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[AUG. 18, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- We are coming into the season for preserving tomatoes, and new processing tips are available. When preserving foods at home, safe food handling principles need to be followed carefully to prevent food-borne illness. Because of the concern for food safety, the National Center for Home Food Preservation is constantly researching to provide up-to-date information on preserving foods safely at home.

According to Jananne Finck, nutrition and wellness educator at the University of Illinois Extension Springfield Center, the National Center for Home Food Preservation released two new summer 2005 recommendations for preserving foods with a pressure canner or boiling water bath canner. Both canning procedures are popular methods when preserving fruits, vegetables, pickles, jams and jellies for home use.

When using the boiling water canner, the recent update includes the following: "After jars have been processed in boiling water for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from the boiling water bath canner." Previously jars were removed from the canner after the processing time was completed.

For the pressure canning process, the following is new for 2005: "After the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weight from the vent port or open the petcock. Wait 10 minutes; then unfasten the lid and remove it carefully."

For a complete step-by-step description on pressure canning foods, visit the University of Georgia Extension website at

The boiling water canner directions are available at

For more information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website,, which is linked from the above sites.

[To download Adobe Reader for the PDF files, click here.]

Acidifying tomatoes when canning

Unfortunately, some old family recipes for canning tomatoes are out of date. Many of the low-acid tomato varieties grown today require an extra step before processing, according to Finck.

U.S. Department of Agriculture research has found that many of the tomato varieties are on the border between acid and low-acid, so they should be treated (acidified) to ensure safety before canning.

To acidify tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or one-half teaspoon of citric acid per quart, Finck advises. For pints, use 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice or one-fourth teaspoon citric acid. The acid can be added directly to the jar before filling with the tomatoes.

If the final product tastes too acidic, you may want to add a little sugar to offset the taste.

For more information on tomatoes and acidification, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at

Processing tomatoes safely

How do you can tomatoes? According to Finck, many people use the raw pack method when canning tomatoes. Whole or halved tomatoes canned in a raw pack require 85 minutes to process pints or quarts in a boiling water bath.

Finck states that the hot pack method for canning tomatoes, while not the most popular method, takes much less processing time. Time using a boiling water bath canner is 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.

To hot pack tomatoes, wash, peel and core tomatoes before boiling gently for five minutes.

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The use of a pressure canner will result in a shorter processing time too. Pints and quarts of hot, crushed tomatoes can be processed with a dial-gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes. For weighted gauges, process pints and quarts at 10 pounds for the same time, 15 minutes.

For more information on canning tomatoes, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at

Use pressure canner to can green beans

Young, tender and firm green beans picked fresh from the garden are ready for the table or for the home canner with a few simple steps. Using the right canning equipment will ensure that home canned beans are safe for later use.

Since green beans are low in acid, water bath canners do not provide high enough temperatures to destroy dangerous botulism spores, according to Finck. Adding canning powders or using a boiling water bath process is never a safe alternative to using the pressure canner when canning green beans.

She provided the following steps on preparing and canning green beans at home, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Wash beans several times. Remove and discard any diseased or rusty pods. Trim the ends. Cut or snap beans into 1-inch pieces.

To hot pack the beans, cover them with boiling water and boil for five minutes. Pack them loosely into jars, leaving 1 inch for headspace. Add 1 teaspoon canning salt to quarts, one-half teaspoon to pints, if desired.

To use the raw pack method, fill jars tightly with raw beans, leaving 1 inch headspace. Add canning salt if desired, then add boiling water, leaving 1 inch of headspace to allow water to expand. Don't try to line beans up vertically in the jar because they may be packed too tightly for heat to penetrate the beans.

Wipe the jar rims clean, and then place pretreated lids on jars so that the sealing compound is next to the glass. Screw metal bands on firmly, but do not force.

In Illinois, process pints (hot or raw pack) at 11 pounds of pressure in a dial-gauge canner for 20 minutes. Process quarts (hot or raw pack) for 25 minutes. When using a weighted-gauge pressure canner, process at 10 pounds of pressure for the same amount of time.

For more information about home canning, contact your local University of Illinois Extension office or check the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at

[Jananne Finck, nutrition and wellness educator, University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Center]

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