By Jennifer Lenain, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
The Pearl River County Extension Office of Mississippi State University offered a free home food canning and preservation course Thursday evening at the Crosby Memorial Library.
Hosted by MSU Extension Agent III Dawn Close Vosbein, the class covered all the equipment and supplies needed for home canning, general instructions and how to safely can food.
Steam pressure canners are needed to can vegetables and water bath canners are used for canning fruits and other high-acid foods. Old pressure canners can be brought to the extension center to be tested for free, to ensure that they are working at the proper capacity.
Vosbien shared the golden rule of canning as, “The quality of the foods preserved will be only as good as the quality of the foods when they were fresh,” she said. For preserving, only fresh, firm, fruits and young, tender vegetables should be used.
When using the proper equipment and following the general instructions, home canned food is safe to consume, meaning botulism and spoilage are less of a threat.
Participants in the class were interested in learning about home canning for various reasons.
Some participants had fruit trees and no longer wanted to see good fruit go to waste, or wanted to can the tomatoes that they were growing in home gardens.
One participant in the course was interested in home canning for the safety of her daughter who cannot consume most processed foods.
Home canning is time consuming, Vosbein warned, prepare for several hours of preparation.
Food canning has been used as a method of preserving food since Napoleon sailed with his troops and needed a reliable method of stockpiling a food supply without spoilage occurring.
In 1795, Nicholas Appart, a French brewer and confectioner, developed a method for sealing glass jars that would not allow the food to spoil.
From then on, canned food was used during wars and innovations helped the industry grow. In the early years, though, it was considered a novelty that only upper-class families could experience.
John L. Mason invented the Mason jar in 1858, and modernized food preservation in America. The Mason jar contains a threaded lip and a reusable lid.
Home food canning boomed throughout the middle of the twentieth century and began to decline as commercial canned goods became readily available and more affordable.
Now, home food canning, a dying art form, is a recreational hobby that will sometimes resurface during hard economic times or done as a dietary option.
For more information on home food canning and food preservation, contact the Mississippi State University Pearl River County Extension Service at (601)403-2280 or visit www.msucares.com.