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Elisa Shackelton: Canning at high altitude

Don't overprocess jams and jellies

Elisa Shackelton

— When your garden or fruit trees are overflowing with vegetables and fruit, or the local farmer’s market tempts you with others’ freshly grown produce, it’s a great time to preserve some of the bounty to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

Making jellies

Many people who make their own jams and jellies use the Ball Blue Book, which is considered the “bible” of food preservation. This publication is loaded with delicious, scientifically-tested recipes ranging from your standard canned green beans to jalapeno jelly. The Ball Blue Book also contains a chart for adapting their recipes to high altitude conditions. However, Colorado State University Extension has determined that the high altitude processing times listed in the Ball Blue Book should not be applied to jellies, since doing so would result in a severely overprocessed product. Instead, boiling water processing times for pints or half pints of jelly are recommended at 10 minutes for 1,000 to 6,000 feet, or 15 minutes at altitudes above 6,000 feet.

Canning, freezing, drying, oh my!

Whether you freeze, can or dry foods, all three methods of food preservation can be done in such a way that ensures safe consumption. The method you choose will depend on whether it can be used safely for the particular food and whether or not the end-product will be acceptable, or not. For instance, freezing is a safe method of preserving any food, however if a food contains a lot of water, like lettuce, the frozen product will not have acceptable eating quality. A person also has to determine if his/her preference or need is for canned, dried or frozen foods, and how much time and what equipment are available.

Colorado residents should always make high altitude adjustments each time they preserve foods at home. Since almost all food preservation recipes are formulated for sea level (where water boils at 212 degrees F), always be sure to make the necessary modifications in time and/or temperature before doing any food preservation at our higher altitude. Water boils at approximately 198 degrees F in Craig, so extra time and/or a pressure canner must be used to destroy harmful bacteria.

Food Safety Tip: Before tasting, boil all home-canned, low-acid vegetables 10 minutes plus one minute per 1,000 feet. (Green beans, beets, asparagus, corn, peas, carrots, stewed tomatoes, etc.)

Safe food preservation procedures for Colorado residents are available in Colorado State University Cooperative Extension fact sheets, which are free online at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/pubfood.html#pres or at your local Extension Office. Topics include:

• Cost of preserving and storing food

• Food preservation without sugar or salt

• Making jellies

• Making pickles

• Drying vegetables

• Drying fruits

• Leathers and jerkies

• Making pickled peppers

• Smoking poultry meat

• Freezing vegetables

• Freezing fruits

• Growing, preserving and using herbs

• Canning tomatoes and tomato products

• Canning fruits

• Canning vegetables

For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.


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