In A Pickle? Try These Canning Tips From A Master Food Preserver

Sep 29, 2014

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A few weeks ago, we had a brief conversation on this show with our outdoor adventure contributors about the enjoyment of pickling and preserving things.  It was a thumbnail sketch on how to take that first step into making your own pickles, or jam.

A little while later, we got a phone call that made the point that while it’s not necessarily hard to do these things, it is definitely important to pay close attention to how you do them.

The call was from Christina Ward, who just happens to be the Master Food Preserver for Milwaukee County, and spoke with Lake Effect’s Mitch Teich to get us out of that pickle. 

“If you do it wrong when you’re cooking you might just burn something. If you do it wrong when you’re canning you may kill somebody," Ward says. "And our joke in class is always that, ‘if you’re going to kill somebody, do it on purpose.'"

Here are some key pointers to keep in mind when preserving your own food this season:

1.      Keep your techniques safe and updated, not from 1920.

2.      Make sure your food is shelf-stable - 1 year from the date you make it, and remember to label.

3.      Don’t take shortcuts.

4.      Sterilize your cans/jars.

5.      Pick it fresh in season for better taste.

6.      “If you can imagine it in a Bloody Mary, you can pickle it” – pickle vegetables such as brussel sprouts, turnips, beets, rutabaga, etc.

7.      Use safe and tested recipes. You can find many recipes on the UW-Extension website, Ball canning website, and the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving (a.k.a. the "canning Bible"). Any canning recipe books published after 1994 are considered safe.

Still have questions on food preservation? You can contact the Master Preserver herself and other staff on the UW-Extension website.