Preserve summer's bounty the safe way
As canning season gets underway, the Food Preservation hotline from Oregon State University Extension Service starts taking calls July 16.
The toll-free hotline at 800-354-7319 runs until Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. When the hotline is closed, callers can leave a message. The hotline is staffed by certified Master Food Preserver volunteers in Lane and Douglas counties, but it's available statewide.
Thousands of callers use the hotline each year and approximately half the questions are about food safety. That's a good thing, said Jeanne Brandt, Master Food Preserver program coordinator.
"There is a tremendous amount of misinformation on the internet, so it's hard to figure out what is reliable and what is unsafe," she said. "That's partly why the hotline is so important. Our volunteers know we have reliable, research-based information and they can guide people to success."
While food preservation continues to be popular, it is less of a family tradition than it used to be, Brandt said.
"We aren't learning from our family and friends much anymore and we don't have them to call for directions and advice," she said. "That's where the hotline comes in. We step in for the information that used to be distributed —
correctly or not — among canners."
Most commonly, people ask about preserving salsa, tomatoes and tuna. OSU Extension offers publications on each: Salsa Recipes for Canning, Canning Seafood, Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products and Safely Canning Foods: Pressure Canners, Pressure Cookers and Electric Pressure Cookers. Search the catalog for "Food Preservation" and you'll find more publications, including some in Spanish.
Extension's Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer service, is another way to get information, is available at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert. Post a question and an expert will get back to you within 48 hours. They can offer information about anything related to food preservation from safety concerns to recipes.
There's also an app for Android and iOS — Canning Timer & Checklist — for more experienced canners that provides reminders of essential steps in the canning process.
Additionally, many Extension offices offer free pressure gauge testing.