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Adjusting for altitude

August 25, 2018

Recently I judged the home bottled foods at a county fair. The colorful foods were properly sealed and labeled. The variety of produce preserved was inspiring and eye catching. As the entries were judged for proper canning procedures, it became apparent a common mistake occurred: jars were not processed correctly to adjust for altitude. Below are steps to consider when processing your home bottled foods.

Use research-based recipes: With the use of the internet for popular recipes, it is even more important now to make sure the recipes are based on science. How do you know? When using the internet, visit Freshpreserving.com, which is Ball Blue Book or USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html. These sources are research-based, with recently expanded recipes to increase variety and flavors. Want a canning app for your phone? Look for Canning Timer & Checklist PNW689

Adjust recipes for altitude: Most recipes will need to be adjusted for altitude. The altitude chart is in the front of the book. In general, for water bath canned jars, add 10 minutes. Why? Because the printed recipes were written for sea-level altitude. For pressure canning, at 4,001-6,000 feet, weighted gauge use is 15 and dial gauge is 13 pounds.

What about my grandma’s favorite bottled recipe? I get many calls requesting ways to make a family recipe safe. The best way to do that is to prepare and eat it fresh or freeze it. The next best option is to use Blue Ball Book Guide to Preserving or USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning to find the most similar research-based recipe. My personal experience doing this was for my grandmother’s Chili Sauce recipe. The next best recipe is delicious and food safe.

“We have eaten bottled foods six years old and are all okay.” Very grateful people are safe who consume bottled foods older than one year. Ball, who makes canning lids, reminds us the rubber on the lid is tested for effectively sealing a jar for one year. Plan your food preservation of home-processed jars to last 52 weeks. For example, 52 quarts of peaches eaten during the year. Jars can be washed and stored for repeated use. At this time, lids are not reusable.

I’m off to pick my garden tomatoes, onions and green peppers to teach my daughter how to make salsa. Enjoy the rest of the garden produce as the weather changes.

Julie Buck, EdD, MHE, RD, is a registered dietitian, food safety specialist and health educator employed at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208)785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.

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