Smith: Canning more popular than ever | Food and Cooking

Food preservation has skyrocketed this year, likely due to more people staying at home looking for a safe and sustainable project.

In fact, University of Illinois Extension’s “Fill Your Pantry” webinar series hit a record number of participants (view recordings and handouts at! Unfortunately, manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with this surge in demand, which may be causing new and experienced preservers difficulty in finding canning and preservation supplies. What do you have to have, and what can you do without?

If you’re planning to can vegetables, such as corn, green beans, carrots or beets — you must have a pressure canner. Most vegetables (and meats) are low in acid, which allow the growth of clostridium botulinum, a type of bacteria that can produce a deadly toxin in environments without oxygen. Pressure canning is the only way to destroy this deadly toxin. If you don’t have a pressure canner, consider pickling the vegetable using a tested recipe and a water bath canner, or freeze.

If you’re planning to can but can’t find lids — you cannot use paraffin wax, even for jams and jellies. Any pinholes, cracks or shrinkage in the wax can lead to mold growth and contamination. Don’t use one-piece lids either; they haven’t been tested by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and may not be safe. Furthermore, don’t reuse two-piece lids. If one store doesn’t have them, check other stores or online. If you can’t find them, switch to freezing.

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