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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Canning Differences Between Canada and Great Britian

Home canning is the process of putting up a variety of foods in jars for a shelf stable product to be used as needed.  It is an old way of food storage to ensure a good food supply during the months that fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are not available.  This practice in North America saw a decline during the war years when women began working outside the home.  During the 1950's home freezing and commercially frozen and canned foods further aided the decline of home canning.  However, across North America homemakers, farm wives and some religious sects continued home canning.  When I was growing up, I didn't know any homemaker in our very small town who did not home can.  In recent years, as a result of the y2K scare, those advocating preparedness, and those disillusioned by food industry from their added preservatives and artificial ingredients to outbreaks of food born illness via the food industry, home canning is quickly becoming the in vogue home activity.

[rant] In North America, the leading authority on home canning is the USDA.  The problem with the USDA is they tell you not to can something based on either safety or quality of the final product BUT they do not tell you which.  In some cases they don't recommend canning a particular food simply because they have not tested it.  The second problem is, some in North America mainly of course in the USA regard the USDA as the bible, meaning you should not do anything the USDA doesn't recommend.  Well, this really just wrong!  The USDA has been known to be wrong and in order to get approval of something as simple as alternative lids or even a recipe, you have to pay big bucks.  That means the USDA's recommendations are biased.  In addition, the USDA is beyond anal about botulism in home canned foods to the point they use fear mongering.  Although all home canners should take precautions to prevent the botulinum toxin in their home canned foods, the risk is so minimal the chances of botulism from home canned foods is rare.  You have a better chance of getting botulism from commercially canned foods than you do from home canned foods.  If you wash all produce properly and process low acid foods properly, the spores are destroyed as well as the toxin.  The reality is while the USDA is the leading expert for home canning they are not the only source![/rant]

Home canning exists in most countries.  It tends to be fairly popular in rural areas and those locations where having a well stocked pantry is very much desired.  In some areas of Canada it is quite possible to be snowed in for a month or more so a well stocked pantry becomes a matter of survival.  We have a shorter growing season so tend to preserve whatever we can't use.  Hunting and fishing are still popular ways to put food on the table so home canning is a way to put up the large influx of food from those activities especially if you don't have a freezer.  Here is a video I found on home canning in Great Britain courtesy of River Cottage Bites.  My commentary follows the video.  Enjoy!

There is a difference in terminology with Canadian calling it canning and the British calling it bottling.  Some countries call it jarring which really describes the process better because you are packing the food in jars.  The first jar she shows is a Kilner jar that was invented by the Kilner family of Yorkshire, England and produced by the John Kilner & Co. in the 1840's and are still in production by Kilner.  It is very similar to the mason jars we use in Canada, the only jars approved for home canning by the USDA.  These jars use a two piece metal snap lid the same as mason jars.  Now the Kilner jars would not be approved by the USDA even though they are the same as mason jars, they are Kilner not mason.  Clearly the British know a thing or two about home canning!

Pam also uses apothecary jars (clip jars) jars.  In Canada, these jars are called ball & bail jars and they can still be found in thrift stores and at yard sales as well as new in some stores.  While the USDA does not approve of these jars, they are still widely available throughout the world.  Those in North America wishing to used these types of jars can buy through Weck Jars but be warned they are considerably more expensive than mason jars.  Contrary to the USDA's recommendation, these jars do work perfectly well for home canning just the same as the Tattler lids and glass inserts work perfectly well for home canning.  The reason they are not approved by the USDA is there isn't a readily visible indication the jar is sealed for the new canner followed by the number one reason is the manufacturer has not paid the USDA to do the testing to get their jars approved for home canning.

Pam did one thing I'm not familiar with and that is to leave no headspace.  The headspace is the distance from the top of the food to the top of the jar.  The USDA recommends a ½ - inch headspace but she left no headspace.  I personally would leave the headspace because over filled jars can cause failed seals, lid buckling and jar breakage from the expanding foods when heated.  I am familiar with the method of application of the ring using the ¼ - inch turn back as that is used for glass inserts and Tattler lids but not for metal lids.  The biggest difference to processing I noticed is she processed at 88°C/190°F rather than the recommended 100°C/212°F but she did a slow warm to temperature over 20 minutes rather than the recommended 15 minutes boil time recommended by the USDA.  The USDA recommended temperatures to destroy pathogens when processing high acid food is 180°F to 212° so Pam is right within the necessary range and processing at a slightly lower temperature may give a better result.

The bottom line is while the USDA is the leading home canning resource, they aren't the only one.  Other countries have their own guidelines and surprisingly, contrary to what the USDA would have you believe,  those guidelines are quite safe because those countries also have very knowledgeable food scientists.  I tend to follow Bernardin (Canadian canning expert), Health Canada, the USDA and I test the pH of all of my products to ensure they are processed correctly.  The reality is the USDA recommendations are biased as far as jars, closures and recipes go and since they no longer have funding, I doubt they are going to do much in the way of home canning testing any time soon.  Without current research the USDA recommendations are no longer valid although some of the university extension services continue to do a bit of testing.  It is limited at best.  They are the best but little testing has been done since 1994 making much of their data old and out dated by scientific measures.

1 food lovers commented:

Anji said...

A little trip down memory lane. My mum used to bottle plums and gooseberries as there was always a surplus. We dreaded her getting the jars out in the winter months!

Pam makes her fruit much more interesting!

As for 'canning' with cans, in the early sixties my mum told me that the local Women's Institute bought a machine so that members could put their surplus fruit and vegetables into cans.

In France we find jars of fruit and vegetables on the supermarket shelves. They are more expensive but they have fewer additives and salt. I admit that i have never tried any because of the memories of the plums and gooseberries! My daughter uses them rather than cans if she can't get fresh vegs