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September 23, 2013
By Claudene Wharton
With many Nevadans choosing to grow more of their own food, they are also doing their own canning. And, "pressure-canning," using a pressure canner, is becoming increasing popular. However, in order to ensure food safety and prevent botulism, those using this canning method should have their pressure canners inspected each year, including having the canners' dial gauge that measures the pressure tested. This fall, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering this service at its Washoe County office.
"We think more people are using the pressure canners these days because they are thought to maintain foods' nutrients and flavor longer," said Christina Turner, Cooperative Extension nutritionist. "Also, it is the safest method for canning low-acidity foods, such as meats, dairy and poultry; as well as lower-acid fruits and vegetables, such as beans and corn."
Turner recommends that those using pressure canners make an appointment with her to have their canners inspected and the canner's pressure gauge tested.
"Many times the gauges are not accurate," she said. "They may be reading 15 pounds of pressure when they are actually at 12 pounds of pressure, or vice versa. This presents a real hazard to the safety of the food being canned, and the canner would have no way of knowing."
If a pressure gauge is found to be faulty, the canner can make adjustments in cooking time to make up for the inaccurate gauge; or, better yet, the canner can replace the gauge for about $10 to $20. Pressure canners can also have other problems, such as cracked seals, that Turner can identify.
"The inspection and the testing of the pressure gauge only takes five to 10 minutes," she said. "It is well worth it for home-canners to have their canners checked annually."
The inspection and pressure gauge testing costs $5 and is conducted at the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office, 4955 Energy Way in Reno. Those interested in getting their canners checked should contact Turner for an appointment at 775-336-0274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.