National Center for Home Food Preservation

E. L. Andress. Department of Foods and Nutrition Extension, University of Georgia, 208 Hoke Smith Annex, Athens, GA 30602-4356.

Paper 25-4. Presented at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, July 13, 2003.


Home food preservation remains a popular cultural activity. It is critical that those who practice preserving and processing foods at home have access to the most reliable information available concerning food safety and food quality. The National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation (NCHFP) was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES-USDA) in 2000 as a multi-institutional effort with The University of Georgia and Alabama A&M University as the primary institutions. Expert scientists in home food preservation from industry and eight other U.S. universities comprise an advisory committee for the Center.

The Cooperative Extension System (CES) and USDA have a long history of being recognized as credible sources for science-based recommendations; however, a recent survey by the Center revealed that USDA and the CES were no longer being cited as primary sources of instructions for home canning and freezing. The same survey also revealed that a high percentage of home food processors are using practices that put them at risk for foodborne illness and economic losses due to food spoilage.

The Center is conducting outreach activities and research in food microbiology and food quality, in the validation of new and existing preservation methods. The objectives being addressed include: (1) updating home food preservation recommendations based on critical reviews of existing literature and additional laboratory evaluation and scientific validation; (2) development of a National Center website ( containing USDA, NCHFP and CES recommendations and publications, as well as a new web-based curriculum on home food preservation; (3) updating professionals and volunteers in the Extension System with food preservation findings; and, (4) production of a video series on home food preservation. University undergraduate and graduate students are receiving educational benefits through their involvement in the research and curriculum development aspects of the Center's activity.


  • Greater adoption of science-based home canning techniques by many home canners is needed.
  • Little can be discerned about the science base of many instructions being used, as family and friends are cited as the source. It was not determined what the ultimate sources of those directions are. The USDA and Extension Service do not have large recognition as the cited source, although it is possible that family, friends, cookbooks and manufacturers are using the same instructions. The fact that 29% feel free to adapt the instructions they do have could be cause for concern, also.
  • One finding of greatest concern is the lack of pressure-based processing temperatures for low-acid foods. This survey did not determine if correct time/temperature combinations are being used for all foods, but the fact that vegetables are being canned at boiling water temperatures or without any processing (open-kettle) is enough to know those people are at high risk for foodborne illness, including botulism.
  • Altitude adjustments in processing temperatures or times are most likely not always being made when necessary.
  • Findings document risky practices and knowledge that should be targeted in educational programs and publications.

Modern Methods of Home Food Preservation

  • Canning
  • Freezing
  • Drying
  • Pickling
  • Sugar concentrates
    • jams, jellies, butters, preserves, etc.
  • Curing, smoking

USDA Historical Support

  • USDA has history of making canning recommendations.
    • Canning - series of Farmers Bulletins
    • Began 1909; ran through 1942.
    • WW I - Can the Kaiser
    • WW II - Victory Gardens

USDA Home Canning History

1970's Reported Botulism
1974-78 Acidulation and metabiosis
USDA Eastern Regional Research Lab
1981-88 Processing times re-evaluated
Penn State University funded projects

USDA Historical Support

  • USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
    • Superseded four H&G Bulletins
    • 1988, 1989, 1994
    • Collaboration with the Cooperative Extension System (Penn State University).

  • Complete Guide to Home Freezing
    • Drafted in 1990's; not published.

Cooperative Extension System

  • USDA history interwoven with the land-grant agriculture colleges and universities system.
    • Experiment Stations conducted/conduct research.
    • Cooperative Extension Service - teaching of methods and distribution of USDA publications.
    • More recently integration of applied research and outreach.
      • 1980's - Center of Excellence at Penn State.
      • Current - National Center, multi-state.

National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation

  • Funding from the CSREES-USDA (2000-2004).
    • Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service
    • National Integrated Food Safety Initiative
    • Priority issues in food safety best solved using an integrated approach.
    • Support multi-state, multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary, and multi-functional research, extension, and education activities.

National Center for HFP

  • Established to provide an integrated research, Extension and education approach.

  • Support for the USDA and the Cooperative Extension System with current, reliable and scientifically-validated guidelines on home food preservation.

  • Components:
    • Updating USDA-CSREES canning and freezing publications;
    • Applied research to develop new products and validating or adapting older methods;
    • Dissemination methods for recommendations, emphasizing the Cooperative Extension System resources.
    • Educating a "new generation" of students and teachers.

National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation

  • The University of Georgia - Lead Institution
    • Department of Foods and Nutrition
    • Department of Food Science and Technology
    • Department of Housing and Consumer Economics

  • Alabama A&M University - 4-yr Partner
    • Department of Food and Animal Sciences

  • University of California-Davis - 2-yr Partner
    • Department of Food Sciences and Technology

  • University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
    • Department of Food Science and Technology

University of Georgia Team

  • Foods and Nutrition
    • Dr. Elizabeth Andress, Principal Investigator
    • Dr. Judy Harrison, Co-PI
    • Dr. Brian Nummer, Project Coordinator
    • Dr. Elaine D'sa, Research Coordinator
    • Jimmy Hansen, Web Site Administrator

  • Food Science & Technology
    • Dr. Mark Harrison, Co-PI
    • Dr. William Kerr, Co-PI
    • Dr. Sung-Gil Choi, Lab Technician

  • Housing and Consumer Economics
    • Dr. Anne Sweaney, Team Member

Alabama A&M University Team

  • Food and Animal Sciences
    • Dr. Lloyd Walker, Principal Investigator
    • Dr. John Anderson

Other Collaborators

  • University of California-Davis
    • Dr. Linda Harris

  • University of Puerto-Rico, Mayagüez
    • Dr. Edna Negrón

Advisory Committee

Composed of individuals from

  • Auburn University
  • Clemson University
  • Colorado State University
  • Cornell University
  • Kansas State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of California-Davis
  • Washington State University
  • Alltrista Consumer Products Company
  • National Presto Industries, Inc.


  • Collect and critically review literature relevant to home food preservation techniques and guidelines.

  • Update the current guidelines, incorporating new or revised recommendations as appropriate.

  • Develop and test new recipes (products) and guidelines on home food processing and preservation methods that emphasize: (a) popular consumer specialty foods; (b) safety guidelines for processing food in community cannery settings; and (c) applications of updated technology, such as microwave blanching for food freezing.

  • Establish distribution mechanisms for dissemination of guidelines.

  • Identify areas where further research in home food processing and preservation techniques is needed.

Product Development

  • Mango salsas and chutney
  • Mango relish
  • Tomatillo relish
  • Spicy jicama and watermelon rind relishes
  • Pickled jicama
  • Sweet pickles with Splenda®
  • Jams/jellies with tropical fruits
  • Hot pepper sauces
  • Lemon curd/butter
  • Sauces/marinades

Applied Research

  • Microbial profiles of selected fresh herbs and whole spices used in home preparation of flavored vinegars, salsas, oils.
    • Supports the use of a chlorine wash to reduce loads prior to flavoring vinegars.

  • Effect of pressure canner size on heat penetration in stewed tomatoes.
    • 6 and 8 qt cooker, 17 qt canner
    • 15 psig

Other Research Questions

  • Documenting effect of fill weight on heat penetration.
    • Jicama relish/salsa
      • An increase of 118 grams solids per pint jar significantly increased the heat penetration rate (fh) and more than doubled the required processing time for this product.
      • A decrease of 5°C in the initial fill temperature did not change the heat penetration rate (fh) or processing time for this product.

Other Research Questions

  • Alabama A&M University
    • Microwave blanching for freezing vegetables.
    • Accuracy and testing issues with dial gauges for canners.

  • University of California-Davis
    • Survival and outgrowth of C. botulinum in garlic/oil products.

Why ??

Do people still can (preserve) food at home?


  • Survey of State and County Extension Faculty
    • Email in March 2000.
    • Responses from 225 Extension agents representing 24 states.
    • 45 percent of home food preservation requests are for canning, 21 percent for freezing and 12-13 percent for pickles and jams/ jellies.
    • Most requested processes are for condiments.
    • Issues regarding processing equipment and evaluating recipes were cited by more than 50 percent of respondents.

National Survey 2000

  • To determine activity in home canning and freezing, and use of critical safety practices.

  • 500 complete telephone interviews from households randomly selected across the U.S.
    • Individual telephone interviews
    • 38 questions on canning
    • 42 questions on freezing

  • Conducted by Survey Research Center, University of Georgia.
    • October 24, 2000 and January 10, 2001

Current Canning Practices

  • 135 (of 500) reported canning foods.

  • Sources of instructions
    • friends or relatives (48%)
    • cookbooks (19%)
    • jar manufacturers (10%)
    • USDA or Extension Service (6%)

  • 67% (90) of the respondents used their home canning instructions 'as is'
    • 29% (39) adapted them for use.

Current Canning Practices

Methods of Canning Fruits and Tomatoes
Boiling water 58 %
Pressure canner 15 %
Pressure cooker 18 %
Open kettle 21 %
Oven 4 %

Slide 26: Current Canning Practices

Methods of Canning Vegetables
Pressure Canner 30 %
Pressure cooker 29 %
Boiling Water 40 %
Open kettle 16 %
Oven 3 %

Current Canning Practices

Dial Gauge Testing
Yes* 24 %
No 59 %
No dial gauge 11 %
  • * 46% at hardware store, 31% at Extension Service
  • 1 at appliance repair store, 1 by "mother"

Botulism from Home Canned and Processed Foods, 1970-80

(bar graph of numbers of cases and outbreaks, annually, from 1970-1980)

Other Work in Process


  • Evaluating long-standing recipes for home cured meats/sausages; validating basic recipes.
  • Developing original reduced fat sausages.
  • Continued development of "specialty" foods - salsas, sugar concentrates, relishes, sauces and marinades.
  • Looking at sugar substitution for sweet pickles and spreads.
  • Equipment issues - canner size and steam canners.

Other Work in Process

Communications and Education

  • Website:

  • Emphasizing resources in the nationwide Cooperative Extension System and from USDA.

  • Dissemination mechanism for NCHFP products.
    • Publishing literature reviews and technical bulletins of critical preservation points.
    • Research presentations and abstracts.
    • Factsheets - e.g., new products for home canning.
    • How to's for consumers.
    • Resources and historical information for educators.
    • Slides shows, graphics galleries, exhibit ideas.
    • Flash tutorials on the basics of home food preservation.
    • On-line course for self-study coming in 2004.

Other Work in Process

Communications and Education

  • Publishing Complete Guide to Home Freezing in 2003; then updated Complete Guide to Home Canning in 2004.
  • Master Food Preserver model curriculum for states to use.
  • Educational video series.


This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 00-51110-9762.

Document Use:

Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided the authors and the University of Georgia receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission of the University of Georgia. Andress, E.L. 2003. National Center for Home Food Preservation. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension Service.

References to commercials products, services, and information is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the University of Georgia, U.S. Department of Agriculture and supporting organizations is implied. This information is provided for the educational information and convenience of the reader.

The University of Georgia and Ft. Valley State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and counties of the state cooperating. The Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences offers educational programs, assistance and materials to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability. An Equal Opportunity Employer/Affirmative Action Organization Committed to a Diverse Work Force.


National Center for Home Food Preservation
208 Hoke Smith Annex
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-4356

Tel: (706) 542-3773
Fax: (706) 542-1979