June 23, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

Recipes are handed down from generation to generation and, in some families, so is the equipment needed to prepare them.

Home canners are no exception. Many canners are passed down or bought at estate sales or yard sales. Often there's no way to know if they are working properly without being tested. Even newer canners should be tested to ensure the safety of the food being processed.

Pressure canners with dial gauges should be tested yearly to check for accuracy. Many county offices of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service have the equipment to test home canners.

Vegetables will soon be ready for canning and the Extension Service is ready to aid families in their efforts to assure food safety.

"With under-processing, even in a pressure canner, there's a chance botulism spores may still be present in the cans," said Jill Harris, Todd County family and consumer science extension agent. "Using a boiling water canner is not recommended for vegetables because it poses an even greater risk for botulism poisoning."

Harris said many families still can their own vegetables, and to make sure it is done properly the pressure canners must be accurate. If a dial gauge reads higher than the actual pressure, then the food inside may be under-processed.

Pressure canners with jiggler-style gauges instead of dial gauges aren't tested, Harris said. These gauges are supposed to maintain their accuracy.

If a dial tests off by more than one or two pounds, Harris said it should be replaced.

Green beans and tomatoes are among the most popular vegetables for home canning. Because of their low acidity, vegetables such as green beans must be processed in a pressure canner, Harris said. Meat, poultry and seafood must also be processed in a pressure canner.

During a recent field day, Harris and Marsha Parker, Christian County FCS agent, tested several home canners and advised some owners to have their dials replaced. "It helps make sure they are canning safely," Harris said.

In addition to testing home canners, the Extension Service has leaflets with updated U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for home canning. The USDA changed many of their canning recommendations in the late 1980s.


Jill Harris 270-265-5659