Extension Agent
Do you love the flavors of summer fruits and vegetables? One way to enjoy those great flavors all year long is to preserve food. Whether the produce is from your garden, a neighbor's garden, or the local farmers market, using safe food preservation methods will let you enjoy that fresh flavor all winter. All food preservation methods work by destroying microorganisms, or stopping their growth, and inactivating enzymes.
During canning, foods are placed in jars or cans and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal that prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating the food within the jar. Acid foods like fruits and tomatoes can be processed or canned in boiling water, while low acid vegetables and meats must be processed in a pressure canner at 240 F to destroy botulism spores.
Pickling is another form of canning. Pickled products have increased acidity that makes it difficult for most bacteria to grow. Pickled products are heated in jars in boiling water to destroy any microorganisms present and form a vacuum in the jar.
Jams and jellies have a very high sugar content that binds the liquid present, making it difficult for microorganisms to grow. To prevent surface contamination after the product is made, these are either canned, frozen or refrigerated.
Freezing reduces the temperature of the food so that microorganisms cannot grow; however, many will survive. Enzyme activity is slowed, but not stopped during freezing.
Drying removes most of the moisture from foods. Without moisture, microorganisms cannot grow and enzyme action is slowed. Dried foods should be stored in airtight containers to prevent moisture from rehydrating the products and allowing microbial growth.
Home canning safely requires using current, tested recommendations that reduce chances of food-borne illness. There are many chances for creativity in cooking, but canning is not one of them. CSU Extension, Southeast Area is offering several hands-on classes teaching water bath and pressure canning. The next scheduled classes will be July 17 and 19 in Lamar.
For more information on the classes or safe food preservation, contact your local Extension office: Baca County at 719-523-6971; Bent County at 719-456-0764; Cheyenne County at 719-767-5716; Crowley County at 719-267-5243; Kiowa County at 719-438-5321; Otero County at 719-254-7608; or Prowers County at 719-336-7734. Find us on the web at www.extension.colostate.edu/SEA.