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Scary Food Preservation Story

Scary StoryStocking up on stories to keep you awake at night? Here’s one just in time for Halloween.


One of the clerks at The Mending Shed in Orem told me of a man who came in to buy some canning supplies. He mentioned he was canning some taco soup—in half gallon jars. Startled, the clerk dug a bit deeper, asking about his pressure canning time for a half-gallon jar. The man responded, “Oh, no! the soup goes in the jars boiling hot, so the lids seal without any processing.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

Taco soup, typically with tomatoes, peppers, ground beef, corn and beans, is low acid—to simply put it in a jar and onto the shelf is an ideal place for botulism to grow. There’s no oxygen, it’s wet, it’s low acid, and it’s a nice, comfortable room temperature. The protein coated spore produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria will open up, releasing and multiplying its deadly toxin. It’s not a gas-former, it won’t smell, it will just poison whoever is unfortunate enough to eat it.

Proper pressure canning time at temperatures above 240o F (which takes 13 to 15 pounds of pressure at our altitude) is the only way to destroy the spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Another FYI: Lids on canning jars will “seal” briefly with simply a change in temperature, but bacteria in the food has not been killed, and the seal will not last.

Don’t “wake up dead” this Halloween! Use research-based canning recipes found on any Cooperative Extension site, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or Ball Canning.


This article was written by Cathy Merrill, USU Extension Assistant Professor, Utah County

 




Ask an Expert // What should I do with all these dried beans?

Dried BeansDried beans can be a great addition to your pantry and food storage. Read on to find out how to properly store and preserve dried beans.


This time of year, case lot sales are common. Among bulk items being offered are several foods known to store well for several years, when handled properly. Among those food items are several types of dried beans, sold in paper or plastic packaging.

Unless your family cooks with beans on a regular basis, a 25-pound bag of dried beans may seem a bit intimidating, or even impossible, to use up within the foreseeable future. If this sounds like you, here are some storage options to consider so you will have quality beans available when you need them for months or years ahead.

Utah State University Extension provides the following information to consumers wishing to add dried beans to their long-term food storage.

Storing dried beans

Quality & Purchase. For the most part, dry beans are graded U.S. No.1 (best) through U.S. No. 3, based on defects. Lesser quality beans are generally graded “substandard” or “sample.”

Packaging. Like most stored foods, beans are best stored in the absence of oxygen and light. Oxygen can lead to rancidity of bean oils and light will quickly fade bean color. The best packaging choices are #10 cans or Mylar-type bags. Canning jars are suitable for smaller quantities providing the jars are stored in a dark place. Oxygen absorbers should be used to remove oxygen from the packages to extend shelf life and minimize off-flavors.

Storage Conditions. Beans in normal polyethylene (food-grade) bags have a shelf life of 1 year or more. Like most stored foods, colder storage temperatures will increase shelf life. When packaged in #10 cans or Mylar-type bags, with the oxygen removed, they have a shelf life of 10 years or more. A BYU study indicated that samples that had been stored up to 30 years had greater than 80 percent acceptance by a consumer taste panel for emergency food use.

Use from storage. All dried beans, except lentils and split peas, require soaking in water for rehydration. Typically, 3 cups of water are needed for every 1 cup of dried beans. Allow beans to soak overnight and then rinse them in clean water. To cook beans, cover rehydrated beans with water in a stock pot. Simmer for 2-4 hours until beans are tender. Once tender they can be spiced and used in cooking recipes. As dried beans age, the seeds become harder. This results in longer rehydration and cooking times. At some point, the seeds will no longer rehydrate, and in that case, must be ground as bean flour. 

Preserving Dried Beans

It is common for home food preservers to “bottle” or “can” dried beans so they are hydrated and ready to use in recipes. For safety reasons, it is important to follow current guidelines for preserving dried beans as described by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. If you are new to pressure canning, visit this website and read how to safely use a pressure canner or contact your local county Extension office.

Procedure: Place dried beans or peas in a large pot and cover with water. Soak 12 to 18 hours in a cool place. Drain water. To quickly hydrate beans, you may cover sorted and washed beans with boiling water in a saucepan. Boil 2 minutes, remove from heat, soak 1 hour and drain.

Cover beans soaked by either method with fresh water and boil 30 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of salt per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with beans or peas and cooking water, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process as a hot pack;  pints for 75 minutes; quarts 90 minutes at 15 pounds pressure (altitudes 3,000-6,000 ft.) or 13 pounds with a dial-type gauge tested for accuracy by the local Extension office. WARNING: Do not place dried beans in a jar and add water as a method to prepare beans for processing. To guarantee safety, beans must be hydrated first!

Whenever you get in the mood for fresh-cooked chili, humus, beans and ham hocks or refried beans, having quality beans on hand that have been prepared and stored properly will be a great asset to your menus.


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to Kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.

 




Chill Out! Tips for Freezing Fresh Produce

chill outDuring the summer, fruits and vegetables are abundant — so don’t waste the opportunity for fresh produce because you may not have time to bottle it. Chill out: Use your freezer!


Freezing is safe, fast and gives the freshest taste with the highest nutrition of any preservation method. Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria—so make sure you wash and package your produce well–but it does slow or prevent bacterial growth because of the low temperatures.

A few tips:

  • Freezers should be kept at 0º F
  • Package in rigid, freezer-safe containers or freezer bags. Make sure to label them!
  • Vegetables are best blanched and cooled before being frozen. It stops the ripening action.
    • There are a few exceptions: Sweet or hot peppers can be washed and thrown in freezer bags to be used later in salsas or ….whatever! Onions may also be frozen without blanching—but double bag them to prevent odor transfers to other foods.
  • Fruits typically need no pretreatment, but for convenience sake, wash/drain, then freeze the individual pieces of fruit on a tray. Once they are frozen (about an hour), take them off the tray and put them in freezer bags. When you want to eat them, you can take out the amount you plan to use, rather than thawing the entire bag.
  • For small berries, the less handling the better. Wash/drain them and put them in one layer in a freezer bag. Put the freezer bags flat on the tray in the freezer. That way they freeze as individual pieces, but you aren’t repacking and breaking them in pieces.
  • For best quality, do not let frozen fruit totally thaw before eating: the freezing process damages the cell structure and they tend to be mushy. Put them out to eat when they still have ice crystals on them.
  • Tomatoes can be washed and frozen to be used in salsa later with their peelings on. To peel the skins later, pour boiling water over them, and the peelings will slip off. Let the tomatoes thaw a little before trying to chop them for the salsa.
  • Measure any fruit to be used in a recipe while it is still a little frozen to get a realistic picture of how much you are using. Include any liquid from the thawing in the measurement.

For more information, look in the freezing section of the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Chill out—and enjoy the fruits of your labors!


This article was written by Cathy Merrill, FCS Extension Assistant Professor, USU Extension, Utah County




Good News for Steam Canner Use!

Steam CanningGrandma used a steam canner all summer long, but you’ve heard they are not safe. Read up on what the latest research has to say about steam canning.


For decades, home food preservers have been told that boiling water-bath canners were the only approved way to process high acid foods (fruits, pickles, jams and jellies). The main reason for the recommendation was because there had not been adequate research performed on steam canners to the satisfaction of food preservation specialists at USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP).

In an article published in Food Protection Trends titled, “Atmospheric Steam Canners Can Provide a Safe Alternative to Boiling Water Canning for Acid Foods,” authors including Drs. Barbara Ingham, University of Wisconsin, and Elizabeth Andress, Director of the NCHFP, provide the conditions and guidelines for safely using steam canners at home. These are summarized below.

1- Process only food products that are high in acid in an atmospheric steam canner; the food pH must be less than or equal to pH 4.6. Low acid foods (including meat and vegetables) must still be processed using a steam pressure canner.

2- Use a current, research-tested recipe developed for boiling water canners with steam canners. Approved recipes may be found in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, at the National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu) or in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving but not in atmospheric steam canner instruction booklets. Factsheets and booklets produced by University Extension offices throughout the country are also approved when they reference one or more of these sources.

3- Monitor temperature in the steam canner to make sure that the process time begins only when the temperature of pure steam is reached. To better facilitate this, some steam canners are equipped with a built-in temperature sensor in the dome lid. Note that 212 F cannot reached at high altitudes without the use of steam under pressure. Therefore, additional processing time is required to effectively kill harmful bacteria/micro-organisms.

4- Heat jars prior to filling. Keep jars hot prior to the start of the processing time. To minimize cooling of jars, preheat both steam canners and boiling water canners before adding hot jars filled with food.

5- Make altitude adjustments. For elevations above 1,000 feet, the increased processing times recommended in research-tested recipes for boiling water canners should be followed.

6- To prevent the canner from boiling dry, limit processing time to 45 minutes or less. This exempts many tomato products —  especially those in quart-sized jars. Consumers must not open the canner to add water during the process; doing so will lower the temperature and may result in under-processed, unsafe food.

7- Cool jars in still, ambient (room) temperature air. Most microbial kill occurs during air cooling; thus the cooling procedure is extremely important. Do not cool jars in water, in the refrigerator, in front of a fan or by hastening the cooling process in any other way.

To access the complete article describing safely using atmospheric steam canners, visit http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/steam_canners.html. If you have further questions regarding any of the above guidelines, please contact your local USU Extension Office.


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.

 




Three Ways to Preserve Zucchini

Preserve Zucchini.jpg

Do you have more zucchini than you know what to do with? Don’t throw it out, try preserving it! Watch our latest segment on Studio 5 to learn three ways to preserve zucchini. Read on for the recipes we mentioned in the show.


Ztudio 5 Zucchini

Dried Zucchini

Cut washed zucchini in 1/4 inch slices and dry in food dehydrator.  Use dried zucchini in soup, chili, or casseroles.

Frozen Zucchini

Prepare zucchini for freezing by cutting it the way you like to eat it (cubed, shredded, spiralized, sliced, etc.). Blanch zucchini in boiling water or steam, then cool in an ice bath before freezing.

Ultimate Zucchini Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups zucchini (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Method:

In a large bowl, mix together zucchini, oil and vanilla. Add in flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa. Stir to combine. Mix will seem very dry (depending on how wet the zucchini is), but continue stirring until mix comes together and resembles stiff cookie dough. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread into a 9×13 baking dish, lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Once cool, use foil ends to lift out of baking dish. Cut brownies into desired size, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Canned Zucchini

Because zucchini is a low-acid food, it can only be processed safely if acid is added. You’ll probably find two recipe types for canning zucchini— pickles or relishes, and pineapple zucchini or zucchini marmalades. Be sure to use recipes from reliable sources such as Ball, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or USU Extension. Recipes from these sources have been tested and scientifically proven to be safe.

Zucchini Relish

Yield: about 4 half-pint jars

This Recipe was taken from the Ball Blue Book. Serve with hotdogs, hamburgers, sloppy joe’s, pulled pork sandwiches, or tuna salad. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped or shredded (about three medium)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1 cup cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • Ball Pickle Crisp (optional)

Method:

Prep:
Wash zucchini and green and red bell peppers under cold running water; drain. Remove stems and blossom ends from zucchini. Chop or shred zucchini; measure 2 cups chopped or shredded zucchini. Peel onion and chop; measure 1 cup chopped onion. Remove stems and seeds from green and red bell peppers. Chop green bell pepper; measure ½ cup chopped green bell pepper. Chop red bell pepper; measure ½ cup chopped red bell pepper. Combine zucchini, onion, green pepper, and red bell pepper in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over vegetables. Pour cold water over vegetables just to cover. Let stand 2 hours. Drain vegetables. Rinse vegetables under cold water, drain.

Cook:
Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a simmer (180°F). Add vegetables; simmer 10 minutes.

Fill:
Pack hot relish into a hot jar, leaving ½ inch headspace. Add 1/16 teaspoon Pickle Crisp to half-pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process:
Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process half-pint jars 10 minutes (add 10 minutes to adjust for altitude in Utah). Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from Canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

Pineapple Zucchini

Yield: about 8 pint jars

Use pineapple zucchini any way you would use canned pineapple. Try it baked into muffins, quick breads, or cakes. Mix it in with your fruit salad, or blended into a smoothie.

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts ½-inch cubed or shredded zucchini (about 32 small, or 2 monstrous)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 46 ounces bottled unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1 ½ cups bottled lemon juice

Method:

Prep:
Wash zucchini under cold running water; drain. Remove stem and blossom ends. Peel zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Cut zucchini into ½-inch cubes or shred it using a food grater.

Cook:
Combine zucchini, sugar, pineapple juice, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to a simmer (180°F). Simmer 20 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Fill:
Pack hot zucchini and juice into a hot jar, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process:
Lower the rack into simmering water; water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process pint jars 15 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Test seals. Label and store jars.

Note: Use only commercial bottled pineapple juice and bottled lemon juice in this recipe to achieve the correct pH level (acidity) for safe processing in a boiling-water canner.

Hummingbird Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2 ripe bananas)
  • ½ cup pineapple zucchini, with juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread pecans onto a lined baking pan. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then chop. Turn oven up to 350°F (177°C), then prepare muffin tin by coating with cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together in a large bowl.

Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just. Fold in 1/2 cup toasted pecans.

Fill each muffin space ¾ full, and top with remaining pecans (if icing, reserve pecan garnish for after baking). Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove muffins from tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Pineapple Yogurt Icing (optional)
Whisk together 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon juice from pineapple zucchini. Add more juice as needed until icing is pourable consistency. Drizzle muffins with icing, and top with remaining pecans.

 

Learn More

Preserve the Harvest: Zucchini

Save Your Summer Harvest: Freezing Vegetables

4 Tips for Food Dehydrating

 

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Fresh Zucchini Salad

Cooking in Season: Summer Squash


This article was written by Marta Nielsen, Editor of Live Well Utah, Wasatch Front Marketing Assistant for USU Extension




4 Tips for Food Dehydrating

Food DehydratingNow that summer is in full swing and gardens are producing in abundance, you may be wondering what to do with all you have harvested. Maybe you’ve tried freezing, or even even canning, but what about dehydrating? Try these tips for dehydrating, and preserve some of that summer harvest for later use.


Dehydrating foods is a great way to save foods that you have in surplus, such as fruits and vegetables, for later use. If you preserve your own food regularly, you may already be familiar with how dehydrating works. But if you’re like me, you’re only experience with dehydrated foods might be store bought banana chips from your childhood! If this is the case, dehydrating might seem a little daunting. But have no fear! Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Simple and Easy

I had zero experience with dehydrating food when I set out to use the dehydrator. I was a little nervous that I’d ruin the food. But here’s a secret- it’s not hard! There isn’t much you can do to ruin the food you are dehydrating. If it’s not dry enough, simply leave it in longer. If you accidently dried it too long, add it to a little water to gain a small amount of moisture back.

Dehydrators are easy to use and set up. Following the instructions that come with the dehydrator will help you to get started. The machine will take up little space, has a quick set up and a quick clean up. Once you have prepped your food and placed it in the dehydrator, all you really need to do is wait. Most foods dry at 140º F, but you can visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website or read So Easy to Preserve from The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to find different charts showing temperatures and times for dehydrating foods.  USU Extension also has an old– but great!–handout on dehydrating, Home Drying of Foods.

 

2. Proper Preparation

 

Fruits and vegetables should be washed, cored and sometimes peeled before dehydrating. Almost all vegetables need to blanched to inactivate the enzymes that break down color and flavor during dehydrating. Fruits can be sliced or halved; some can even be left whole to dry. If you slice or cut your food up, remember to cut as evenly as possible. If the pieces are different sizes it could prevent them from drying at the same rate. Food that is cut into thin, uniform pieces will take less time to dry. Blanching is another way to speed up the drying time. When you blanch a fruit or vegetable, it can soften the outer layer which will allow the moisture to escape faster. After blanching grapes, I was a little concerned to see some of the grapes had changed color. But this is normal. So, if there is some color loss after you have blanched your food, don’t panic!

Some fruits, such as apples or bananas, brown when exposed to oxygen. This can be prevented by using a pre-treatment, such as dipping the pieces in lemon juice or an ascorbic acid mixture, to stop the enzyme that causes this reaction. Pre-treatments are not required because this browning does not affect the flavor of the final product, however it can change the look of your final product.

It is important to arrange the food on the drying tray properly. Make sure the pieces do not overlap or touch, as this could cause them to dry unevenly and stick together. There also needs to be room for air circulation, so make sure not to overfill the drying tray. The amount of food you can put on a tray will vary. I fit about two sliced bananas per tray, but this could differ depending on the size of the tray or even the slices.  

3. More Than Just Fruit

 

veggie leather

Vegetables prepped for vegetable leather.

Don’t limit yourself! While fruit is the most common food associated with dehydrating, you can dehydrate much more than fruit. Both fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated to be used for snacking on or cooking with. They can also be used to make fruit leathers, as well as vegetable leathers. You can find simple recipes to make these, or even get creative and experiment to make your own…whatever you are most comfortable with! Meats can be dehydrated as jerky. This can be done by following a jerky recipe or could simply be done by using pre-cut salami to make ‘chips’ for snacking on. Even herbs, such as basil or oregano, can be dried out, packaged and stored.

 

4. Patience is a Virtue

Remember to be patient. Different foods will take different amounts of time to be completely dried; some might take a few hours, while others may take a few days. Allowing the food to take as long as it needs is important to ensure it can be stored safely. The time will be well worth it once you have your delicious food, whether you choose to eat it right away or save it for later.    


This article was written by Kelsey Chappell, Family and Consumer Sciences Intern, and Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Salt Lake County




Home Preserving Resource Roundup

Home Preserving RoundupAre you interested in canning and preserving your own food? Check out these upcoming classes, or learn about the dos and don’ts of home preserving from this roundup of videos and blogs from USU Extension.


Canning Resources

Shelf-life of Home Preserved Foods

7 Foods You Shouldn’t Can at Home

5 Tips for Failproof Home Preserving

Steam Canning Uncovered

Freezing Vegetables

Making Homemade Jams and Jellies

Plan Today to Preserve Tomorrow

5 Fruit Freezing Tips

How to Preserve Wild Game

Home Canning No-no’s

4 Tips and Reminders for Harvest Preservation

How to Can Apricots

Where to Go for Safe Canning Recipes

Master Preserver Program

Do you enjoy the art and science of food preservation and canning? Become a Master Food Preserver. Register here for the Salt Lake County Master Preserver Program, July 25, 26 and 27, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Contact your county USU Extension office to find out about the Master Preserver Program in your county.

Weber County Master Food Preserver Classes (can be taken individually or as a series)

Canning Pickles and Relish, July 11 — 11:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Canning Fruits, July 13 — 8 – 11 a.m.
Jams, Jellies and Spreads, July 13 — 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Freeze Drying and Dehydrating Veggies and Meats, July 18 — 8 – 11 a.m.
Dehydrating Fruit and Fruit Leathers, July 18 — 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Pressure Canning Low Acid Foods, July 20 — 8 – 11 a.m.
Freezing, July 20 — 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Mixtures, July 25 — 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Wrap Up and Final Exam, July 27 — 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

All classes will be held at Roy High  School, FACS kitchens, North West side of school. Find out more and register here

Individual Canning Classes

Weber County

 

Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Mixtures (salsa included)
August 15 — 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Pressure Canning September 19 — 6 p.m.

All classes will be held at USU Extension Weber County office — 181 North Fairgrounds Dr., Ogden.

Davis County

Freezing/Dehydrating July 26 — 9 a.m.-noon
Jams/Jellies August 2 — 9 a.m.- noon
Fruit Canning August 9 — 3 – 6 p.m.
Tomato Canning August 16 — 9 a.m.-noon

All classes will be held at the USU Botanical Center, Utah House — 920 South 50 West, Kaysville

Utah County

Canning: Safe, Easy Basics June 20 — 7-9 p.m.
Canning: Tomatoes and Salsas June 27 — 7-9 p.m.
Canning: Pressure Method for Meats and Vegetables June 27 — 7-9 p.m.
No Can “Canning”—Freezing and Dehydrating June 29 — 7-9 p.m.

All classes will be held at Utah Valley University To register, call 801-863-8012 or visit uvu.edu/ce


Visit canning.usu.edu for more online canning resources from USU Extension. Find more classes near you at http://extension.usu.edu/calendar.




How to Afford Fresh Produce // 10 Tips

fresh-produce-costHow do you balance eating healthy with your grocery budget? We’ve got ten tips to help you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank.


Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet because they provide essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber and water while low in calories, so they can help us feel full longer on fewer calories. The USDA MyPlate Guidelines tells us to make ½ of our plate fruit and vegetables, but many people find it difficult to put this into practice.

The three main reasons people give for not eating more fruits and vegetables are cost, time, and taste. This week we’ll talk about how to eat fruits and vegetables on a budget, and we will cover how to make fruits and vegetables more convenient and tastier in following weeks.

Many people think that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. However, it depends on how you think about it. Fruits and vegetables do tend to be more expensive per calorie, but less expensive than less healthy foods per gram or per portion eaten. This is because fruits and vegetables are higher in fiber, water, and vitamins and minerals, while being lower in calories. If you think about all of the nutritional benefits you get from fruits and vegetables, it is hard not to see them as a deal!

Here are 10 great tips to include fruits and vegetables in your diet at a lower cost:

  1. Shop in season! Fruits and vegetables are often on sale when they are in season, and usually taste better then too. Find out what vegetables are in season. 
  2. Some vegetables are available for a low cost year round, including potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage. Look for recipes online to find new ways to use these staples: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/main-recipes
  3. Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh, and they can keep 8-10 months in the freezer. Choose those without added sauces, fats, or sugar.
  4. Plan your meals ahead of time so fresh fruits and vegetables get used before they go bad. Learn more about meal planning
  5. To reduce waste, you can freeze leftover vegetables to add to casseroles or soups later, and overripe fruit is great in smoothies or baking.
  6. Canned vegetables are a great option, and are much more affordable than fresh or frozen. Choose fruit canned in 100% juice and vegetables that are low in sodium or have no sodium added. Stock up when they are on sale!
  7. When buying canned or frozen vegetables, try the store brand. The store brand is the same or a similar product at a much lower price.
  8. Check out your local farmer’s market. You can often find great deals on seasonal produce.
  9. If you find a great deal on fresh produce, try freezing or canning it for later use. Learn how from USU Extension
  10. Another way to reduce cost might be to grow your own produce. A backyard garden or patio planter can provide super-fresh produce all summer long. Visit garden.usu.edu for great resources.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to make fruits and vegetables more convenient and tasty.


This article was written by Carrie Durward, Extension Nutrition Specialist




Ask an Expert // Shelf-life of Home Preserved Foods

shelf-life-graphic

You’ve had those bottled peaches from Grandma for two years now — are they still good? Are they safe? Find out just how long you can keep home-preserved foods in your pantry.


 

A common question at USU Extension offices usually goes something like this, “There was a good buy on boneless, skinless chicken breasts this week so I bought 40 lbs. and now I want to can it. How long will it stay good in the jar on the shelf?” Before answering this question for readers, let’s consider the following basic information about home food preservation.

Canning is an important, safe method of food preservation if practiced properly. Home food preservation generally involves placing foods in jars and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Processing times and temperatures are scientifically determined and must be followed exactly to assure not only quality but safety of these home preserved foods.

So, back to the question about shelf-life…. With the prevalence of emergency and disaster preparedness education, at least in Utah, families obviously want to build up their food storage for the proverbial “Rainy Day.” This is a good practice so long as it is also practical.

Many dry goods (wheat, sugar, dried beans, etc.) have an excellent shelf-life when stored in air-tight containers and are wonderful to have on hand as part of a basic food storage supply.

On the other hand, home preserved fruits, vegetables and meats should be treated differently. Instead of asking how long a home-preserved food will last, a better question is, “How much chicken will my family use in 1 to 2 years?”  When foods are preserved at home, it is true that families can control the quality of the food and to some degree how much additional sugar and salt are added. We cannot, however, duplicate the ultra-high temperatures or fast field-to-jar (or can) process commercial manufacturers use.

To ensure the home preserved food on pantry shelves are at ultimate quality, food should be rotated on a regular basis and not stock-piled for several years. After as few as two short years, foods will begin to darken or lose firmness. Does that mean they are no longer safe to eat? No. It does mean that the nutritional value is decreasing and will eventually be good to eat only for added calories. In other words, the food may fill you up but you won’t reap much in the way of vitamins or minerals.

A few additional tips for optimizing quality of home-preserved foods come as follows from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu ):

 

  • If lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars, remove screw bands, wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; then rinse and dry jars. Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 F. Can no more food than you will use within a year.
  • Do not store jars above 95 F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an uninsulated attic or in direct sunlight. Under these conditions, food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals and allow recontamination and spoilage.
  • Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage unless jars become unsealed and re-contaminated. However, freezing and thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more newspapers and blankets.

 

The satisfaction of having shelves full of high-quality foods preserved at home is nearly always seen as worth the time, money and effort by those who participate in home canning. Take the time to determine how much food is actually necessary and preserve only that much using tested and approved recipes. This will help minimize waste, offer nutritious foods and provide an on-going sense of self-reliance.


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.




Ask an Expert // 7 Foods You Shouldn’t Can at Home

Canning Canning is a great way to preserve the bounty of summer, but beware! Not all foods are safe to can at home.


Did you know that the USDA has tested and approved many recipes to preserve foods at home? There are many foods you can bottle safely at home, as long as you follow USDA-endorsed recipes and procedures. Some unique foods include grapefruit and orange sections; cantaloupe pickles; pie fillings such as apple, mincemeat and green tomato; chicken, venison and fish; hot sauce and ketchup; a variety of soups and many more. See the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for recipes and procedures.

Have fun trying out a new safe, USDA-endorsed safe recipe in your kitchen this season. But remember, the possibilities are not quite endless.

Be aware that there are many foods that cannot be bottle safely at home. Why is that? One reason is that home kitchens are limited. A boiling water canner or a steam pressure canner can only get so hot. Heat is one element that is needed to kill micro-organisms that could spoil your food. A higher temperature needed for low-acid foods (like vegetables, beans and meat) is only achieved at home through a steam pressure canner.

Some foods or recipes have not been tested, or have been tested and have not been found to be safe. In some instances, the lack of approved canning recipe is due to poor quality.  Here is a list of some common foods that are not safe to can and not safe to consume.

Canning: Mixed Race Young Adult Woman Preserving Homegrown Fruit

What Not to Can at Home

Butter

That’s right, butter. In some emergency preparedness sections of stores, you might see canned butter in a tuna-fish size can. But don’t get too excited to go home and melt butter into a jar just to stick it on your food storage shelves. For now, canning butter using any method is not recommended. Some methods are dangerous, at best; others are not backed up by science. Why can butter when it freezes so easily?

Hydrated Wheat Kernels (aka wheat berries)

Wheat is a low-acid food that is susceptible to botulism if trapped in a low-acid, low-oxygen, room-temperature environment. In addition, the starch in wheat may interfere with the heat penetration during canning. Insufficient processing can result in botulism food poisoning. Instead of canning, store wheat dry until used, or if hydrated, refrigerate up to several days. You may also hydrate a batch and freeze in usable portions.

Quick Breads (e.g. banana, zucchini, pumpkin)

This idea likely started when people started baking quick breads in canning jars to create a nice round loaf. However, placing a lid and ring on the jar to create a vacuum seal as it cools does not kill botulism-forming organisms that grow in warm, moist, anaerobic conditions. These items should be either baked fresh and served or frozen.  Read more here.

Dried Beans (pinto, kidney, etc.)

To safely can dried beans, they must be hydrated first (usually 12 to 18 hours) and then brought to a boil for 30 min. Hot beans are then placed into hot jars for processing. It is not safe to put dry beans covered with water into a steam pressure canner for processing.

Fresh Homemade Salsa

There are many delicious salsa recipes to enjoy with your fresh garden produce, but these are not formulated for canning. Remember that canning recipes are scientifically studied to account for enough acid and/or processing time to keep the food safe. Fresh salsas are not formulated for canning. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s Salsa bulletin, “Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning.” Keep you and those consuming your salsas safe. Keep fresh salsas fresh, or freeze. Don’t experiment with canning your favorite fresh salsa. Find tips on canning salsas safely here.

Garlic, Vegetable or Herb-Flavored Oils

While these make beautiful gifts, infused oils have the potential to support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria, which grows into botulism food poisoning. These are best made fresh for use and not left at room temperature.

Pickled Eggs

There are NO home canning directions for pickled eggs. There are some recipes for storage in the refrigerator, but in order to avoid botulism, do not leave at room temperature, except for serving time, and do not attempt to bottle for food storage.


This article was written by Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Salt Lake County

Source: https://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_Food_Preservation_2009-01.pdf