Story last updated at 8/5/2009 - 12:30 pm
Consumers are turning to canning for food storage. Retail sales for Ball food preserving products used for canning have increased 28 percent year-to-date since 2007 (www.freshpreserving.com).
When questions or concerns arise regarding food preservation and food safety, the Cooperative Extension Service is the place for research-based information.
Access to the information includes phoning or visiting the local Cooperative Extension office, ordering or downloading free publications (at www.uaf.edu/pubs), viewing interactive modules from the "Preserving Alaska's Bounty" series (www.uaf.edu/ces/preservingalaskasbounty), contacting a representative through the Hotline (888-823-3663), and zipping off an email message to the "Ask an Expert" (www.uaf.edu/ces/hhfd).
Sometimes, placing a phone call or sending an email to the faculty member serving your district is the fastest way to get your questions answered. I receive several questions a week on the safe home canning methods for a number of different food products. Often, these questions and answers are filed away and only brought out when the same or a similar question comes up. In the next few articles, I plan to present oft-asked home canning questions and the answers provided by the experts. If you have a particular question or concern, let me know.
What is the best method for canning crab meat?
Currently, Alaska Cooperative Extension is conducting research on canning crab meat. The USDA publication, Complete Guide to Home Canning (1994), provides a recipe that has been resourced by a variety of canning publications. However, the crab meat processed according to these directions may have a distinctly acidic flavor.
Crab is a low-acid food so pressure canning is the only safe method. The problem is that the crab meat will discolor without the addition of some acid. Generally, the meat will take on a grayish hue. Adding citric acid or lemon juice prevents the meat from discoloration but the taste suffers. One client wrote that the recipe resulted in a product with "absolutely no crab taste whatsoever, only a strong lemon taste." Unfortunately, the client and some fellow canners were forced to throw out the cases of crab they had caught in Alaska waters, spent long tedious hours shucking, and time and expense canning.
The research being conducted by the Cooperative Extension Service on canning crab meat is focused on using less acid while still maintaining the beautiful color of the crab meat. Right now, freezing is the best method for preserving crab meat.
Guidelines for freezing: Select only live crab to prepare for freezing. Crab freezes better if not "picked" before freezing. Simply remove the back, legs, entrails, and gills either before or after boiling the crab for five minutes. (Be sure to cool the crab quickly after it is cooked.) The claws and body or core of the crab that still contains the meat should then be wrapped in freezer wrap or paper. Seal and freeze. For best quality, use within four months.
How do I can geoducks?
Chuck Crapo, Seafood Technology Specialist with the Marine Advisory Program, suggests using the instructions for canning clams when preserving geoducks. The geoducks would need to be minced or cut into about ½ inch chunks. Kristy Long, UAF CES Foods Specialist, advises clients not to put a whole geoduck into the canning jar as it would be too dense a pack. When a jar is packed too dense, the internal temperature may not reach the 240 degrees F during processing that is necessary to kill Clostridium botulinum spores that may be present.
To mince the geoducks: grind with a meat grinder or food processor and then pack loosely into half-pint or pint jars. Processing times in a pressure canner (again, geoducks are a low-acid food): half-pints - 60 minutes, or pints - 70 minutes. Properly stored, home canned products have a shelf life of one year. After that time, quality may suffer.
For more resources on food preservation, contact the Juneau District office at 796-6221.
Sonja Koukel, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Health, Home & Family Development Program for the Cooperative Extension Service UAF Juneau District. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-796-6221.