UCCE Master Food Preservers of Orange County
University of California
UCCE Master Food Preservers of Orange County

From the Helpline

Got a Question?

We receive food preservation and food safety questions from all over the US.  What follows are some of the most recent ones.  Remember, if you have a question for us, please use our contact form:  Got A Question?.  We would love to help you safely preserve!


Where can I get my All American pressure canner calibrated and how much does it cost?

Not only does our county extension not provide the service of calibrating pressure canner gauges, but neither does All American or its parent company, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry. A telephone conversation with a service representative at All American revealed that the cost of mailing the old parts for testing was more than the cost of replacing the part(s). In fact, if you have a model older than 1995, you can simply replace the older gauge with a newer one.

Starting in 1995, All American® added the 5/10/15 pound pressure regulator weight to their pressure canners. It is made of stainless steel. Per All American’s ‘Instructions and Recipes’ manual, page 8:

Please understand that there will not be an exact correlation between the pressure shown on the gauge to the corresponding pressure setting on the pressure regulator weight. For example, even though you have set the pressure regulator weight at 10 lbs., the gauge may show a range during the cooking process of 8 to 12 lbs. Do not expect the gauge to always show the exact pressure setting as the pressure regulator weight, as the pressure is changing within the unit as the pressure regulator weight jiggles and sputters, which is simple a process of constantly building up and releasing pressure to maintain the setting on the pressure regulator weight.

Even in the situation where the gauge is not registering correctly for any reason, you can be assured that the unit will still operate at the pressure regulator weight setting. The basic reason that our pressure cooker retains the gauge is to provide additional information as to the pressure and temperature within the unit, but you can be assured that the unit functioning at the pressure regulator weight setting.

See also: All American Pressure Canner Manual/Instructions and Recipes: 

What size of jar should you use to can fish?

We were taught to can fish in 1/2 pint or pint jars, not quarts.  Is this information correct?

The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides information on canning fish in quart jars.

Is it Safe to Use Steam Canners?

Steam canners can be used for jams and jellies but the USDA does not recommend them.  Since jams and jellies have a high acid and high sugar content, it is safe to use a steam canner to process them.  However, this does not extend to canning fruits due to heat penetration issues.  Note that the National Center for Home Food Preservation is currently doing some research on steam canners so there might be additional information in a year or so.  For now, nothing but classical jams and jellies should be processed in a steam canner ((but not low sugar or non-fruit jams and jellies).

Don't Have a Master Food Preserver course near you?

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a free, self-paced, online home canning and preservation course for those who do not live near a county offering the UCCE Master Food Preserver program.  To sign up for this online class, go to:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/ 

The class is titled:  “So Easy to Preserve” and is a free, self-paced, online course for those wanting to learn more about home canning and preservation.  Contents include:

  • Introduction to Food Preservation
  • General Canning
  • Canning Acid Foods
  • Canning Low-Acid Foods

There is also a book and a DVD offered for purchase by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is to complement the “So Easy to Preserve” course.  This book contains the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for safe food preservation. So Easy To Preserve is a 375-page book with over 185 tested recipes, along with step by step instructions and in-depth information for both the new and experienced food preserver. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Jellied Fruit Products, Freezing and Drying. This 5th edition has 35 new tested recipes and processes, in addition to a new section with recommended procedures for home-canned salsas.  See more at this site: http://setp.uga.edu/

You might also want to check out the videos and information offered for free at the Ball Fresh Preserving website:  http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx.


How to Freeze Zucchini?

Freezing Winter Squash
(Acorn, Banana, Buttercup, Butternut, Golden Delicious, Hubbard, Spaghetti)

Preparation – Select firm, mature squash with a hard rind. For spaghetti squash, mashing the cooked pulp is not necessary.  Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing winter squash in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

Freezing Summer Squash
(Cocozelle, Crookneck, Pattypan, Straightneck, White Scallop, Zucchini)

Preparation – Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

Grated Zucchini (for Baking) – Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze.

If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.

Other methods of preserving squash include canning and drying. 

Is the fruit of an apple with apple scab safe to eat?

Apple Scab: The fungus, venturia inaequalis, lives in dead leaves on the ground. If they are beneath an apple tree, the fungus is transferred to the young fruit via spores and results in apple scab. Venturia inaequalis actually grows only very superficially on the apple.

Is the fruit of the apple then safe to eat?

The University of Nebraska publication on Apple Scab states, “Though the fruit may appear unsightly, it is safe to eat.” See the full publication by author Amy D. Ziems, Extension Educator.

Obviously, as with any ‘spoiled’ fruit, you would cut the ‘bad’ parts off and scrub/wash it well before eating.

The UC Davis publication titled, “Key Points of Control and Management for Microbial Food Safety: Edible Landscape Plants and Home Garden Produce”, while it doesn’t specifically address apple scab, does address ‘damaged’ produce. The publication states that: “cutting away the decayed or damaged areas of the [fruit] to at least once inch beyond the edge of the defect is generally effective for produce that is to be consumed immediately or promptly refrigerated”.   See the full article.

Other internet sources:

The Royal Horticutural Society states that “light attacks [of apple scab] only damage the skin and eating quality is hardly affected”.   

Missouri Botanical Garden publication: “Fruit with apple scab is still edible”.


Avocado Pecked by Bird Safe to Eat?

Is an avocado with a small hole pecked into it by a bird safe to eat? 

Pathogens (microorganisms which cause illness) are widely distributed in the environment, particularly in soil. Most known foodborne pathogens are bacterial, but foodborne illness is also caused by viruses, parasites, and molds. The intestines of animals, including humans, contain bacteria parasites and viruses, which can cause illness. Animal feces can contaminate:

• Meat and poultry
• Soil, which in turn can contaminate plants
• Water, which in turn can contaminate fish and shellfish

Food that contains a foodborne pathogen will look, smell, and taste normal for the most part. Generally speaking, most bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness are odorless, colorless, and tasteless.

Pathogens cannot be eliminated from the food supply. In order to prevent foodborne illness food must be handled properly. Preventing the growth of microorganisms in food is an important tool in preventing foodborne illness.

USDA studies have shown that free ranging birds can transmit various forms of e. coli and salmonella via their feces. (Bird pecks not mentioned….USDA Study:Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Oregon State University hotline volunteers respond to questions about canning, freezing, drying, jams/jellies, pickling, food safety and food storage. Some questions are unusual. This year someone wanted to know about the safety of cherries that have worms and blueberries that had been pecked by birds. The answer? Make the "damaged" fruits into juice for jelly, which is heated to kill bacteria.  Unfortunately, this method does not work with avocados.  OSU Hotline

From Contact with Expert on Avocados at UC Riverside:

With regards to the possible transmission of pathogens from bird to avocado to people, no University research has been done in this regard.  

If you can't find the answer on the site, don’t despair!  We also have the capacity to assist you through our helpline.  Just contact us by email or by phone (voicemail) at 714.708.1606 ext.300 and we will respond to your inquiry.

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