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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.
--Bobby Flay

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Where are the Canning Police When You Need Them? aka Darwinism At It's Finest

If you have been following this blog you will know I do a lot of home canning and that I share the safe methods for home canning.  All home canned foods must be properly processed for safe storage.  Low acid foods (eg. meats, fish, stews, soups, vegetables) must be processed in a pressure canner.  High acid foods (eg. jams, jellies, pickles, fruits) must be processed in a boiling water bath canner.  There are no ifs, ands or buts!   Older methods that your grandparents or parents used may no longer be safe to ensure a proper canned food that is shelf stable.  Oven canning aka open kettle canning or inverting the jars is no longer considered safe as neither method kills off existing bacteria or mold spores, nor do they denature any botulin toxin that may be present.

<rant> Yesterday, a post came down on one of the forums I follow to check out a blog where the author actually told her readers how to oven can tomatoes and that vegetables should be put into a boiling water bath.  Now this is just wrong on so many levels!  Not only is she giving dangerous advice that could cause someone to get quite sick or worse she is opening herself up to one or more lawsuits should someone follower her advice.  I don't care whether her mother, her aunt, her friends or anyone else used oven canning for thousands of years, it is still bad advice.  She erroneously claims the FDA is too strict on their home canning guidelines.  Hello!  Even as a Canadian home canner, I know it is the USDA not the FDA who has done the research and is the leading home canning expert.  Even if she oven canned tomatoes and cold vegetables in a boiling water bath herself she certainly should not be telling others to do so.  It is akin to giving a child an unlocked gun to play with!  Not only could she ultimately be responsible for someone's death she can and should be held liable!  Several from the forum left comments to indicate her advice could end causing illness or worse but she deleted them all which is entirely up to her.  I just hope we don't read in the news about illness or death caused by improper canning following this person's advice!  Honestly, she is practicing Darwinism at its finest!</rant>

The USDA has done a tremendous amount of research on home canning.  They do not approve or disprove anything but rather make recommendations based on the results of their research.  They may not recommend using a certain ingredient (eg. corn starch) or canning a certain food (eg. broccoli) because the resulting quality is less than acceptable.  They may not recommend canning a certain food (eg. thickened stew, pureed pumpkin) because it presents a safety issue as the heat cannot penetrate to the centre of the jar to ensure a safe product.  The problem is, the USDA does not disclose whether their recommendation is based on safety or quality. 

The best course of action is to follow all USDA recommendations with respect to food safety in home canning.  After all, the goal is to put a safe product on the table for you and your family.  That does not mean you cannot use older recipes or tweak flavours as long as it does not interfere with the safety of the final product.  For example, substitute white wine vinegar for white vinegar in a recipe to get a mellower flavour.  This is a perfectly acceptable substitution as long as the white wine vinegar you use is 5% acetic acid by volume.  In general, the exception being pickled products, salt is optional when home canning.  You don't need to add salt to something like green beans.  You can but you don't have to as this is a taste issue not a food safety issue.  Older recipes can be converted to be processed using current safe canning guidelines providing they are similar to recipes recommended by the USDA or tested recipes in the Ball Blue Book and Bernardin's Complete Guide to Food Preservation.  Keep the ratio of vinegar to low acid vegetables or when making a pickling brine the same if processing in a water bath canner.  Have fun canning and stocking your pantry but always, always, always put food safety first!

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