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Flip your lid over home canning

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Joli Elder/For The Lancaster News

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh, homegrown tomatoes.
That is exactly what it smelled like in the Carol Raye Dowling Health Services Center at the University of South Carolina Lancaster where in mid-June participants peeled and quartered dozens of tomatoes during Clemson University Cooperation Extension’s hands-on canning course.
Canning is one of the most time-tested ways to preserve that smell and taste of fresh food, but it must be done carefully.
As food prices rise, interest in growing and preserving food also rises, making this course more timely than ever.
Class instructor and Clemson Extension Dietitian Angela Forbes said the purpose for the course was simple.
“We wanted to teach people to can safely,” Forbes said. “People make a lot of mistakes canning and can potentially make others really ill.”
While participants prepared tomatoes for packing into jars and waited for water to boil, lively conversation ensued about one of the South’s greatest inventions, tomato (“mater”) sandwiches and the reasons each was taking the course.
Most had some canning experience but enrolled to learn more.
Retired Heath Springs Elementary School teacher Sybil Black wanted to make sure her tried-and-true canning methods were still up to speed.
“I was reared on a farm and know how to can,” Black said. “I just wanted to learn about newer methods and make sure we were doing it right.
“My mom canned. We had a big family (eight children). Dad farmed and we always had plenty of food, no money, but plenty of food,” Black laughed.
Black said she learned some new things, but particularly how to ease removing skins.
“I knew you could put the tomatoes in hot water first, but I didn’t know about slitting the “X” in the tomato to make it peel more easily,” Black said.
Another participant, Fran Bundy, admitted she considers herself a novice who  wants to learn more about home canning.
“We used to raise sheep and cattle,” Bundy said. “I wanted to can, but I never had the time because I worked all the time. I was 52 before I learned to can, and that was only three years ago. It’s never too late to learn.”
Linda Williams attended to learn more about an unfamiliar canning method.
“I have canned but never cold-packed, so that’s what I wanted to know,” Williams said. “I’ve learned a lot today.”
One handy gadget – a magnetic lid lifter – made its way into the classroom and was enjoyed by all involved.
Class participant Ronnye Mandaro became an immediate fan of the lid lifter, which allows the easy removal of hot lids from simmering water,
“Where’s this been all my life?” Mandaro asked.
Enrollees participated in each step of the water bath canning method and received literature on safe canning methods, as well as dozens of additional resources provided by Clemson Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center.
For more information on upcoming events and courses offered by Clemson University Cooperation Extension or information on safe preserving methods call 1-888-656-9988 or visit http://hgic.clemson.edu.
Common canning problems
– Loss of liquid during processing – If at least half of liquid is lost, refrigerate jars and use within 2-3 days.
– Imperfect seal – Discard, unless the trouble was detected within 24 hours of processing. Otherwise, the canned food can be safely re-canned using a new jar, treated seal and reprocessing for the same processing time.
– Cloudy liquid
– Undesirable color changes
– Sediment in jars
– Floating
– Spoilage
Most of these problems can be avoided by carefully following canning instructions, using reliable equipment and properly processed cans and seals, removing air bubbles before packing, measuring head space and choosing products at their most desirable stage of maturity.

- Provided by Clemson University Cooperation Extension

Elma’s Canned Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
Tomatoes
Corn
Cabbage
Lima beans
Okra
Onions
Potatoes

Directions
– Gather vegetables from garden and prepare for cooking. Peel tomatoes and cut into quarters (or smaller for larger tomatoes). Shuck, silk and cut corn off cob (scraping cob.) Shell limas and cook separately in advance for approximately 30 minutes. Cut cabbage as for stewing. Peel potatoes, cut into cubes and cook prior to mixing for approximately 30 minutes. Cut okra as for frying. Mix all vegetables together. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until boiling point.
– Put soup mixture in 7 quart jars and add one teaspoon of salt. Seal and put in pressure cooker and cook at 10 pounds pressure for 25 minutes. Remove from cooker when pressure is “0”. Store in pantry until ready to use.
Note: You may also cook mixture until done and freeze until ready to use.

– Recipe from “Elma’s Way: A Collection of Treasured Recipes and Traditions”