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Food Safety & Preservation

Latest food safety and preservation information from Cook County Extension
Canning Pickles

Canning Foods at Home

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Canning is an important, safe method of food preservation if practiced properly. The canning process involves placing foods in jars or cans and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Canning also inactivates enzymes that could cause the food to spoil. Air is driven from the jar or can during heating and as it cools a vacuum seal is formed. This vacuum seal prevents air from getting back into the product bringing with it microorganisms to re-contaminate the food.

Canning Basics

There are two safe ways of canning, depending on the type of food being canned. These are the boiling water bath method and the pressure canner method. The boiling water bath method is safe for fruits, tomatoes and pickles as well as jams, jellies and other preserves. In this method, jars of food are heated completely covered with boiling water (212 F at sea level).

Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a pressure canner which is heated to a temperature of at least 240 F. This temperature can only be reached in a pressure canner.

Checking and Testing Your Pressure Canners
Your home pressure canner should be checked and tested annually to ensure its proper working condition. University of Illinois Extension provides this service free of charge in participating counties. Contact your local Extension Office to find out where pressure canners may be tested in your area.


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