Tips for Canning and Freezing Produce

— Written By Audrey Mercer
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Many home gardens have yielded up their rewards this summer with fresh fruits and vegetables. For some, the yields were greater than expected and they may be looking for ways to preserve their harvest. To help facilitate these efforts, here are some tips for canning and freezing produce safely.


To can means to heat process food in a glass jar with a lid in place. Heat processing kills microorganism–bacteria, yeast, and mold–that can contaminate food and cause food spoilage and/or foodborne disease.

  • Prepare and process food according to instructions in a tested recipe. (National Center for Home Food Preservation )
  • Process high-acid food (all the fruits except figs and tomatoes that are not acidified) in a water bath canner and low-acid foods (vegetables, figs, and tomatoes that are not acidified) in a pressure canner.
  • Use only standard canning jars (also called Mason jars) with the manufacturer’s name printed on the side. Canning jars must be in perfect condition.Canning1
  • Always use new lids.
  • Select high quality, unblemished fruits and vegetables for canning. Canning will not improve quality.
  • Ensure the gasket on your pressure canner is in good condition, and get your dial gauge tested annually. You can contact your local Extension office to see who does testing in your area
  • Label sealed jars with the processing date and store them in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Before using always check canned foods for signs of spoilage — leakage, bulging lids, or loss of seal. Always boil home canned, low-acid foods for 10 minutes before tasting.
  • For more information on home canning, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website The Center has an online self-study course available through the University of Georgia system that covers the basics of safe canning.


Freezing is a quick and convenient way to preserve nutrients, flavors and the colors of fruits and vegetables at home. The use of freezing temperatures stops the growth of spoilage organisms (may not kill them), which extends the shelf life of your harvest.

  • Freeze foods at 0°F or lower. To facilitate more rapid freezing, set the temperature control at -10°F or lower about 24 hours in advance.
  • All fruits and vegetables to be frozen should be washed thoroughly.
  • Freeze foods as soon as they are packed and sealed. Canning2
  • Do not overload your freezer with unfrozen food. Add only the amount that will freeze within 24 hours, which is usually 2 to 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of storage space. Overloading slows down the freezing rate, and foods that freeze too slowly may lose quality.
  • Place packages in contact with refrigerated surfaces in the coldest part of the freezer.
  • Leave a little space between packages so air can circulate freely. Then, when the food is frozen, store the packages close together.
  • For more information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation Website at

Submitted by:

Daniel Simpson

Agricultural Extension Agent
NC State Extension-Pamlico County Center
P.O. Box 8, Bayboro, NC 28515
13724 Hwy 55, Alliance, NC 28509
Phone: (252) 745-4121   Fax: (252) 745-5082