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University of Illinois Extension

About Home Food Preservation

Why Preserve Food?

  • To use what you have grown
  • To prepare food the way you like it
  • To prepare the amount you like
  • To address dietary concerns
  • To save/make money…maybe
  • Self-satisfaction
  • To sell at the Farmers Market

How Food Preservation Methods Work

  1. Canning: foods are placed in jars and heated to a specified temperature for a specified time to destroy microorganisms and inactivate enzymes. There are two safe methods of canning:
    • Boiling Water Bath Canning: processed in jars submerged in boiling water. Used with high-acid foods, such as fruits and jams and jellies. Pickled products, tomatoes and tomato products may also be processed using a boiling water bath canner, as long as the appropriate type and amount of acid is added.
    • Pressure Canning: processed in a pressure canner at 240°F (10 lbs. pressure at sea level). Required for low-acid vegetables and meats. Low-acid vegetables (unless appropriately acidified) and meats are NOT allowed for cottage food operation.
  2. Freezing: foods are placed at 0°F or below, which reduces the temperature of the food so that microorganisms may survive but not grow. Enzyme activity is slowed but not stopped. Frozen cut melon is NOT allowed for cottage food operation.
  3. Drying: most of the moisture in foods are removed so that microorganisms cannot grow and enzyme activity is slowed down. It is recommended to use a food dehydrator to safely dry foods. Dehydrated jerky (meat, poultry, fish, seafood or shellfish), tomato or melon is NOT allowed for cottage food operation.

Resources for Home Food Preservation

If you plan to sell home food preserved products as part of the cottage food operation, it is recommended to take a food preservation course, which may be offered by your local county Extension office. If a class is not offered in your area, consider taking the online class, "Preserve the Taste of Summer."