THE GREEN SCENE
Preparing For The Next Storm
By Shelley Swenson
Extension Agent III
Wakulla County FCS
I felt some pride recently when a prominent Wakulla County citizen publicly admitted that he did not fear having adequate food during our power outage because his family preserves food and had a pantry full of fruits, vegetables and meats to consume until the power came back on. I admit I would rather not eat cold vegetables but as long as the grill has propane to heat them, a full meal could be consumed from the pantry.
If you suffered during our recent power outage and now realize how it may make some sense to store some foods, be reminded that if food preservation skills are not something you possess, the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office is the place where you can turn.
I prefer to teach through small classes for interested people so that everyone has a hands-on experience to leave with confidence that they could do it themselves. I have all the equipment, written materials and space to review research-based, safe techniques for anyone desiring to learn. I am always available through an office visit or a phone call.
If you have not preserved food for some time or have never done it, it pays to review or learn to do it correctly. Make sure your food preservation recipes and procedures follow the latest guidelines.
A few practices from the past that need to remain in the past, include the following:
A pressure pan is not a pressure cooker and should not be used for preserving food.
If you are a snow bird and preserve food in locations with different altitudes, different canning times is required to accommodate for the different altitude.
The smell test is not a reliable one to determine if a canned food is spoiled.
Open kettle canning is not a reliable food preservation technique. Give it up forever!
Canning jars with wire bails and glass caps, one-piece zinc porcelain-lined caps are for decorative purposes only. They have no place in today’s food preservation equipment.
A salad dressing jar, even if it looks just like a canning or freezing vessel, should not be used for food preservation.
There is no place for processing or blanching foods in the oven or the dishwasher.
Home canning of pumpkin butter and mashed or pureed squashes is not recommended.
Filling the canning jar up to the lid level to save space is wrong. Foods have different headspace requirements to allow the food to boil in the canner without overflowing. Don’t cheat on headspace. Obtain a chart of proper headspace if you don’t know what it is for the different foods.
Quality of food does not get better after preserving it. Always preserve fresh, high-quality foods. You are going to spend time on preserving food. Don’t impact the result by using food that is past its peak.
Plastic bags and plastic tubs are not all the same. When freezing foods, purchase freezer weight wrapping paper, bags or containers. If air transfers into the bag, freezer burn and a transfer of taste from surrounding foods in the freezer results, and the end product will be compromised.
UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension is the place to turn for food preservation information. Whether it be preserving a single item or needing information that spans an assortment of techniques, we have the information.
This is serious business and should not be taken lightly. There is no place for grandma’s recipe with today’s fruit and vegetable varieties. I shudder when someone remarks that they are going to continue with a process that is not based on research or is very old because they “haven’t killed anyone yet.”
If you are going to invest your time, plan to end up with a safe and quality product. Whether it reflects preparation for the next storm or for use throughout the year, do it correctly to insure safety and quality.
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