Enter your work at the Wilson County Fair

I often think of all the gardens, trips to the farmers markets and fruit stands, and many other places to gather fresh produce while I am looking at all the entries.? We have talked a lot about home food preservation and I thought that it would only be natural for you to enter your hard work in the upcoming Wilson County Fair.

Before you enter though, you might be interested in what a judge looks for so that you can choose the very best of your products!?

Safe food preservation can be fun, economical and personally satisfying. Judging home-canned foods is an opportunity to teach people safe food preservation.

Safety should be the primary consideration when judging preserved foods. Attractiveness of the product is secondary. It is recommended by USDA for each jar of canned food to be labeled with the processing time and method used. The following guidelines from USDA should be adhered to for producing safe preserved food.?

Low-acid foods must be pressure canned.? High-acid foods may be processed in a boiling water canner or a pressure canner.? Paraffin should not be used to seal jams and jellies.? Open kettle processing is not acceptable for any product. Only tested recipes should be utilized. Only entries that are not safely processed should be disqualified.

Since we do not open canned foods at our fair, we must rely on visual inspection to judge characteristics such as flavor and texture. Flavor of fruits is by ripeness and appearance. Flavor of vegetables is usually indicated by maturity of the product and overall appearance. Integrity or wholeness of the product is a good indicator of texture.

Clear, clean standard jars and two-piece lids must be used. The proper size jar should be used since some low-acid foods such as fish, mushrooms, cream style corn, and chili peppers cannot be safely canned in quart jars. There should be no signs of spoilagesuch as gas bubbles, leaky seals, bad odor, or cloudy liquid.

The judge should test to see that the jar has a seal by pressing the middle of the lid with a finger. If the lid springs up when the finger is removed, the lid is not sealed. Or, when holding the jar at eye level and looking across the lid, a sealed lid should appear curved down in the centernot flat or bulging.? The appropriate headspace must be followed. Headspace is the unfilled space above the food in a jar and below its lid.

Recommendations for headspace are: Jams & Jellies: -inch Fruits*, Pickles & Tomatoes: -inch Vegetables*: 1-inch Soups & Pie Fillings*: 1-inch

(*Check the recipe for the appropriate headspace to use. Apple juice, grape juice, and fruit puree only require -inch headspace. Green tomato pie filling only requires -inch. Black-eyed peas processed in quarts need 1-inch.

Judging preserved foods requires study, careful training, and good judgment. Knowledge about food preservation and what various types of products should look like will assist you in choosing prizewinning entries. Please go online to www.wilsoncountyfair.net and check out the various classes you can enter in food preservation.

Keep in mind that all entries must be sealed and in standard canning jars to be accepted for judging.? Jarden Home Brands, maker of Kerr and Ball canning products, sponsors a separate canning contest.? To be eligible for this contest you must use either Kerr or Ball Products (jars, flats, and rings).

Good luck to each of you and I hope to see you at the fair!

If you have food preservation questions you would like addressed in "News You CAN Use," contact your local FCS Extension Agent, Shelly Barnes at 444-9584 or sbarnes@utk.edu .? Barnes looks forward to your calls and emails.

Also, if you would like to learn more about food preservation, Barnes will be offering one more Canning College class in September in partnership with Wilson Farmers Co-op.?To find out more information about these and other educational opportunities, please contact Barnes at the University of Tennessee Extension office.