By TEDDYE SNELL
Spring is in full swing, and early gardens are beginning to bear products of planters’ labors. It won’t be long before home food preservationists launch into full-tilt canning mode.
According to Heather Winn, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service educator, it’s important to have pressure cookers and gauges checked before the first harvest.
“We have a master gauge here at the office we use to check others,” said Winn. “I have to have the master gauge checked every year, and so I use the time right after I get it back to promote checking everyone else’s gauges. It’s so important for safety.”
Home food preservation is gaining popularity, and Winn checked more gauges last year than ever before. But she said with the increased popularity comes the risk of more mistakes.
“A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry,” said Winn. “One has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner; the other has a metal weighted gauge. Dial gauges must be tested for accuracy before each canning season. It’s also important to check the rubber gasket if your canner has one; it should be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. Also, make sure any small pipes or vent ports with openings are clean and open all the way through.”
Winn said weighted-gauge pressure-cookers are more sturdy, and rarely have to be replaced.
“Unless the gauge has been run over by a truck, or is missing pieces, it’s usually quite accurate,” said Winn. “Dial gauges are more delicate.”
Winn said new gauges can be purchased at most hardware stores, and are generally universal across brands of pressure cookers.
Recipes and method play key roles to successful home canning.
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