testing pressure canner gauges — the life you save could be your own

Hear ye, hear ye.  The Lane County Extension Family Food Education/Master Food Preserver volunteers are testing pressure canner gauges on two more dates at the Eugene office, 950 West 13th Avenue, next to the Fairgrounds. Bring in your canner lid (it’s ok to remove the little weight) between 10:45 and 12 noon on August 12, August 26, September 9, September 23, and October 14.  You may also drop it off a day or two earlier, if those times aren’t convenient, and pick it up after noon on the specified date. Please call the hotline (details on the right) for more information.

We test the gauges on a machine designated for that purpose at 6, 11, and 16 pounds of pressure.  Any gauge more than a pound off should be replaced.  There is no charge for the service, but donations to keep the MFP program alive past September are gratefully accepted.

By the way, it’s really worthwhile to talk to the volunteers while you’re dropping off or waiting for your gauge to be tested.  Yesterday, we found out that a local green bean enthusiast had been canning her beans for many years with salt pork.  The problem with this recipe (her grandma’s) is that you need a much longer time to can meat safely than you do with vegetables, and by the time the salt pork would be shelf-stable, the beans would be mush.  The individual in question had been putting her family at risk for botulism poisoning for years, including her elderly father.

Pené Ballini, a 16-year veteran volunteer, was working the testing machine and training me.  Why, she quizzed me, hadn’t her family died yet?

I had no idea, other than luck.

She reminded me that people used to cook beans to death, and since the woman was cooking for elderly people, she may very well have been boiling them for 10-15 minutes out of the jar.  Boiling vegetables for at least 10 minutes will kill botulism.  The problem arises with modern technology: people nuke their home-canned beans just for a minute or so to warm them up…

…and then they keel over.

I’m being flippant about this story, but it’s actually really important to know contemporary safety guidelines for canning.  A grandma killed her grandkids with canned green beans a few years ago in Oregon, and I listened to a gruesome tape about someone who survived botulism.  Let me just say that throat paralysis, nerve damage, surgery without anaesthetic, months in excruciating pain in the hospital and years in pain thereafter, losing one’s voice and hearing, etc., is not a pretty way to live.

Please — if you have any questions about older recipes or suspicious new ones — give the MFP hotline a call.

3 thoughts on “testing pressure canner gauges — the life you save could be your own

  1. Susan Rice 26 September 2008 / 2:51 pm

    Oct 14th is still a good date? I purchased a 16qt Presto at a garage sale. Definitely want to know it is safe. Have water bath canned for years, but never pressured. I understand Elk is great canned. Will see you Oct 14th…. I am not familiar with the fairgrounds – so is the building easy to find? Thanks for your response.


  2. Eugenia 26 September 2008 / 3:02 pm

    Susan, you should confirm the date with the office, because I haven’t been involved with gauge testing for a while. Please call the MFP hotline at 541-682-4246 or toll-free, 1-800-354-7319, M-Th, 9-4 pm. If you call this weekend, you can leave a message and someone will call you back on Monday. What I do know is that you might be able to drop off your lid earlier than October 14, but you should talk to them to see what to do. They’ll be able to give you directions to the MFP office, as well. Good luck!


  3. Eugenia 26 September 2008 / 4:34 pm

    Oh, and another thing, Susan. It might be worth it, especially if you haven’t pressure-canned before, to talk to the volunteers about doing meat. I think we have information on canning big game.


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