Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fun and Frugal Home Canning

With the growing popularity of farmer's markets and a struggling economy, home canning is making a robust come-back. Well planned backyard gardens can yield an abundance of food all at once, and canning is one way to make the fruits and vegetables last beyond the growing season. But, without proper handling and know how, some food preserving projects can turn into a hotbed for bacteria and foodborne illness. The biggest concern is C. botulinim (botulism); a bacterium so lethal that even a single taste of contaminated food can be deadly. While botulism poisoning is fairly rare, (the CDC has documented 400 cases in the last 50 years) 92% of these cases were caused by home canned foods. Here are some tips to preserve the harvest safely.

* Start with the freshest possible produce. By harvesting at the peak of ripeness, you can also maximize the nutritional value.
* Don't improvise. It is crucial to follow food selection, preparation, filling and processing instructions to the letter, and use recipes that have been tested and properly developed.
* Prepare your equipment as carefully as you prepare your foods. Jars and lids should be properly sterilized; running them through the dishwasher is not sufficient!
* Use kettles designed for canning.
* Know your altitude. Proper procedures depend on it - check with your local extension service or weather station.
* Don't reuse canning lids.
* Store canned foods properly. They retain their quality and nutritional value best when stored between 50 & 70 degrees F. Consume with-in two years, and give extras away as gifts.
* Inspect for signs of spoilage. Look for leaks; lids should be concave and firmly sealed. Check for mold, changes in color or odor. If in doubt, throw it out. Be extra vigilant about safety with low-acid foods.
* Before starting your canning project, consult the USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning or an other reliable source on safe home canning procedures.

For those trying canning for the first time, start with less risky acid foods such as pickles, jams, and preserves. These can all be prepared with a simple boiling water canner, and are a great way to practice proper canning procedures.
Canning Jargon Explained:
Acid foods: Foods with a pH of 4.6 or lower. Includes fruits, tomatoes, pickles, salsas, relishes, jams, jellies, marmalades.
Boiling Water Canner: Large lidded kettle with a wire rack to hold the canning jars. Designed for processing canned foods at 212 degrees F.
Cold Pack/Raw Pack: Method of canning in which raw, unheated foods are added to jars and then heat processed.
Fermentation: Introduction of selected bacteria, yeasts or molds that block growth of undesirable bacteria and preserve foods.
Headspace: Unfilled space at top of jars that allows for food to expand during the heat processing and ensures formation of a vacuum as the food cools, which is important for preservation.
Hot Pack: Method of canning where foods are heated and added to canning jars while hot.
Low Acid Foods: Foods with a pH above 4.6; vegetables, figs, some tomatoes, meat, seafood, and dairy. Low acid foods can be acidified by adding vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid prior to canning. Low acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner to destroy the organism that causes botulism.
Pickling: Adding vinegar or lemon juice to low-acid foods in order to bring the pH to 4.6 or lower.
Pressure Canner: A Large kettle with a locking lid and pressure gauge that allows heat processing at temperatures above 212 degrees F. A pressure cooker is not the same thing!

The USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning is available for free at

Or visit Ball canning supply at

~ ADA Times

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Whole Grain Truth

Americans eat some 20 pounds of pasta per year. Until recently, it was made from wheat with most of the nutritional value stripped away. Whole grain pastas have begun to share the shelf with noodles made with processed grains. Be aware that they are not always "100%" whole grain, even though the words "whole grain, whole wheat," or "multi-grain" are on the label. Organic wheat has nothing to do with whether a product contains whole grain. Though some may imply or use the term " whole grain," after close inspection prove to contain as little as 20%. Here's how to be sure you're buying the real thing: Look for the 100% Whole Grain stamp from the Whole Grains Council, which certifies that all the grain is whole and that the product contains at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Also, look for the term 100% Whole Grains; if it doesn't SAY 100%, it probably isn't. Semolina or durum wheat flour on the ingredients list without the word "whole" attached indicates refined grains. To get the most out of your 20 pounds this year, do your homework!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Controversial Egg

Over the years, the restrictions on eggs have loosened, to the point where the 2006 American Heart Association report does not even mention them in it's guidelines. A 2006 University of Connecticut study showed that eating three eggs a day for 30 days did not raise heart disease risk in healthy older adult men and women. The main reason; if there was a slight increase in LDL cholesterol, it was accompanied by a similar rise in HDL.
Eggs, as with any other food, are okay in moderation. What we eat with them is also important. Many times, eggs are accompanied by high fat meats and cheeses. The American Heart Assoc. guidelines emphasis is really on reducing saturated fats and trans-fat in the diet.
Eggs are well-known for their high quality protein, which is highly digestible, concentrated and perfectly balanced with the right amount of amino acids for human development. The protein in eggs is easy on the kidneys since it produces the least amount of nitrogen (waste), which is why they are recommended for dialysis patients and people with chronic kidney disease. Consuming high-protein foods such as eggs is particularly important for older adults because it can help stave-off muscle loss and reduce the rate of muscle breakdown. The fact that eggs are inexpensive and low in calories is another bonus, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious consumers and families with children. Body builders need not the expensive powders and shakes! Nutrients found in the yolk include lutien and zeaxanthin (antioxidants essential to eye health), and choline, essential for development and shown to improve memory and mental performance. Eggs are one of the few foods that contain high concentrations of the nutrient. And, folate, known for reducing neural tube defects. Others include iron, Vit. B-12, riboflavin, A, D, and K.
One large egg contains 6 gm. protein, 4.5 gm. sat. fat ( 7% of the daily value), 70 calories.
~American Egg Board

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Buzz On Blueberries

Summer is reminiscent of vacations, fireworks, picnics and pies. And what picnic is complete without a colorful splash of blueberries? Summer is winding down, so don't miss out! These tangy, sweet fruits are packed with vitamins A, C, K; fiber, manganese, iron, and antioxidants. Blueberries are at the top of the list in antioxidant activity, according to the USDA Human Nutrition Center.
Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America, and in earlier days were known as Huckleberries. Their health benefits are due to the unique assortment of phytochemicals, including various anthocyanins and resveratrol.
Results from the Women's Health Study suggests the women who consume a diet high in anthocyanins have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease. Decreased inflammation and platelet aggregation, and increased flexibility on the blood vessels have been confirmed as the protective role of anthocyanins in heart disease and cholesterol management. Mainstream research has produce evidence supporting the effectiveness of these antioxidants as a potential for cancer, dementia and Alzheimer's prevention, and are linked to urinary tract, heart, and vision health.
Fresh blueberries are the first choice, though frozen berries are just as nutritious and are more practical in pies and baked goods, and are available year 'round. The jury is still out when it comes to organic foods in general, but do go for the organics when purchasing berries of any variety. These particular fruits tend to hold onto and concentrate toxins when exposed to them. This is particularly important for small children.
~ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009