master food preservation blog

Food Preservation Blog

September 2023

Pick Apart a Pickle

By Barb Brenner, Certified Master Food Preserver

If you run out of topics to talk about this summer at a family gathering, I have one for you that will get anyone talking. Talk about pickles. Go ahead ask what their favorite pickle is, where they purchase it or how they make it. Dill, sweet, or bread and butter? Is it fermented in a crock or canned in a jar? Is it stored in the basement or kept in the refrigerator? Is it a cucumber or green bean? What? Aren’t all pickles made from cucumbers? For sure, this topic will keep the conversation going for hours as the topic isn’t crisp, though we often want our pickles to be.

Let’s pick apart the topic of pickles. Pickling is about producing an environment in which the food is preserved by acidity. Which food are we talking about? Referring to the recipes in the book “So Easy to Preserve” I can create a list of vegetables to pickle: asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, green tomatoes, okra, onions, peppers and zucchini. But the list doesn’t stop at the end of the alphabet for veggies, it continues at the letter “A” with fruits: apples, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, plums and watermelon rinds. Pickling isn’t just for cucumbers.

Some folks will mention using a crock for making pickles. Others will talk about vinegar. How about pickles that go in the refrigerator or in the freezer? So which is it? How are pickles made?

An acidic environment inhibits the growth of bacteria that can cause spoilage. You are either going to create an acidic environment by adding vinegar or through lacto-fermentation.

Lacto-fermentation can be broken down into two similar but different approaches: dry salting or brine pickling. Sauerkraut is an example of dry salting, where cabbage and salt are mixed together and a brine (salty solution) results.

With brine pickling you make brine by adding salt to water. You then pour the brine over the vegetable such as when fermenting cucumbers (3/4 cup salt to one gallon of water). Both approaches create brine, either from the salt pulling water out of the cabbage (dry salting) or by mixing salt into water and pouring over the vegetables (brine pickling). Both of these methods are lacto-fermentation where the food creates its own acid environment as it ferments. You can learn the basics of fermentation at the National Center for Home Food Preservation,, click on the How Do I Ferment button.

Often you will hear someone say they make their pickles by adding vinegar. This is another way of making pickles vs. by lacto-fermentation. Vinegar is used when canning pickles or for making refrigerator or freezer pickles. Choosing to can pickles in a boiling water bath or to make refrigerator/freezer pickles is a personal choice. Do you have room to store the pickles in your refrigerator? If you want to store them for a longer time, canning or freezing might be a better option. If the weather is too hot to fire up your stove and process pickles in a boiling water bath canner, you might prefer to make refrigerator or freezer pickles. The decision is yours and there are recipes to try in all categories. Follow a trusted recipe and don’t reduce the amount of vinegar in a recipe, especially if you intend to can it because Clostridium botulinum could grow causing botulism food poisoning in your canned pickles.

When canning or making refrigerator/freezer pickles, think of the vinegar as a replacement for the time needed for lacto-fermentation to occur. It is a quicker way to make pickles, thus the term quick pickling, as the vinegar creates the acidic environment. One of my favorite recipes for a refrigerator pickle is “Overnight Pickled Cauliflower” from the book “Pickled Pantry” by Andrea Chesman which uses red wine vinegar. The red tint from the vinegar gives this pickle a beautiful rosy color.

Pickles and pickling is a huge topic with many different paths one can follow. Pick a vegetable or fruit, select lacto-fermentation or the addition of vinegar, find a trusted pickling recipe and give it a try.

By the way, to quote Andrea Chesman: “It is inevitable that if you make pickles, you will end up with refrigerator shelves bursting with half-filled jars of pickles”. She is so right. Pickles are addicting and you may end up with many jars in your refrigerator of all types of vegetables or fruits. Currently, in my refrigerator I have half-filled jars of sauerkraut, asparagus kimchi, pickled asparagus, dilly beans and napa cabbage kimchi, all of which are made by “pickling”. All I am missing is the basic cucumber dill pickle, but a new gardening season is here . . .

For more information on pickling refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation at If you prefer a hard copy reference, check out the book “So Easy to Preserve” which can be purchased from

Barb Brenner has been preserving food for years and is a Cornell Cooperative Extension Certified Master Food Preserver in Livingston County. With thanks to Katherine J T Humphrey, Cornell Cooperative Extension Home Food Preservation Expert, for her review of this article.


July 2023

Happy July Home Preservation Friends,

This is the month where PICKLING really kicks in with the arrival of beautiful pickling cukes and lovely eggplants while thoughts are turning to creative CANNING while White Peaches and fresh Tomatoes are filling the farm stands!

I need though to get serious with you this month in order to ensure safe food preservation.

VINEGAR awareness.

To produce food safe jars of pickled and/or fermented items, ALL approved recipes from trusted sources call for 5% ACIDITY VINEGAR. Until now, 5% has not been an issue.

Recently though, it’s been noted that 4% Vinegar is showing up on store shelfs.

Re: Vinegar acidity level – food safety considerations.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation acknowledges the concerns raised by consumers regarding the use of 4% vinegar acidity for canning. 

We would like to provide the following important points for your consideration if you have utilized vinegar in your home canning practices:

Recipe Recommendations: It is crucial to note that all our recipes, including those from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), were extensively tested and recommended the use of vinegar with 5% acidity. Currently, it is strongly advised against using vinegar with lower acidity levels (<5%), as it may not be sufficiently strong to ensure the safety of the canned products. Always remember to check the vinegar label for its acidity level.

Evaluating Canned Food Products: If you have used vinegar with lower acidity (less than 5%) in your canned food products and you followed a validated recipe, we recommend considering the following:

  1. If your canned food has been preserved for less than 24 hours using 4% vinegar, it is advisable to store the jars in the refrigerator to maintain the safety and quality of the product.
  2. If your canned food has been preserved for more than 24 hours using 4% vinegar, it is advisable to discard the product.

I’m not advocating this particular brand, but want to reference the bottom of the label where it says 5% ACIDITY. Please always be looking for that 5%.


June 2023

I recently met a lovely lady from Niagara County who is on her home preservation journey perhaps toward certification as a Master Food Preserver. Anita drove 1.5 hrs. to attend our Strawberry Jam Pop-Up at the Monroe CCE office kitchen this week, only to arrive and say she'd taken the master class yet still had a few questions. I was humbled. Then she said she's been hoping for our MFP blog to start back up and shared a few reasons why. That's when I went from humbled to gosh.. if she can drive 3 hours round-trip to further her knowledge of water bath canning jam, I can begin again here!

Thank you, Anita, and thank you home food preservation enthusiasts! What have you been preserving since our last connection?

For me, as the preservation season begins, it's all about PLANNING AHEAD!

As you walk through the your gardens, local farmers markets, farm stands and Public Market, do you, like me, approach local produce a bit differently than non-preservers?

Running through my head will be something like ..... hmmmm these strawberries are beautiful, how will I use them other than tonight with shortcake, and all year long as strawberry jam, I've never canned a strawberry pie filling is there a trusted recipe, that time I dehydrated them w ginger was lovely but did the kids really like them, Em daughter loves balsamic .. should I try that strawberry balsamic jam again, what about holiday gifts, who preferred strawberry and who prefers my apricot jam, how long are these berries going to be around this season, how much time do I have for doing all these ideas, I have to travel for work a few days this week, hmmmm....

All along, the vendor stands there staring at me to make the decision if I'll be buying 2 quarts or my usual 16. And then always when I come home with less than 2 flats, my husband will ask why I didn't buy more!

I'm reminded of the quote from Seasons of America Past, "The Strawberry Season Opens the Doors of Summer". And if I may add, The Time to Plan Ahead.

As you start to enjoy the wonderful local season, keep in mind the 7 methods of Home Food Preservation:

  • Canning - water bath (high acid fruits), pressure (low acid produce)
  • Pickling / Fermenting
  • Curing / Smoking
  • Dehydrating / Drying
  • Refrigeration
  • Freezing
  • Cold Frame

Take advantage of each to maximize and vary how you extend the gardening season. Extension offices around the country are happy to help answer your questions. And I can be reached at, you don't need to live in Monroe County to reach out!



PS. this time last year, I made Strawberry Balsamic Jam, Strawberries in Balsamic, purchased vintage china w strawberries and F. Olivers Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Tucked them all away and then gave as holiday gifts in December.


September 2022

We’re drooling over this video of Homemade Peach Jam sent in by Alexis Conners, daughter of our Master Food Preservation Volunteer Educator. Alexis credits her mom for her canning acumen – “I got my proper jammin' from my Mama!”

CLICK HERE to watch! 

Interested in canning? We are available to answer all your home canning questions.

August 2022

Is it August already? Please stop the summer, order in some sunny days and back it up!

Maybe the weather hasn’t been ideal each day, but I do know we’re into August by the farm stand’s local offerings: the peaches are incredible, the blueberries so good and the corn, omgosh! I’m very much looking forward to spending this upcoming weekend canning blueberry pie filling and peaches in a light syrup. Those of you who know me are aware how calming I find canning and I feel I’m in need of some calm right about now.

To be candid, I’m a bit fired up about what I’ve been seeing in some of the Facebook Canning groups I belong to.

A Facebook group is made up of like-minded individuals who share a common interest. When a few of you shared with me the FB Canning groups you belong to, I gave a look and saw the common interest of each is Safe Canning. Of course, I agree with that and started joining these groups, and then I joined a few more and now, well, I’m a member in more than a handful of them.

I want to tell you, they are not all dedicated to safe canning, and I’m very bothered by that. My hope is that if you belong to a FB Canning group you’ve chosen one truly dedicated to educating and sharing only trusted recipes and safe canning methods.

Let’s break this down and see how it typically flows -

You sometimes cannot join the group without your ‘membership’ request being approved by the group administrator.

You may need to answer questions in order for the admin to accept you. Here are some common ones:

  • Are you aware this is a group for safe tested recipes only and advise on using tested recipes?
  • Are you willing to abide by the group’s rules?
  • Are you able to use the search bar at the top to search the group for topics already covered?
  • Do you understand there is only one administrator and several Master Food Processors (MFPs) donating their time?
  • Do you agree this is not a social group but a safety group?

I loved these questions. They give me reassurance that this group truly wants everyone to use trusted recipes and safe methods. I also completely support those groups where the admin gives their own set of guiderails:

  • Be Kind and courteous.
  • No hate speech.
  • No bullying.
  • No promotions or spam.
  • No unsafe canning promotion or links.
  • You must share a recipe if including a
  • Let the Admin and MFPs do the safe answering.

What’s not to love about all of that? It’s actually all love, but not all groups follow their own rule. And that’s my frustration.

I belonged to a group where questions are laughed at. Here’s a real example

Jam jars sealed but the jam is runny, is it safe to eat?

That is such a great question that we all wonder about one time or other. Why would one laugh at it. (Trusted answer: if the jars are sealed, the product is safe at room temperature. Set the jars aside for a few days. Sometimes a gel will form in that period of time. If a gel still has not formed, enjoy the product over ice cream, pancakes or other items.)

Some groups do not respect the admin or MFP answers. Here’s a real example of the same question in two different groups -

How can I can black or herb tea?

Answer from one group - Admin: there are no safe methods for canning tea.

Reply: Thank you!

Answer from another group – Admin: tea is non-acidic with high bacteria, no safe canning methods.

Reply: Even with a pressure canning?

Reply: I’ve been canning it and feel fine.

Reply: Add lemon to bring up the acidity level

MFP: there is no safe recipe indicating how much lemon is needed

Reply: use a recipe for tea concentrate from the blog I follow

Admin: there is no safe recipe or canning method

What is going on here?? How many times must it be said there is no safe recipe or method for canning black or herb tea. (Trusted answer: Dry your herbs. Make kombucha. Brine a chicken in tea and smoke it.)

Okay, you get the point… if the group you belong to laughs at serious questions or challenges the admin and MFPs, it should not be considered a group dedicated to safe canning. While I can’t advocate for one group over another, I can suggest to look for groups sponsored by canning “Brand Names”.

Tomatoes and their questions abound this time of summer. Please please use a current day recipe from a trusted organization. Why? Simply explained, check out the photo I recently took at a local farm stand.ACID FREE. Yikes, these are not the same tomatoes our mothers and grandmothers used.


Here’s part of a question I received a few years ago that honestly caused my heart to break while reading it because it involved over 20 finished quarts of tomato sauce and salsa without an acid.

I was told you might be able to help me. I have been canning my spaghetti sauce for 30 years and using the process my mom and aunts used. Recently - like today - I was on the internet to just verify I was doing the canning correctly and came across all these sites that say you HAVE to either add lemon juice or vinegar to bring the acid level up AND you have to either hot water bath or pressure cook to can your spaghetti sauce. I will tell you what I did and then hopefully you can give me some advice. By the way no one has ever gotten sick from my canning before...

(Trusted answer: open the jars, pour the finished sauce and salsas into bags designated for freezing, mark them by name with date and store in the freezer. Thankfully, this person had enough freezer space to do this and salvage all her hard work.)

All of the FB canning groups have posts that boast photos of beautiful finished jars with comments such as, “29 jars of Dilled Asparagus! 60 quarts of garlic pickles! 32 jars this week!”

Are you also finding your shelves filling with lots of canned jars? Here is an idea from The Seasons of America’s Past. The month of August was often devoted to charity. Maybe it was because by August the crops were yielding well and the shelves were filling up, so the farmer might leave a small open corner of their field nearest the road to be harvested by others in need. I like to think that sharing my jars of jams and fruits with others who don’t can are my form of August charity. How about you?


Join me on August 19th 7:00pm Zoom session Home Food Preservation Through the Year. We’ll talk about what fruits or vegetables are available each month and the best method of preserving each. I’ll share ideas, recipes, techniques and tips for every month to highlight the 7 methods of home food preservation. Expect a lively and engaging program with examples and stories of my own monthly preservation activities. Register here:

Stay in touch!

July 2021

Hello Friends!

Let me share a few things before talking about what’s canning -

During July we enjoy more local fruit and vegetable harvests. It’s the perfect month to stretch your usual canning thoughts into how you are going to preserve the produce. Canning and home food preservation is planning ahead and working now to enjoy later. What fruits and vegetables do you love each summer? What’s the best method of preserving them? What’s the easiest method of preserving them while still capturing their flavor and nutrients? A plan now will mean less waste later.

Preserve what you like, review those 7 home methods and put it together with a recipe from a trusted source to produce safe food you’ll enjoy during the year: Canning (low acid & high acid), Pickling/Fermenting, Freezing, Drying/Dehydrating, Refrigeration, Smoking/Curing, Cold Frame storage.


CCE Monroe and I are here to help you do this! You don’t need to live in Monroe County to email questions or to ask for tips and suggestions: I love when you’re in touch and am honored to be a part of YOUR canning and preserving.

You’ve been asking about canning classes. We can now host small classes of up to 4 people in the kitchen at CCE Monroe! Please get in touch if interested. I’m happy to tailor the class for your interest.

Our colleague Diane Whitten at CCE Saratoga County, is offering a series of FREE online food preservation classes this summer. These are open to all, no matter where you live. Topics include Quick Pickling, Pressure Canning Vegetables, Meats & Soups, Salsa, Apples and Making Jerky. See the CCE Saratoga events page to register!

Canning Supplies – we have them for you at prices lower than the retail stores! Call Sharon in CCE Monroe office (585) 753-2550

June 2021

Grads, Dads, Master Gardener Plant Sale, Summer Solstice and a lot of jars of Strawberry Jam. June is one of my favorite months and this year it was especially full of activity. I’m so thankful for those days leading up to the official start of summer and for the unofficial start of the jam-making season!

It seems the strawberries started earlier this year and they were incredibly delicious. Usually, I spend one very long day making many batches of strawberry jam. This June though, because the berries showed up at my favorite farm stands a week earlier than I expected (and when family was here for a graduation party), I spread out my jamming by making 2 batches each night for a week. I get so nervous that the strawberry season will stop just as quickly as it starts and I won’t have enough jars to last us until June of next year!

Why? This family runs on my strawberry jam and if the pantry shelves are empty before new season strawberries start... there is chaos. In 2019 – 2020, as if a lockdown pandemic wasn’t enough, my husband decided that we may not have enough jars of strawberry jam so he began to ration them to our 3 children. Seriously. I didn’t realize what was going on until one texted me to say something like, “Dad is hoarding the strawberry jam. Can you hide a few jars for me?”

In early June, one Friday night before our local berries started, I was walking with my family into The Olney Place on Keuka Lake for dinner and I received a text from one of my many sister-in-law’s. It said, “Important question. Have a minute?”. This was from the diva sister-in-law who doesn’t often text and had just finished with a year of serious medical treatments. I quickly replied “Yes!”.

Her very important question? “How do I make strawberry jam?” I simply laughed. You and I know the answer to that question will take more than a minute. We texted through the details and I was so happy to later receive a photo of her beautiful jars. And the next morning I was more happy to read “They are all sealed!!” She went on to make 5 more batches last month and even though I made almost 50 jars myself; I asked her for one of her jars for Christmas. I can’t wait to receive it!

When you open a jar of jam or jelly or pickles or salsa or something you put-up during the summer, do you, like me, stop and savor the memories associated with making that jar of homemade goodness? For me, It’s not just about the wonderful flavor, beautiful color and summertime smell of freshness. I always think back to the day I canned that jar.

Back in The Seasons of America’s Past, it really was no different. ‘The strawberry season opened the doors of summer.’ Do you remember Strawberry Socials with bowls of strawberry shortcake? Mmm why don’t we host these anymore when the local berries are lush and bright red?? A tea made with dried strawberries was one of the first pioneer teas. You know, drying strawberry slices is easier than you think and they’re good snacking.

Dried Strawberries for Fruit Tea or Snacking

  • Rinse the berries and cap off the green stem and leaves. Slice each thin.
  • If you have a dehydrator, place each slice on the rack; do not overlap. Set at 170º. Total drying time approx. 8 hours, depending on how humid the day is.
  • If you’re not using a dehydrator, place each slice on a cookie rack; do not overlap. Place the cookie rack on a cookie sheet and set in a dry warm area such as near a closed window.
  • Either method, check for dryness to your preferred taste. Store in air tight container or ziplock bag that has had the air pushed out.


June and July are perfect months to take a look at the local garden herbs and think ahead. Whether from your own property or from a farm stand, drying or dehydrating herbs, fruits and vegetables is one of the 7 methods of home food preservation and one of the easiest. Email me at if you’d like simple step by step instructions. *I’ll include how to use your dried rosemary to make smoked whiskey.

What were the pioneers typically focusing on in July? The old farmer would be haying with their homemade scythes and taking breaks to enjoy a hearty dinner at noon. The drink of choice could have been Switchel, a molasses-based sweet beverage that might be spiked with cider or brandy.

Which perfectly fits with two spiked beverages I like to make in July – Black Currant Cassis with a brandy base and Raspberry Vodka. I’ll start both this month with thoughts to gift them at the holidays. I don’t know that either fit into one of those 7 methods of home food preservation, so I won’t provide recipes here, but they do fit into planning ahead with local fruits.

Speaking of which, did you see CCE Monroe’s post about local Juneberries?!! I had the pleasure of talking with a couple at the Master Gardener Plant Sale who mentioned a local CSA that has u-pick Juneberries. I didn’t realize in that conversation that these are also called Saskatoon Berries. I’ve made Saskatoon jam! I have a friend in the Pacific Northwest who sent me saskatoon puree for me to turn into jam for her. I really liked the flavor and kept a jar, which turned out to be a ‘stiff jam’. I prefer softer spreads and this texture wasn’t my favorite, so I used the jam as the filling for making homemade hand pies (think Poptart).

My saskatoon jam is a good reminder – if you try a different fruit and your finished jar isn’t exactly what you’re used to, think outside the box. If the jar is sealed and is otherwise safe to eat, but you just don’t like the flavor or texture or thickness, stop and think it through… What else can you use that jam or jelly for?

At the Master Gardener Plant Sale, I completely enjoyed talking with many of you and hearing how you’ve pushed your own thinking about home food preservation!

To the person who told me that you recognized my voice from a Zoom canning session and that you bought a dehydrator and dried lemons last winter after we talked about it, you absolutely made my day!

And to the gentleman who explained the details of drying watermelon – I tried it last weekend and also love it, thank you!

Next month I’ll share some of the questions I receive the most (tomato sauce), some canning fails (starting with my own) and real-time stories you’ve shared with me. I hope they’ll encourage you to be in touch with your own canning questions, failures and successes!

Stay well and busy canning!


May 2021

Hello Home Food Preserving Teammates,

It is of course Mother's Day this month. I thank my Mom for teaching me how to make jam and I'm thankful for memories of her mom's summer canning activities in an outdoor kitchen in the garage at her Adirondack camp. I remember watching my grandmother and thinking why do this? as she filled jars with strong pungent horseradish that made her eyes tear and also as she hand-cranked a tomato sieve for hours in order to can hundreds of jars of sauce.

But let's go back to my Mom. She taught me to make strawberry jam in 1996 and we sealed the jars with wax. Pouring hot wax on top of a freshly set jar of jam was entirely awesome, however, it did not ensure a safe jar for future eating. We eventually stopped using wax and began using proper water bath canning methods so by 2003 we felt confident to submit our canned goods for judging in the Yates County Fair. Yes! competing against each other. Sometimes it's her cherry jam taking the blue ribbon and sometimes it's my strawberry jam, but truth be told, we love to do this together and have great fun with it.

I lured her to take the 2014 Master Food Preservation class with me by offering to pay her tuition, so she's no canning slouch and knows those methods that are safe and those that aren't - which she now likes to put on me. Take yesterday.... I had just got home from our 1st annual Home Food Preservation Day.... and Thank YOU to all who attended making it such a success!! I loved talking with you each.

Many fellow home preservation enthusiasts joined me and other Master Food Preserving colleagues for great conversations, questions, a fermenting demonstration, UPick and farm stand info, recipes and a canning supply sale. It really was wonderful! However, I was feeling personally bad because we did not have any lids to sell. Like many of you, I just couldn't find them in enough quantity. Still feeling a bit down about the lids, I walked into my house and answer my Mom's call leading to a 20-minute conversation that started with... "Michele! I can't find any lids in the stores for our canning this summer and I'm not sure I like what I'm seeing online." I'm completely serious about this happening and she's completely correct.

Lids online - the comments here are not to endorse or diss any brand, store or online site but instead to provide information for you to consider when making your lid buying decision. Read the product reviews to help make your own informed buying decision.

  • Mason jars and lids advertised for decoration are NOT safe for home food processing water bath (high acid) canning or pressure canning (low acid).
  • Flower shops that use mason jars for floral arrangements may or may not be using jars made for home food processing. If you are receiving the lids from flower shop mason jars, be absolutely certain the lids are designated for home canning.
  • In 2017 Ball changed the formulation of their lids and sealing compounds. These "SureTight" lids have additional rust resistance, doubling of the tinplate coating, a storage life for unused lids for up to five years from purchase and a new guarantee of a seal on a correctly processed jar that will last up to 18 months. The 2-piece metal lid design of these lids have data showing that this closure system has a tested longevity.
  • "Canning" or "Mason Jar Canning lids" indicating food grade and patent pending may not hold up in pressure canning.
  • Tattler canning lids are reusable and supported for expert level canners who can ensure a vacuum seal is obtained. These lids present acceptable sealing performance and vacuum levels that does not allow microorganisms to spoil the food (if proper canning methods have been used). But USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation do not have data supporting seal success over a long period of time.

Another option is to start with a fresh case of Ball canning jars. You can now buy jars and pectin at the Monroe CCE office! We have 8oz cases, Pint cases, 4 oz cases, Sure-Jell Regular Pectin and Sure-Jell Low Sugar Pectin available for sale! Call the CCE-Monroe office (585) 753-2550 located 2449 St Paul Blvd Rochester 1/4 mile north of the Seneca Park Zoo entrance. You can place an order and set a time to pick up your supplies (cash or check only).

Also from CCE-Monroe, upcoming Strawberry Jam for beginners sessions will be scheduled throughout June through local libraries when strawberries are available! Watch our website and social media for more info.

Meantime, it still is May as we look back to The Seasons of America Past and what the old-time farmers and canners would give focus to this month matched to a contemporary recipe.

May is a month of smells. After a winter indoors, "it is good to inhale the new smell of outdoors" colorful flowers, blooming trees and the soil with spring plowing. May was the season of the plow. "In May," say the old almanacs, "Your Indian corn must be planted; this is the basic chore and first field work of the year." We look forward to putting up corn from the late summer harvest, but for now, Ball Blue Book (2020) tells us theMay spring cuttings of Rhubarb are best for freezing.

Rhubarb (4) ways for Freezing

Select rhubarb with crisp, tender, red stalks. Remove all leaves (they are toxic) and cut off woody ends; discard blemished and tough stalks. Wash rhubarb under cold running water; drain. Cut rhubarb into 1-inch lengths.

Prepare using any of the following methods:

  • Dry Pack: pack the cut rhubarb into plastic freezer bags, plastic freezer jars, or plastic freezer containers. Seal, label, and freeze.
  • Sugar Pack: mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts cut rhubarb. Allow to stand until sugar is dissolved. Pack rhubarb into plastic freezer bags, plastic freezer jars, or plastic freezer containers. Seal, label, and freeze.
  • Syrup Pack: Prepare a heavy syrup*. Pack cut rhubarb into plastic freezer jars or plastic freezer containers. Ladle syrup over rhubarb, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label, and freeze.
  • Stewed: Stew or steam rhubarb according to your favorite stovetop recipe; sweeten to taste. Cool at room temperature, not to exceed 2 hours. Pack rhubarb into plastic freezer jars or plastic freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label, and freeze.

*Heavy syrup - 4 1/4 cups sugar, 4 1/4 cups water. Combine in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to a simmer; keep syrup hot until it is needed in recipe.

In my own season of the past, 30 years ago this same canning grandmother of mine transplanted a rhubarb plant from her Lake George yard to my own backyard. It still produces bright red tall stalks but now only enough for 1 pie, which I make every May using her Rhubarb Cream Pie recipe.

Happy Mother's Day to our moms, grandmothers and all the lovely ladies who got us into home food preservation!

Stay in touch at,


April 2021

Hi HFP Friends!

I'm writing this looking out at April showers, which only means May will be full of the first produce of the season - rhubarb, peas and asparagus. Will you be ready to preserve them? We're here to help!

Remember how hard it was last summer to find canning jars and pectin? CCE Monroe office received so many calls and emails asking where to find canning supplies, I just couldn't let our canning community start this new season with a shortage. So, I spent time during the winter sourcing supplies for you. Please take advantage and help out CCE Monroe.


Our 1st annual home food preservation event for our canning community and I'm pretty excited!

Home Food Preservation Day event on Saturday, May 1st from 9:00am - 1:00pm being held at 2449 St. Paul Blvd Rochester 14617 (1/4 mile north of the Seneca Park Zoo entrance). I hope you'll stop by this outside, physically spaced event.

  • Fundraiser sale - plan ahead for the canning season for yourself or Mother's Day gifts!
  • Ball jars (pint, 8oz, 4oz), Sure-Jell regular and low sugar pectins, canning equipment, Ball Blue Books, water-bath canners, freezer jars
  • Pressure Canner Checks & Gauge Testing at no charge. Bring your canners and gauges!
  • Fermenting demonstration and information about kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles.
  • Judy Price and Master Food Preserver experts will be available to answer any questions about home food preservation.
  • CCE specialists from Agriculture with U-Pick information, Nutrition Team with healthy recipes and Master Gardeners with tips will be providing demonstrations and resources.
  • 4-H Youth Development will be on hand conducting a free Mother's Day gift gardening activity .
  • Bring your supplies list, pressure canner, questions or just come hang out with others who have the same home canning interests as you! I look forward to meeting and seeing you there!!

Zoom Event June 2nd

Please also mark your calendars for Wednesday June 2nd. We'll be Zoom hosting How To Make Jam for beginners. The goal of the hour-long session is for you to feel 100% confident and ready to make your own delicious Strawberry Jam! We'll read through a recipe, talk about each step, learn about filling jars, easily know when the jam isn't good to eat and share tips. I'm really looking forward to this event. Please watch for more info on our website, our Facebook page or Instagram (monroeccextension).

I hope you can join me in either or both of these events. Let's build a Rochester canning community together!

Food Pairings

For those who follow this blog, you know that I'll be giving reference to The Seasons of America Past and what the old-time farmers and canners would focus on each month matched to a contemporary recipe. April was when "a lush mix of early grasses and legumes provide good grazing during cool Springs.. there is no better thing than turning cows out to Spring pastures." They say that cheese made from April's early grasses are especially delicious.

There are easy recipes available for Farmhouse Cheddar or Cheese Curds. But a much simpler way to enjoy April's cheese is to purchase your favorite mild cheese and serve it with one of your last jars of homemade jam still on the shelf.

If you're unsure how to pair cheese and jam, start with a Havarti or a fresh ricotta. Either of these will showcase whatever flavor of jam you might have. Then, if you like this easy treat, be sure to plan ahead when making jam this coming season and perhaps make some 4oz jars just for the purpose of opening along side cheese and crackers. I do this with Apricot Jam and have done it with Black Current Jam and Rosemary Peach Jam.

Whipped Feta Recipe - from Better Homes & Gardens

Combine in a food processor for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed:

  • One 8-ounce block of crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cups whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Add and blend another 1 to 2 minutes
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Transfer to your serving bowl. Store in refrigerator.

Makes one jar of homemade jam

Serve the Whipped Feta alongside crostini or your favorite crackers with the opened jar of jam.



March 2021

"In the city, man starts the new year on the first of January, but nature's year begins more appropriately in the spring. At one time, all farm calendars and diaries, almanacs and agricultural manuals began with March, for the old-time year began on March 25.

In 1752, about a century and a half after Pope Gregory XIII had corrected the early calendar, his corrections were finally adopted by England. Eleven days were dropped from the calendar at that time, and New Year's Day was changed from March 25 to January 1st.

For a while, the American colonists celebrated both old-style and new-style New Year's Day, but then grudgingly they gave up the old calendar. But personal farm records remained "old style" with the annual routine of farm seasons beginning where it the spring."

- The Seasons of America Past (Dover Publications) by Eric Sloane

I love this passage from one of my favorite books and I completely take March 25 as a serious date in my year. On many levels, it just seems the perfect place to celebrate a year of home food preserving!

Looking at my canning larder and pantry, I know these need to be emptied off before June when I'll be heavy into making beautiful jars of strawberry jam and need the room on shelves again. So, I like to host an Agrarian New Year's dinner party. This year's celebration will be small in a windy indoor/outdoor well-ventilated space, but I will still be serving only items I put up the past year alongside homemade sausages, breads, cheese and butter. It's something I always look forward to!

Doesn't a new year cause you to reflect and maybe plan for bright new days? In March I can't help but think ahead and dream of harvested fields, open farm stands and fresh items at the Public Market. So much produce, what will I make with it all??

Do you know what the first harvest of our Agrarian year is? Those who have been in Zoom CCE sessions with me know that it is .. Sap! Yes, the first harvest is clearly sugaring time mid-March to mid-April when the warmer days and cold nights literally get the sap flowing. My activities with this first harvest are always a disaster, LOL. Each year I tap a few maple trees in my backyard but because I don't have a proper sugaring stove or 40 gallons of sap (needed for 1 gallon of syrup) the sap will cook down too quickly and burn off and all my energy was for maybe 6 ounces of maple syrup. I don't mind though, I've started the home preservation year off with a bang!

Good thing we have many producers of wonderful local maple syrup because I still like to acknowledge March's first harvest in other ways. Maybe by making Maple Sugar Candy in the shape of maple leaves or canning Sweet Onions with Jameson and Maple Syrup.


Do you keep a preservation journal? I do. I like to imagine it's like the old diaries and farm ledgers, starting in March and keeping track of preserving activities, recipes and their sources, which tasted good, which did not, etc. I encourage you to make an agrarian new year resolution and start one!

Looking ahead to these monthly Monroe CCE blogs, I'll include a bit of reference to The Seasons of America Past and what the old-time farmers and canners would have focused on each month along with a matching contemporary recipe. Hopefully these will inspire your own preservation activity or journal entry.

So, let's start the year with a fun, quick and easy Sugar on Snow activity from Vermont extension and a recipe for Caramelized Onion and Maple Syrup Jam using Pomona Pectin.


It's March and "the year is at our door....."

Happy New Year! Stay well,


February 2021

Welcome to February, the month of sweet valentine candies and treats!

Do you know that long ago the word 'candy' was a verb meaning to crystallize? Sugar Candy was considered to be no more than brown sugar. So, it seems only right this month to try 'candying' ginger, a popular contemporary flavor, and overlay it with a bit of drying, one of the 7 methods of home food preservation.

Seem like we've got a lot going on here? Maybe, but the finished result is well worth the effort!

  • 1 lb fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • Approximately 1 lb granulated sugar
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Parchment paper
  1. Spray a cooling rack with the nonstick spray and set it on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
  2. Peel the ginger root and cut it into 1/8 - 1/4" thick slices. Place the slices into a 4-quart saucepan with 5 cups water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is soft and tender.
  3. Place a colander over a pan or bowl and transfer the ginger into the colander. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid that lands in the pan or bowl below the colander. (Remaining liquid can be used for other use, if desired)
  4. Put the ginger in a measuring cup, noting quantity. Measure an equal amount of sugar so that you have equal quantities of ginger and of sugar.
  5. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup reserved liquid to the pan. Add the measured sugar. Set over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring quite frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize. This could take approximately 20 minutes. Stir frequently through this stage. You'll know when the recrystallizing starts to happen.
  6. Immediately transfer the sugar-coated ginger to the cooking rack and spread it out to separate the individual ginger pieces. Leave this out 12 - 24 hours until completely dry.
  7. Store in an airtight container for up to (2) weeks.
  8. Save the ginger flavored sugar that drops onto the parchment paper in a separate airtight container or ziplock bag and use it in a delicious way.

Enjoy and please stay in touch with us at!


January 2021

Happy New Year, I'm so happy to connect again with you in 2021!

Under a blanket of snow and not finding many flavorful looking fruits, in January I naturally turn my attention to colorful oranges, lemons and grapefruits to get my canning fix.

I love checking out the different citrus varieties finding their way into our local grocery stores - Blood Oranges, Navel, Cara Cara and Honeybell. Key Limes. Meyer Lemons and Ruby Grapefruits.

Truth be told, I've pretty much just listed my favorite January fruits. So naturally, I love this recipe from the University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Choose your own favorite varieties and go for color - Navel Oranges, Ruby Grapefruit and a bright yellow Meyer lemon make for a beautiful finished jar of marmalade! My own jars that I made recently weren't especially colorful because I was playing with variety combinations but the taste is still great.

This marmalade reminds me of warmer climates and is fun to get creative with when serving. For example on sourdough biscuits, roast chicken, steamed carrots or by the spoonful in a cup of tea.

What will you try it with?


Citrus Marmalade - without added pectin

(Note: When peeling citrus fruits for marmalades, be sure to include some of the white membrane found just under the skin. This is where most of the pectin is located.)

  • ¾ cup grapefruit peel (from grapefruit)
  • ¾ cup orange peel (1 orange)
  • 1/3 cup lemon peel (1 lemon)
  • 1 quart cold water
  • pulp of 1 grapefruit
  • pulp of 4 medium-sized oranges
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups sugar

Yield: About 3 or 4 half-pint jars

Procedure: Sterilize canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer's directions.

To Prepare Fruit — Wash and peel fruit. Cut peel in thin strips into a saucepan. Add cold water and simmer, covered, until tender (about 30 minutes). Drain. Remove seeds and membrane from peeled fruit. Cut fruit into small pieces.

To Make Marmalade — Sterilize canning jars. Combine peel and fruit in saucepan, add boiling water and sugar. Boil rapidly over high heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature measures 8°F above the boiling point of water (220°F at sea level), about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; skim. Pour hot marmalade into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Citrus Marmalade in a boiling water canner.
----- Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints

or Pints

5 min 10 15

Enjoy! Stay well.


2020 Food Preservation Blog

Last updated September 13, 2023