Healthy and Safe Canning
The spring months are a great time to be on a senior care journey with your elderly parent for many reasons. One of the best, however, is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that come into season at this time. With all of this wonderful produce around it is easy to bump up the nutrition in your parent’s regular diet and prepare for future meals and snacks together. Canning is an exceptional way to make the most of the natural bounty that comes at this time of year. Utilizing basic techniques allows you to purchase these foods when they are at their peak of flavor and nutrition, as well as at their least expensive, and preserve them for later use. This not only saves you on your parent’s grocery bill later in the year, but it also gives you the opportunity to enjoy more of these wonderful springtime flavors and to feel good about the nutrition that you are giving your parents throughout the year.
If you are considering canning, something extremely important to keep in mind is food safety. Elderly adults are at increased risk of contracting foodborne illnesses and infections due to the tendency for them to have lower immune systems. This means that your parent is not only more likely to develop such an infection, but will also have a more difficult time fighting it off should it occur. Taking certain precautions during the canning process will help to ensure that the food that you put up this spring stays healthy, delicious, and safe.
Use these tips to make canning a healthy and safe adventure for you to enjoy with your aging parent this spring:
- Use the right equipment. While your parent might remember canning using traditional methods such as boiling water when they were younger, this is not recommended. Use of just boiling water increases the risk of the canned food containing botulism. Invest in a high quality pressure canner to dramatically reduce the risk of this potentially deadly toxin.
- Know your foods. If you do not want to utilize a pressure canner, stick to only high acid foods. Foods such as tomatoes and fruits contain enough acid that it is far less likely for them to harbor botulism and it is easier to kill the spores. This makes it possible to safely can these foods using just boiling water. This technique, however, should not be used for low acid foods such as meat, potatoes, vegetables, or corn.
- Start clean. The best way to make sure that home canned food stays safe is by making sure that the containers and all equipment are completely clean. Boil jars and lids prior to using them and avoid touching them as much as possible before adding the food. Wipe them carefully before and after processing to ensure cleanliness.
- Recognize the issues. You cannot see, taste, or smell botulism in food. The food might look completely normal and show no signs of spoilage, but be potentially deadly. If a jar does not seal properly during the processing stage, including showing a “bump” in the lid, it is not sealed and cannot be kept outside of the refrigerator. Put the food in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days or dispose of it.