By Cassidy Hobbs Hall
Area Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Johnston County Cooperative Extension
You may remember the commercial that aired a couple of years ago poking fun of the misinformation we might receive online – “I read it online, so it has to be true!” I’ll admit, I use that quote even today when I am having conversations with people that contains false information. We are all aware that not everything we read online is true, but sometimes we have trouble filtering the correct information from the ‘almost true’ and the fully false information – especially when it comes to food.
With fresh corn and summer squash in-season, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to reveal falsehoods in food preservation information I have seen floating around on social media. While the information may seem safe because “so and so has done it before and they didn’t get sick,” I’m not sure why you’d want to risk your hard work being a wasted effort when your food goes bad or you actually do get sick from these unsafe practices shared on social media.
The first bad practice I want to encourage you to stay away from is blanching corn in a dishwasher. If you think that sounds crazy, it is- but people do it anyway. The post advises people to place corn in the dishwasher and cycle it without detergent. They think that the steam inside of the dishwasher blanches the corn. It does blanch the corn, but it does not blanch corn evenly which leads to major quality issues. Blanching is a necessary step in slowing an enzyme in the food that leads to color, texture, flavor, and quality loss. When using a dishwasher, a lot of corn is overly blanched, yet a good bit of the corn is actually under-blanched. Under-blanching vegetables is worse than not blanching at all because this actually speeds up the enzyme leading to quality losses. Whole kernel and creamed corn should be blanched for 4 minutes while corn-on-the-cob should be blanched 7-11 minutes, depending on the cob size. For ears 1.25 in or less in diameter, blanch 7 minutes. Ears 1.25-1.5 inches should be blanched for 9 minutes, and larger ears should be blanched 11 minutes. After blanching, cool and drain, then seal in freezer-safe containers leaving ½ inch of headspace.
The second social media post I want to tackle is regarding home-canning. It is absolutely critical to pressure can vegetables due to their low acid content. Acid is a factor in processing method and processing time as acid combines with heat to create a shelf-stable product. Because the acid in summer squash is minimal, it must be pressure canned; however, when pressure canned the correct length of time, the food turns to mush. When cubing summer squash to can, the food softens and becomes compact, negatively impacting heat penetration inside the jar. Instead, freeze the summer squash to preserve. To freeze, simply wash and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly by dipping into ice water, drain, and package into freezer-safe storage bags, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
For up to date food safety information or to have your questions answered, please contact the Johnston County Cooperative Extension office at 919-989-5380. If you are searching for locally grown produce, download the NC Farms app or visit jocogrows.org.
Cassidy has been a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension since 2017. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health and is working to complete her Master’s of Science in Nutrition.
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