WAYNESBURG – It’s August and this year’s harvest is overflowing backyard gardens and filling the stalls at local farmers’ markets. It’s time to freeze, dry or can what can’t be eaten fresh, and that means it’s time to get out jars, buy new lids and rings and pull the big canner out of storage.
Retired West Greene teacher Jessie Leidecker of Wayne Township will share her canning skills with shoppers at the Waynesburg Farmers’ Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday because it’s also time to inspect the gauge on your canner to make sure it’s in proper working order.
“I’m bringing the gauge tester from the Penn State Extension Office, and all you have to bring is the lid,” Leidecker said. “This is something that needs to be done every year. If you have the kind that has the weight, it doesn’t need it inspected. But if you have a pressure gauge, you do.
“Gauges that read high cause under-processing and may result in unsafe food. Low readings cause over-processing. Pressure adjustments can be made if the gauge reads up to two pounds high or low. Gauges that differ by more than two pounds need to be replaced.”
The thought of boiling water under pressure can be intimidating, Leidecker said. “Some people are new to canning, or may be getting back into it after doing it with their families years ago. It’s good to be sure your equipment is working correctly, especially if you can on a regular basis. You can’t buy gaskets in the county any more, but I found a source online and replaced mine this year. I’m bringing my old one so you can see the signs of wear to look for.”
After retiring from a career teaching home economics – family and consumer science, as it’s now called – Leidecker took training through the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service to become a master food preserver. Now she’s available to lead food and food preservation workshops and speak and demonstrate at community events. Her tips bring new safety awareness to the old fashioned art of canning.
“Tomatoes don’t seem to be as acidic as they used to be, and it’s the acid, not the salt, that keeps the bacteria from growing,” Leidecker said. “It’s recommended to put a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint of tomatoes just to be sure.”
Leidecker also will offer handouts on canning and preserving methods for various foods from the Penn State Extension Office at the market booth.
Penn State Cooperative Extension Service number is 724-627-3745. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Comments and suggestions from shoppers and growers interested in selling at the market next year are welcome.