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Penn State to host safe canning workshop

Home food preservation has seen a renewed interest in recent years. But along with numerous benefits, the activity carries risk.

Improper canning can lead to botulism, a potentially deadly illness, according to Andy Hirneisen, senior food safety and quality educator and team leader with Penn State Extension.

To provide guidance on up-to-date and science-based methods for home food preservation, extension educators are offering a “can-along” webinar in June. This event will walk participants step-by-step through the process of canning strawberry jam at home.

“Home Food Preservation Can-Along: Strawberry Jam,” will occur from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. Participants will learn about current USDA canning recommendations and proper safety steps when using a pressure canner.

The pandemic fueled an interest in home food preservation, but even before that, the local food movement encouraged an awareness around the ingredients that comprise our food, Hirneisen noted.

Benefits of home food preservation include storing food for out-of-season consumption - especially useful for people with large gardens - and building a reserve of dehydrated and canned food that will stay safe during a power outage.

First-time and experienced canners alike can benefit from the webinars. “We’ve learned a lot about the science of canning in recent decades,” Hirneisen said. “Even if you’ve been canning for a long time, it may be worth checking out the webinars to make sure you’re doing everything safely and following today’s research-based guidelines. To my knowledge, we’re the only extension system in the country doing the can-along format.”

As opposed to a lecture-based webinar, the live format means attendees can interact with extension experts to learn about the tools and ask questions in real time.

Registration for “Home Food Preservation Can-Along: Strawberry Jam is open through June 5. The event costs $15. Upon registration, participants will receive access to an informative, previously recorded lecture to help ensure up-to-date knowledge on the latest research-based methods. Access to the lecture, as well as the ingredient and supply list for the can-along, is provided in the registration confirmation email. Organizers encourage attendees to participate and engage with the educator using their cameras and microphones. Capacity for the session is limited to ensure an inclusive experience.

Participants should plan to join the live webinar, organizers note. The event will not be recorded for later distribution.

Registration is required to receive the link to access the webinar.

In addition to the can-along events, Penn State Extension will offer a series of home food preservation webinars throughout the summer and fall on topics such as pressure canning, atmospheric steam canning and pickling. More information is available on the Penn State Extension website.

Several fact sheets about home food preservation also are available on the Penn State Extension website.

Those who prefer a printed book can purchase “Preserving Food at Home Resource Guide,” a compilation of fact sheets; research-based guidelines for safely canning, freezing and drying food at home; and nutrition and storage information.