Food Safety Feature Articles
Test pressure canner gauges and prepare for home canning
Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
Spring is here, which means it is time to get canning supplies and equipment checked and ready to use. It's also a good time to brush up on safe canning techniques.
When checking equipment, be sure to get the dial gauge of your pressure canner tested — before it is needed. The spring in the dial gauge can get worn out or stuck, so it needs to be tested annually.
Any low acid foods, like vegetables, meats and some tomato products, need to be canned under pressure in order to reach the temperature required to destroy the disease-causing microorganisms that could be present. If a pressure gauge is not accurate, it could create an environment inside the canning jar that is not only unsafe but is instead the perfect breeding ground for growing the pathogens. The contamination cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, so the only way to ensure that the food is safe is to preserve it in the correct way.
Pressure canner gauges can be tested throughout the northwest region in county Extension offices. For a list of locations, go to extension.missouri.edu/nwregion and click on the county nearest you. For other regions, check the MU Extension website for the Extension county office in your area. The test is either free or costs $1 per gauge. Extension specialists have newer testers that make the task quick and easy, taking 5-10 minutes. The gauge itself or the gauge in the lid is what needs to be checked. The rest of the canner can also be checked out if it is brought in. Weighted gauges do not need to be tested since they remain accurate as long as they remain intact.
Also available in MU Extension offices or online are food preservation publications explaining everything from how to get started canning to step-by-step instructions on how to use a pressure and/or boiling water canner. You will also find more specific information on canning vegetables, fruits, jams and jellies, tomatoes and tomato products, pickles and pickled products, and meat, fish and poultry.
In addition to written information about canning, some MU Extension specialists also offer classes on pressure canning or other types of food preservation techniques. For more information, contact your local Extension office or contact Janet Hackert at 660-425-6434 or HackertJ@missouri.edu.
Last update: Monday, April 15, 2013