Ensuring Safe Canned Food

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It is that time of year again!! Pictures of finished canned products have been showing up on people’s Facebook posts, phone calls on correct canning procedures have been coming in and people have been dropping off their canner lids to get the dial gauge tested. It is our job at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Granville County office to make sure we are canning the proper way and using the proper equipment. If not, growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum in canned food may cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.

Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated. Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning meat, poultry, seafood, and vege­tables. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum is destroyed in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct time and pressure in pressure canners. Using boiling water canners for these foods poses a real risk of botulism poisoning.

After cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the screw bands and test seals by pressing the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed. If a lid fails to seal on a jar, remove the lid and check the jar-sealing surface for tiny nicks. If necessary, change the jar, add a new, properly prepared lid, and reprocess within 24 hours using the same processing time. Headspace in unsealed jars may be adjusted to 1½ inches and jars could be frozen instead of reprocessed. Foods in single unsealed jars could be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within several days. Foods in single unsealed jars could be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within several days.

The University of Georgia hosts the National Center for Home Food Preservation website which provided the material listed above as well as has more specific information about each vegetable, fruit, meat, and other products that you wish to can, freeze, dry, or pickle. Check out the website.

Also, we recommend purchasing a Ball Blue Book which has tested and approved recipes to use when canning. Do not adjust the recipes or use a recipe that has not been fully tested. If you are interested in getting one of these books, the Extension Office has them available for pickup. Call Jennifer Brown, Family & Consumer Science Extension Agent at 336-599-1195 or 919-603-1350 to make sure we have some in stock and will put your name on it. We are also able to test Presto canner lids to make sure the dials are still accurate. Drop your canner lid off at the office with your name and phone number.

Here is one of the recipes provided by the University of Georgie on their National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Spaghetti Sauce with Meat – makes 9 pints


  • 30 lbs tomatoes
  • 2-1/2 lbs ground beef or sausage
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery or green peppers
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 4 tbsp minced parsley
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Dip in cold water and slip off skins. Remove cores and quarter tomatoes. Boil 20 minutes, uncovered, in large saucepan. Put through food mill or sieve. Saute beef or sausage until brown. Add garlic, onion, celery or green pepper and mushrooms, if desired. Cook until vegetables are tender. Combine with tomato pulp in large saucepan. Add spices, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until thick enough for serving. At this time initial volume will have been reduced by nearly one-half. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Fill jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. If processing in pints using the hot pack method, process it for 60 minutes at 11psi.