The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Getting By


May 13, 2020

The first picking of my rhubarb is about to happen. I cannot wait to take that first bite of sour, yet refreshing, yumminess. While my current dilemma of deciding what to bake first is scrambling my head, I also know I will soon be saying “What am I going to do with all this rhubarb?” Preserving it, of course, is the answer. And, let’s not forget the other fruits and vegetables which will be coming soon.

Now is the time to be getting prepared for canning season. Do you have your canning supplies handy? Have you done an inventory of what you have and what you will need to get? Have you made a plan of what you will be canning?

Canning has many benefits, if, it is done safely. The very basic principle of canning depends on the pH of the food product you are canning. High acid foods, like fruits or pickled foods, have a pH of 4.6 or lower. These are processed using the boiling water method. Low acid foods, like vegetables, meats and poultry, have a pH of higher than 4.6. These must be processed using the pressure canning method.

Here are some other questions which may come up.

Have you had your pressure canner dial-gauge tested? Maybe you are asking why have your pressure canner dial-gauge tested? A dial-gauge should be tested for accuracy. Inaccuracies can happen over time due to it getting dropped, hit, malfunctioning, etc. An accurate dial-gauge is necessary to be sure you are processing those low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry at the required temperature for safety. If the dial-gauge is reading inaccurate, your canned goods may not be getting processed at the appropriate pressure and temperature necessary to kill bacteria and molds, such as the bacteria that causes botulism.

Where can you get your dial-gauge tested? Chouteau County MSU Extension. The office is located at 1308 Franklin St (green building next to the courthouse) in Fort Benton or give me a call and we can coordinate a time and place to meet which is convenient for you.

What is the cost to have the dial-gauge tested or pressure canner inspected? There is no cost, it is free.

Does a weighted-gauge needed to be tested? No, however, you should inspect the rubber gasket, if your pressure canner has one, to be sure it is flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. (Do not rub with oil or grease.) Also make sure any small pipes or vent ports with openings are clean and open all the way through. You will want to check these same parts on your dial-gauge pressure canner.

Where can you find more information about canning and other types of food preservation? Always use reliable sources that offer current, research-tested procedures, recipes and timetables. Be aware canning information published or handed down prior to 2006 may be incorrect and could pose a serious health risk. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is an excellent reliable source at, (Ball/Kerr) and do not forget the MSU Extension MontGuides available at or request hard copies from our office.

If you are interested in hands-on canning classes, contact Janell Barber, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, at 622-3036 or


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