4-H members learn the art of canning at MSU Extension Office workshop

By Carl Danelski / Big Horn County News
Thursday, November 8, 2018
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Photo by Carl Danelski

4-H Agent Holly Jay stands by while members of the Community Hustlers measure out jellies and jams. The workshop demonstrated all of the aspects of canning, including the history and current methods of ensuring food safety.

About eight of Hardin’s local 4-H members gathered at the MSU Extension Office Friday to participate in a workshop on jam and jelly making. They were taking this workshop as part of the Safety component of the 4-H Club. Led by 4-H Agent Holly Jay, and retired agent and acting assistant Laurie Lautt, the members demonstrated their abilities to measure ingredients and follow recipes, while learning quite a bit of background information about the act of preserving food in jars, or canning.

Lautt supervised the measuring of ingredients closely as the participants learned subtle differences, such as the difference between “gradual” and “granulated.” As a former MSU Extension Food Preservation Specialist, Lautt provided critical instructions such as avoiding metal utensils on the insides of the Ball Jam and Jelly Maker, used to cook fruit product, and how to properly prep the rim of the jar so that an effective seal could be ensured.

Jay provided recipe resources, and even went so far as to explain the level of science that goes into determining recipes provided with the Jam and Jelly Maker and written in the Ball Blue Book, a common resource on the subject of canning.

In San Antonio in September, Jay met one of the folks responsible for the research behind the Ball Blue Book. “I got to visit with him a little bit,” she said, “about the processes that they use to test and make sure the jam and jelly recipes, and any of the canning recipes are accurate and correct.”

The members were given the choice between making strawberry jam or apple jelly, and later they discussed the differences between the two. Jam is made with the fruit, whereas jelly is made with the juice from the fruit, and this was easy to see from the ingredients, as the jam had chunks of strawberries included, whereas the apple jelly was clear.

The workshop functioned as a tutorial on locating and identifying ingredients as well, since Jay pointed out that the apple juice being used was unsweetened, and to be sure of this she checked the ingredients on the back of the container.

In addition to learning about the history of jellies and jams, the members also learned about the potential hazards of improper canning – the primary culprit being microorganisms. Bacteria form when certain conditions arise, and the acronym FATTOM was taught to help everyone remember what allows bacteria to thrive. They need food, low acidity, time and a warm temperature, and finally, oxygen and moisture. A jar of jam or jelly will provide many of these favorable conditions, and so proper care was taken to avoid introducing bacteria, or allowing it to thrive in the recipes. Fortunately jams and jellies have sufficient levels of acidity to discourage the growth of bacteria, as long as everything is clean and boiled throughout the process.

Plenty of care was taken when handling the jars, which were quite hot after boiling in the water, and Jay demonstrated the safe way of draining them out, so that hot water didn’t run onto anyone’s arm. Finally, the recipes yielded some extra results on top of the four, eightounce jars, which everyone appreciated taste-testing.

For more information on recipes, including jam and jelly making, visit the local MSU Extension Office at 317 N Custer Ave.in Hardin