By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Canning makes the heart 'ping'

Time is ripe for preserving local fruits, vegetables

What's the most welcome sound of summer?

For many of us, it's the "ping!" that marks the sealing of a canning jar just lifted from its hot water bath. The ping rewards you for doing everything right and means your jam, tomatoes, applesauce or other product will keep safely through the winter.

Yamhill County has such wonderful produce. It's delicious fresh, of course -- can anything beat a salad of tender young greens topped with homegrown tomatoes, or freshly picked corn on the cob, or blueberries, peaches or other fruits you've picked yourself?

Enjoy it now. But also take some time saving some of the bounty for later by canning, pickling, freezing or drying that beautiful harvest.

Food preservation takes time and effort (and will make you sweat on sweltering days), but the rewards are great. It's not difficult, although you do need to use care and follow safety rules, especially when canning. You want your preserved food to taste good, have a nice appearance, and, most important, be safe.

It was the latter that concerned me most when I started learning to can. "I don't want to kill anyone," I moaned to my coworker, Nicole Montesano, an experience food preserver.

It was a realistic fear -- if you're not careful, your canned goods can spoil or carry deadly botulism. But by following straightforward rules regarding acidity, temperature, time and cleanliness, you can safely many things.

I use a boiling water bath canner to preserve jams, pickles, tomatoes, chutneys, pie fillng applesauce and other high acid foods. Nicole and many other canners also use pressure canners to safey can vegetables and foods with a lower acid content.

If you want to learn to can, buy "The Ball Blue Book" or another guide that provides tested recipes -- not just any recipe can be canned. Take a class if possible -- the Extension Service isn't offering any in Yamhill County this year, but several are scheduled in Marion County next month; call 503-373-3763 for details.

And take advantage of the advice of canning friends -- I'm lucky to have Nicole's extensive knowledge as, quite literally, my lifeline. It's fun to share tips, questions and the results of our efforts.

Now all I need is a good place to pick blackberries....

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