CLEMSON, S.C. — Pressure canning is an important, safe method of preserving low-acid foods and Clemson Extension staff are available to help South Carolina residents ensure their equipment is ready for the 2023 canning season.
Low-acid foods include meats and vegetables. The dial gauge is one important piece of pressure canning equipment. Clemson Cooperative Extension Service staff members from around the state recently were trained in how to perform accuracy checks on dial gauges to ensure the dials are properly working. South Carolina residents can contact their local Extension office to make an appointment to have dial gauges tested. Cost is $6 per dial.
Kimberly Baker, Clemson Extension Food Systems and Safety Program team director, said dial gauges are used to indicate the amount of pressure that has built up in a canner. Extension staff only test for accuracy of the dial.
“People should bring in either the pressure canner lid with the dial attached or the dial removed from the lid,” Baker said. “The test result will let a person know if a dial is accurate, if slight pressure adjustments need to be made, or if the dial should be replaced.”
It is critical to make sure a pressure dial gauge is working properly because if it is not accurate, it is possible that foods can be under processed causing a risk for a foodborne illness to develop when the food is eaten. The most common foodborne pathogen of concern with improperly canned foods is Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, general weakness, poor reflexes and difficulty swallowing. Botulism also can result in death.
People who have further questions about the dial, the pressure canner lid or body, or general questions about pressure canning can contact their closest Clemson Extension Food Systems and Safety agent for assistance.
Pressure canning tends to be most common during the summer and fall when vegetables are being harvested and people are preparing for the winter months. Canning meat can be done throughout the year, particularly for those harvesting their own meat. This method of food preservation has become more popular since the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in homesteading.