Got produce? Wondering just what you are going to do with it?

Got produce? Wondering just what you are going to do with it?

There isn't anything that tastes better than home-grown produce. By the way, the Farmer's Market is open on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m to noon at 710 W. Woodside St., the blue round top building on the 4-H Fairgrounds. If you haven't been, you need to go. It's a great chance to support local growers and eat locally grown produce! Try it; I'm sure you'll like it!

Home preservation. It is a serious topic and one that requires time, but the rewards are very satisfying. Especially when the fresh produce in abundance is gone and you are still enjoying that same fresh raised flavor.

However, you need to use only approved, up-to-date recipes. Chances are the recipe that you are using that was your grandmother's or maybe even mother's isn't recommended.

There are numerous good resources around to find recipes, and the recipe is created based on a balanced ratio; don't alter it just because you want to. This could throw your recipe out of balance (acidic wise) and create a finished product that is unsafe to eat.

We have many publications available free of charge with the most recent recipes using the appropriate recommendations. You can stop by at 600 W Woodside to get free copies, or visit http:// ksre.ksu.edu and enter the produce you have in the search area.

The common, flat, metal canning lid is a one-use item. The sealing compound — the colored gasket that rims its bottom edge — gets dented in the canning process. So, cooks can't depend on it to form another airtight seal.

Even with new lids, however, cooks must carefully follow the manufacturer's directions for preparation and use. The directions generally will include the following tips:

Inspect lids for any defects and discard those that aren't perfect. Simmer the lids in hot water to sterilize them and soften the sealant. When filling the jars, allow appropriate head space (the distance between the top of the product and the bottom of the lid). Without enough head space, lids may buckle and a vacuum seal may not form. A recipe may provide specific directions for the proper head space allowance. Often, however, jams and jellies need one-fourth inch, fruits and some tomato products require one-half inch, and vegetables and meats need a 1-inch head space. Try not to touch the sealant when placing the lids on the jars. Tighten the metal screw band that holds the lid in place with your fingers, rather than with the palm of your hand or a jar opener/closer. If not screwed down finger-tight, lids may not seal. If screwed too tight, the lids may buckle or the jar may break.

The fact that so many canning recipes call for sugar may seem odd, but it can be vital.

Sugar is a preservative. It helps control mold and bacterial growth. It adds sweetness, protects color and texture, and plumps fruits. Sugar also affects the acid levels that determine the time required in canning's heat process (water bath).

Cooks need to follow recipes exactly so as not to upset the balance recommended for food safety and quality.

More information on canning and home food preservation is available at local K-State Research and Extension offices, on K-State Research and Extension's Web site at www.ksre.ksu.edu, and on the National Center for Home Food Preservation (University of Georgia) Web site at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/.

Jana McKinney is a McPherson County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.