Welcome to the Let's Preserve blog! Brought to you by Penn State Cooperative Extension, you will find the latest on preserving safe, high quality food at home. The information included is based on up-to-date research from the U.S. Dept of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't Can Tomatoes from Frost-Killed Vines and What to do with Green Tomatoes

The calendar and the cool air, at least where I am writing from, tell me that the first frost isn't far away. If you have tomato plants and can your tomatoes, keep in mind that tomatoes picked from frost killed vines should not be canned.

When the vine dies, the acid level of the tomato changes. The tomato is less acid than it was before the vine died. Recipes for canning tomatoes are based on the tomato having a specific acid level. So canning tomatoes from dead vines will result in an unsafe product.

If you know a frost is coming you can harvest your mature green tomatoes. They should be solid, firm, free of defects, full size, and have greenish white skin color. What can you do with them?

Cooperative Extension at Clemson University offers advice on ripening green tomatoes to eat fresh or for cooking. For directions go to http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/pdf/hgic4257.pdf.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has several tested recipes for canning green tomatoes.

Pickled Sweet Green Tomatoes

Spiced Green Tomatoes

Kosher Style Dill Green Tomato Pickles


Green Tomato Pie Filling

If you try one of these recipes please share how you liked it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Don't Squish Your Squash When Canning

Don't squish your squash when canning?! In other words, don't can mashed or pureed winter squash or pumpkin.

Research has found great variability in the viscosity or thickness of these products. In laboratory testing, the recommended time and pressure for processing was often not adequate to can winter squash or pumpkin safely. As a result, in 1994 USDA removed directions for canning mashed or pureed winter squash and pumpkin from the Complete Guide to Home Canning. So if you have a recipe for canning mashed or pureed winter squash or pumpkin, consider it out of date and don't use it. To read more detail go to http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/pumpkin_butter.html

It is okay to can winter squash and pumpkin in cubes. The product is not as dense in this form and can be safely processed. Directions are available at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_04/pumpkin_winter_squash.html.

Another option is to freeze squash or pumpkin. Find directions for freezing winter squash at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/squash_winter.html and for pumpkin see http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/pumpkin.html.

USDA also recommends that pumpkin butter not be canned at home. Research has shown similar safety problems as with plain pumpkin. It is best to freeze pumpkin butter if you make it.