Safe Survival Canning

This is a guest post by Bonnie of Opportunity Farm Eastern WA

As a long-time Master Food Preserver, I applaud the recent interest in canning for long-term survival. However, I am appalled at the recklessness of those who think that anything that is commercially canned can be safely canned at home.

People who post instructions on-line for the home canning of bacon, butter, milk, lard, pickled eggs, refried beans, pumpkin puree, bread, and cake, without warnings about possible problems, are doing their readers a grave disservice. Home canned food that could make family members ill or even kill them is not a good survival tactic.

Many of those people say their methods are safe because, after all, they’re alive, aren’t they? It’s good to remember this truism: Past performance does not guarantee future results.

But, people ask, why are commercial canners able to safely can these foods but I can’t?

The answer to that is equipment. At home, we can’t do things with the rapidity of the commercial canneries; the food can cool too much. We also can’t get consistently high temperatures for many foods, especially the dense ones. And in spite of the faster processing, even commercially canned foods can still end up contaminated with botulism toxin.

Botulism toxin thrives in moist, airless, low-acid environments. The only way to kill the botulism spores while canning is to heat the contents of the jars to 240 degrees F. Because water boils at 212 degrees F. at sea level, and never gets any hotter, pressure canning with steam is a must. Steam under pressure can bring the temperature of the food in the jar up to 240 degrees.

Thick foods, such as refried beans, pumpkin puree, and even pickled eggs, are too dense to safely can at home. It’s easy to can beans and pumpkin chunks safely. They need only to be mashed when you are ready to use them.

Vegetables that are pickled in the modern way with vinegar, as opposed to fermentation, should be briefly processed in a water bath canner, or stored in the refrigerator. Pickled eggs should always be stored in the refrigerator. Neither water bath nor pressure canning pickled eggs are solutions. There are no tested recipes for canning pickled eggs.

Are modern pickled eggs any different than the pickled eggs that were a feature of old saloons? Not substantially. The main difference is that the saloon patrons usually ate those eggs within a few days. We are so used to the idea of keeping food around at room temperature that we forget how many of those foods are kept “fresh” with chemical food preservatives.

High-fat foods such as bacon, butter, and lard pose a different problem. The fat can protect botulism bacteria from being killed by the high heat of a pressure canner. The bacteria can then be shocked by the heat into producing the botulism toxin.

Canned cakes are perennial favorites of the “anything can be canned” bunch. Not only do they meet the botulism criteria of being moist, low acid, and airless, the center of the cake just doesn’t get hot enough to kill botulism. It doesn’t matter if the oven temperature is 350 degrees; the internal temperature will not get anywhere near 240 degrees.

The same holds true for bread. It’s much better to bake your cakes and breads fresh rather than depend on dubious canned baked goods. (I am not referring to fruit cakes that are sold in decorative tins. Those are preserved with alcohol, not canning.) If you feel you must preserve baked goods for the long term, put them in the freezer.

There are some foods that seem like they should be safe to can, but are not recommended. Milk is one of these. It is not dense, nor is it high in fat, but there are no official guidelines for canning milk at home. It might be perfectly safe, but no one really knows. It is incredibly expensive to test canning recipes and apparently no one has ponied up the money to pay for the testing.

A good rule of thumb is if there are no recipes available in trusted canning guides, then either no tests have been done, or it has been tested and found unsafe. Either way, it is safer to preserve the food some other way, use it fresh, buy a commercially canned product, or do without.

Another common error is to think that if the lid is sealed, that is, being held down by the vacuum in the jar, then all is good. That is true as far as mold and other bacteria go. But remember, botulism likes a vacuum. It is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. Correct canning procedures are the only guarantee that your home canned foods will be safe. Make sure you follow ALL the instructions for canning, including adjusting time or pressure for your elevation.

In spite of being a common bacteria, botulism poisoning is extremely rare. The main danger with the botulism toxin is that it damages nerves. In fact, the military considers it to be a biological weapon. There is no cure. If the anti-toxin is taken soon enough, the damage can be halted, but never reversed. The nerve damage causes severe health problems and can shorten one’s life.

Does this mean that home canned food is teeming with botulism? Not at all. Safely canning food at home is a simple matter. Just follow the instructions and recipes that can be found in canning guides such as the Ball Blue Book and So Easy to Preserve, published by the Cooperative Extension/The University of Georgia. The Extension website – National Center for Home Food Preservation – is www.uga.edu/nchfp. It’s loaded with safe recipes. Handouts from your state Extension office are usually available for free or a small fee.

If you have questions about food preservation, Extension employees can usually get you in touch with a Master Food Preserver.

Note M.D. adds – I reccomend the” Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving“, it’s easy to understand with good illustrations and tasty recipes… 

Agree, disagree have anything to add please do so in the comments below…

Comments

  1. I wish that someone would assemble a book, aimed at advanced home canners, with all the research that has been done about the products that are not recommended for home canning. It could be called, “Why you can’t can…”

    Obviously instead of recipes each chapter would go into detail about exactly what was tried, and the reason each thing failed. They could talk about how no matter how long they pressure cooked a jar of refried beans they just couldn’t get the temperature in the middle to reach 240. They could talk about how although they were able to get a jar of pesto in oil to reach the proper temperature, the texture was completely ruined, making the end result inedible. I would thoroughly enjoy such a guide, for the history of it all.

    • I agree, Jimmy. I, too, would love to read such a book. It could also have a chapter on “When good canning goes bad”. For example, I canned a couple of quarts of pumpkin chunks with my last sweet pumpkin awhile back. One of the quarts looks beautiful, all orangy and such. The other quart, well, let’s just say it isn’t as vibrant as the first. Which makes me wonder if it’s safe to eat.

      • I always stuck to my Grandmothers advice. “When in doubt throw it out.”

        • OhioPrepper says:

          IMHO that’s good advice. Theoretically you can deactivate botulism toxin by cooking it; however, unless it’s your last can of food and you’re starving, I’d follow Grandmothers advice.

          • HP & Ohio,

            Grandmother’s advice sounds sound. Think I’ll follow it. It just irks me, because it was the same pumpkin, the jars were both sterilized, both canned in the same batch. I simply can’t get over the difference. BUT, I think the brownish pumpkin is destined for the compost heap.

  2. Curious, what about canning Ghee (clarified butter) ? With the fat solids removed from the butter, should that not make it safe?

    • Thats what I was wondering.

      • I guess we don’t get an answer on this AJ. =)

        • Tony, I’ve read articles on canning butter. I would imagine if it works for butter, it would work for ghee. Although I think I would just can the butter and make the ghee after with the canned butter.

          • LindaG-

            There are commercially canned ghee products out there claiming an indefinite shelf life. Canning butter requires you to melt it to get it into the jars. If you are going to melt it, why not just finish the next step and clarify it before canning it? =)

            So, no response from the Master Food Preserver? That’s too bad.

            Oh well, to the kitchen! There are experiments to be done!

  3. Great, timely post. We decided to put in a small garden this year and will probably want to can some of the produce. This is good info to have.

  4. Great article! Canning is truly a lost art. My Grandmother passed some knowledge down to my mother who passed none along to me. I suspect I am among the vast majority of U.S. citizens.

    We’ve canned some tomato juice but have frozen everything else. What I really need is an in depth class in canning. It’s one thing to read it but it’s another thing to actually see it AND to do it.

    Sounds like a good entrepreneurial opportunity for someone who wants to make a few extra bucks! Once a week canning classes for $20/class!

    • I agree with GA Mom, I need to learn by watching it done AND reading about it. I wouldn’t dare attempt canning on my own without a mentor.

  5. I stick with the recipes in the Ball book. As a cook, I modify recipes all the time. But when canning, changing the recipe can change the acidity or another factor and make it unsafe. Practice safe canning!

  6. I think all safety measure’s should be followed in home canning for two reasons. First who wants to get sick from the food they eat and who wants to waste very good money and food.
    The pickled eggs of olden times were not around on the bar for months or years. They were gobbled up and more made. And the beer and whiskey probably helped keep the patrons from keeling over with food poisening. The tradition in my late husbands family was to make pickled eggs for Easter. And they pickled them in Vinagar and beets. And I don’t remember them being refrigerated.
    I also don’t remember jelly or jam being water bathed. And I remember a lot of women using wax to seal them. I don’t think I would water bath a waxed sealed jar.
    And for sure I know you can process peaches without water bathing them. My mother and Aunts never did and we survived. And the one’s I canned never made anyone sick. BUT, we did what we called hairy peaches (a thing from being a kid and you could look into the jar and where the pit was in the peach had little stringy things and the glass of the jar made them look hairy). They were peeled, pitted then put to cook in sugar to make either light or heavy syrup. WE COOKED THE PEACHES and put them in hot sterile jars,sterile meaning the jar was washed very clean and I dipped the jars in the water of the boiling bath canner when the peaches were about ready to put in the jars.
    And there is a thing called COMMON SENSE. There is a reason for guidelines in canning. Don’t think you became smarter than you are. The cleanest you can be is the best. Case in point, I didn’t have a dish rag to use for wipeing the rim of the jar. So I took a clean washrag and boiled it along with the lids to use.
    I did water bath 99 percent of my canning. ONLY MAKES SENSE.
    I am going to try pressure canning this year, well if I can afford the pressure canner. My families diet revolves around hamburger dishes so think I will do hamburger.

    • Jim Murphy says:

      Ellen,
      If cost is an issue, start off small.
      We picked up an 8 qt. pressure canner at a box store for $40.00. I picked up a small metal trivet with holes in it to go in the bottom of the canner at an ACE Hardware, since the canner didn’t come with one. It keeps the glass jars off the bottom of the canner so they won’t crack while processing the food. The trivit cost about $2.25. For less than $50.00, you could be pressure canning. You can do between 4 and 5 quart jars at a time and I think about 6 pint jars at a time. We did all our non-acidic canning in this. We did several quarts of chili and sloppy joe and are happy with the results.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        My mother used to do a lot of canning, but I don’t ever remember her canning any meat or milk products. She canned sliced peaces, cherries, pears, apple sauce, and other fruits from her own orchard. She was meticulous. She was adament that every tool and jar be boiled for a few minutes before use. She carefully wiped the rim of each jar with a boiled dish cloth, usually a brand new one. She had a few clean dish towels (flour sack type) that she used for straining her jelly before canning it. She didn’t like seeds or pulp in her jelly jars. Then she would listen for the lids to “pop” as the jars cooled. Any jar lid that did not set up properly would be set aside and the contents would be used immediately.

        She NEVER canned anything larger than a quart jar because the core temperature had to reach a certain temperature for safety. ( I presume it is the 240F that Bonnie stated in her excellent article.) I’ve read on other blogs that some people are using gallon jars for their canning. That sounds very risky, and I would leave that large size to the professionals.

        I believe my mother didn’t can meats because she just didn’t want to take the chance with her family’s health in the balance. She always erred on the side of caution. Instead of canning meats, she would make jerky. We loved jerky from venison, antelope, and beef. My father made an outdoor jerky dryer, we didn’t use a dehydrator or the oven. The sun dried the thin strips of salted & peppered meat inside the box. Seems to me the summers were warmer in the 1950s, but I could be mistaken. (lol, that’s for Al Gore).

        There is no way I’m going to try to learn to can foods. That is not a skill I have any interest in learning. I will be happy to pick the fruit and carry the bushel baskets and slice up the fruit or whatever else is asked of me, but I do not trust myself to be meticulous enough to do the job. I would never want to poison anybody due to my poor job of canning.

        If you buy commercially canned goods as I do, be sure to throw out any can that is bulging, severely dented, leaking, or rusty.

        When in doubt, throw it out. That’s a slogan I can LIVE with.

        • I don’t like dish rags as I tend to use bleach a lot in washing the dishes (by hand alas no dishwasher) and they rot. I use those handiwipe things and cut them in half to use. When they get awful no matter how little or how much they are used in the trash they go.
          My mother never canned meat, but I believe that is because she did not have the utensils and pressure canner to do so. But she sure as heck could can other things. I believe her and dad would eat just about anything and she made relishes (?chutney and another name they called the stuff?) and piled it on top of beans. You couldn’t see the beans. They should have just ate it out of the jar.
          Mom told all the horror stories of canning. She made sure we knew about that. She also told stories when she used her pressure cooker and how if you weren’t really careful they could blow.
          My mom told us a lot of stuff. She told us about the bulgeing cans. My favorite story is when we live in this tiny house, the kitchen and living room were one, BUT it had a pantry. We were standing in it when she reached up and grabbed a can of evaporated milk. She looked at me and said you know how to tell when the milk is no good? She checked the can for dents, bulges and then shook it. She said if it don’t slarch around in the can it ain’t no good.
          Another thing I remember very clearly, is she could do the dishes in the hottest water around. I remember it best one canning season. Her hands looked like lobster claws they were so red. But them jars had steam coming off of them even in the hot summer canning season.
          Lint Picker you should try canning on a small scale. Water bathing is easy. All of it is just time consuming.
          Jim, I am planning on getting something where ever I find it.

          • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

            Ellen, I did can some Bing Cherries one summer with my mother. She thought it was funny that her youngest son was canning with her, yet neither of her daughters wanted to do it. I was glad to get an idea of how to can, but I would never do it again without the sound advice of my mother. She died 7 years ago, so I won’t be canning anything again.

            I did enjoy very much the fact that I had canned those cherries and they looked so good sitting in the pantry until I finished off the last jar of them. They turned really dark, but they tasted great even 3 years later.

            Anyhow, your mom sounds a lot like mine. My mom was born in 1913 and died in 2004, and she was truly a remarkable woman. She could fish, shoot, can, clean, sew, and everything else a woman from her era could do. Sadly, my sisters learned to do none of these things despite my mother’s attempts to teach them. They may live to regret their choices.

            Thanks for the walk down memory lane, I enjoyed your comments very much.

      • I bought the largest pressure canner available (it can handle two levels of pints jars and it weighs a lot). But to actually cut and prep enough veggies or fruit to fill it would take way too long, so I have only made 6-7 pints at a time. I really like your idea of a smaller canner with a simple rack in the bottom.

  7. Thanks for the article. I haven’t canned anything in quite some time and was planning on canning a few things this year. Time to rethink the methods.

  8. Very good piece. I think many need to consider that canning is not the only way to preserve food, even in a survival situation. The note to bake from scratch is a good suggestion. Flour, sugar, etc. can be safely stored for long periods and used as needed to prepare dishes. This article really drives home the need to quit thinking about current methods of achieving things which are all very centrally driven and controlled and start looking at developing proper conditions outside the box in your own home.

  9. Mother Earth says:

    I’ve been canning for many years, started in my mother earth days when I wanted only the best for my kids after reading the fda regulations for insects/rodent hairs in food. Yes, they do set a limit! A little warning here…once you start, there is no going back! It tastes so much better! I can green beans, tomato juice, tomato sauce and salsa, apple sauce, peaches, pickles, fruit jams (peach, blueberry & blackberry). I also make strawberry freezer jam. I also make vegetable soup, but leave out corn and add it when I heat it up since I have tons (corn) in the freezer. Running a pressure canner for 90 minutes is not my idea of fun. The beans and soup are pressure canned, the rest water bath. Cleanliness is a must of course and I have never made anyone sick (knock on wood here). I would recommend the Ball Canning Book also.

  10. Candy from Nebraska says:

    Bonnie ,
    I agree with your article but I also have to disagree. I use the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, I also use my mother in laws canning book that the ole farmers and ranchers in the state have written over the years. ( approx.. 150 yrs ) and these recipes have not been proven by extension governmental offices. These recipes have been used and reused over these years. Governmental Extension offices are the ones who one year say it is unhealthy to eat eggs and a few years later say they are good for you. We all have our opinions and use what we feel is safe, but I refuse to go by what a Governmental Extensional Office insists on. A Master Food Perserver,to me is someone who has done perserving for a lot of years not someone who takes a program from an extension office. It take experience and a lot of it.
    I am not meaning any insult to you or anyone else that thinks a Certificate makes them professional. I am sorry but to me it is just another piece of paper. I will stick to the old time methods and ask questions when needed.

    • The Ball Blue Book follows the advice of the USDA. It’s a good idea to compare your old recipes with modern ones & update them where safety is an issue.

      It was not Extension that gave (stupid) diet advice about eggs. Extension does not give diet advice, just food preservation & cooking advice. However, they will warn about the possibly (extremely low with home-grown eggs) of salmonella in raw & undercooked eggs.

      God bless,
      Bonnie
      Opportunity Farm
      Eastern WA

    • AMEN Candy! Living in the “bush” where there are no refers everything was put in jars meat included, and there was no phone or extension office to consult. People get sick from eating mexican crapped on lettuce far quicker!

  11. Thanks for the info! I do think that you also left out one very important aspect of the canning lids. People don’t realize that the lids center cannot be reused. And you are absolutely correct, there is so much on canning out there that people don’t realize that there is a chance of botolusim.

  12. Bonnie –
    Great post!
    I agree with you that the people who are posting “creative” canning stuff are doing their readers a great disservice by not including a warning or caveat.

    I believe by this coming fall (201) we are going to see the largest outbreak of botulism in home canned food since 1974.

    That said, your recommendation about local extension offices is probably not going to help too many people.

    Fact of the matter is most extension offices have no knowledgeable person on staff to answer basic canning questions or to test pressure gauges.
    That’s because the USDA is too busy helping out their buddies at Monsanto, ADM & Con Agra crowd to be bothered to use OUR TAX DOLLARS for us.
    Every spring my mailbox if full of queries and stories about local extension offices throughout the US. who could not help people with the most basic canning information.
    My current favorite example of “your tax dollars at work” is the certain state extension office ignorantly telling people that Tattler Reusable Canning Lids are unsafe. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    My own local extension office here in western Pennsylvania has no one to answer questions about home canning – but they do have 3 people on staff to deal with “food safety” issues due to contaminated grocery store items, raw milk and restaurant food.
    At the end of the day Bonnie – you just can’t save people from themselves – but you sure can try :-)
    Good job!

  13. Bonnie –
    Great post!
    I agree with you that the people who are posting “creative” canning stuff are doing their readers a great disservice by not including a warning or caveat.

    I believe by this coming fall (2011) we are going to see the largest outbreak of botulism in home canned food since 1974.

    That said, your recommendation about local extension offices is probably not going to help too many people.

    Fact of the matter is most extension offices have no knowledgeable person on staff to answer basic canning questions or to test pressure gauges.
    That’s because the USDA is too busy helping out their buddies at Monsanto, ADM & Con Agra to be bothered to use OUR TAX DOLLARS for us.
    Every spring my mailbox if full of queries and stories about local extension offices throughout the US. who could not be bothered to help people with the most basic canning information.

    My current favorite example of “your tax dollars at work” is the certain state extension office that is ignorantly telling people that Tattler Reusable Canning Lids are unsafe.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    My own local extension office here in western Pennsylvania has no one to answer questions about home canning – but they do have 3 people on staff to deal with “food safety” issues due to contaminated grocery store items, raw milk and restaurant food.

    At the end of the day Bonnie – you just can’t save people from themselves – but you sure can try :-)
    Good job!

  14. How do you know if a jar is clean enough?
    I came across some jars for free, but they had dried residue of food on them that turned out to be difficult to remove, even using a dishwasher, so I opted to discard most of them.

    I still wonder, How do you know if a jar is clean enough?

    Generally with food I prefer the slogan, “when in doubt, throw it out.”

    I had to look up botulism poisoning, I did not know that’s why you shouldn’t feed infants honey.

    It seems to me that survivalist should probably know the symptoms of botulism poisoning.

    I also found this and wondered what exactly are they taking about with regards to potatoes in aluminum foil, and tomatoes?:

    “Other sources of infection include garlic or herbs[9] stored covered in oil without acidification,[10] chilli peppers,[11] improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminium foil,[11] tomatoes,[11] and home-canned or fermented fish. … Potatoes which have been baked while wrapped in aluminum foil should be kept hot until served or refrigerated.” – Wikipedia

    • Clark –
      As long as the jar is reasonably clean you’ll be okay.
      The temperature inside a pressure canner will reach in excess of 238F. and will kill all bacteria .

      If you have to remove stuck on food particles inside your jars, soak the jars in baking soda and water warm and them gently scrub them with a general purpose scouring pad.
      Never throw out a good intact jar :-(

      Unfortunately the symptoms of botulism are sometimes confused with other maladies and can be delayed.
      With food borne botulism systems can present within 6 hours or up to 7 days after the food has been ingested.
      Muscle weakness extending down the body – upper body to lower body; double vision, respiratory failure and paralysis are all classic symptoms. In babies constipation can be the first symptom.
      As long as you follow a tested recipe and your equipement is in good working order you will be safe.
      I have never known anyone to be harmed by home canned food – but I’ve known plenty of people made sick from restaurant and grocery store food.

      • When I said I discarded the jars, I meant I gave them to Goodwill thinking others might have a use for them. I kept some, and now I’m glad I did.

        I too have never known anyone to be harmed by home canned food – but I’ve known plenty of people made sick from restaurant and grocery store food. Since I started avoiding fast food two years ago I have yet to be sick, period.

    • “Potatoes which have been baked while wrapped in aluminum foil should be kept hot until served or refrigerated.” – Wikipedia”

      There was 1 case (that I know of) of a young man who got botulism poisoning from a baked potato that had been cooked in aluminum foil. The potato was not unwrapped & was left on the counter overnight. When he got home from school the next day, he unwrapped the potato & started to eat it. That was his last memory for a very long time. He wrote a fascinating account of his experience. I’ll post a link when I locate it.

      No one really knows if it was being wrapped in the aluminum foil that caused the toxin to be produced. One food expert I respect thought it might have been because the holes poked in the potato (we all poke holes in them, don’t we?) re-sealed. Because the potato stayed warm for a long time in the foil, the toxin could grow.

      I don’t bake potatoes in foil, but just to be safe I cut leftover baked potatoes in half before I refrigerate them.

      God bless,
      Bonnie
      Opportunity Farm
      Eastern WA

      • The toxins are metabolic byproducts of the bacterium’s ongoing metabolism. If the conditions are right for it’s growth in an anaerobic (low or no oxygen) environment you will get the toxin. It doesn’t matter whether it was in aluminum foil or not.

        When the conditions for life don’t exist then the bacterium forms a spore. The spore will come to life once conditions supportive of it’s life cycle occur. The reason you need the 240 degree temperature is to destroy the spore(s). The bacterium is killed at a far lower temperature.

        God Bless
        Chemman
        BS Microbiology/Chemistry

      • We wrap potatoes in foil and cook them in the campfire, but we eat them right away, so I guess we are ok. I never thought about the hole-poking though. It makes sense.

  15. Canning is nice but, since my mother did not want us in the kitchen to “get in the way”, I never canned. We were also boys and there was no thought of teaching us to cook.

    I think that a way around that is by dehydrating food, safer and less of a learning curve. Meat becomes Jerky and with a few fruits – a meal.

    Canning also uses resources (lids and seals) that may not be around later.

    • I have canned for many years and just started dehydrating. I love the ease of the dehydrator – and now I dehydrate all of our leftover food, plus jerky – yum. I will still can tomatoes and green beans, but it is so much more work than the dehydrator.

  16. Mountain Rifleman says:

    You are, indeed, correct in warning about the hazard of canning in regards to botulism. It has been shown that botulism spores live after being subjected to a temperature of 221 degrees Fahrenheit for 100 minutes. (References: Smith LDS, Sugiyama H. Botulism: The Organism, Its Toxins, the Disease. Ed 2. Springfield, Ill: CC Thomas, 1988)

    Mountain Rifleman

    • OhioPrepper says:

      Clostridium Botulinum spores requires at least 240 degrees F for at least 4 minutes to be deactivated or an acidic pH of 4.6 or lower to retard growth. That’s why low acid foods must be pressure canned to ensure eradication of the spores, since boiling water can never exceed 212 F and in fact can be lower than 212.

      • This might sound dumb but, how do you test the PH? I know the strips are cheap but I have doubts about dipping them in my food.

        • OhioPrepper says:

          HP Bryce,
          The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. The most accurate way to measure Ph is with a meter. They run somewhere between $80.00 to well over $1000.00. Alternately, if you have a good multi-meter available, you may be able to find a pH probe and conversion table.
          As for the test strips, I just looked and most of them are designed for either aquarium or human medical uses, and only run from about 5-10. This is because most biological processes tend to run more alkali than acid. The only ones I found in my quick search that run over the entire pH range from 1-14 are graduated in increments of 1. That would mean that if the color for pH of 4 was showing, it could be 4.2 (safe) or 4.9 (unsafe). If you can find strips that measure down to at least 4.0 (or lower) and are in increments of .5 or less, these would probably work. You don’t have to dip them in your food, simply lay the strip on a plate and spoon a little of the liquid on it.

  17. I have enjoyed the different ideas about canning. Whenever I do get to can I use the Ball Blue Book and for pressure canning I follow instructions
    on my big Mirro Matic Pressure canner book. I have great respect for
    pressure canners. I grew up eating home canned food. We had a huge double canner, I think 8 quart on the bottom and 8 quarts on top part. and a smaller one which one day blew up, food all over the ceiling and what a mess. So I am kind of afraid of them and watch them very closely. I not only scald the jars before filling but I also have the lid flats in boiling water, take out with tongs and immediately put on the filled jars.
    I do not remember any of us getting sick from canned food. I do remember that if my mother was uncertain about a jar of tomatoes, juice etc. that she would put it in a pan and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. I used to always do green beans that way when I opened them. No problem since you are heating them anyway.
    I am hoping to find some tomatoes, peaches and plums at a farmers market and do some canning this fall. I do not have a place for fruit trees and a garden as I live in an urban area.

  18. Just curious… How many people have died from botulism from home canned goods? Any information on what they canned, when and how? Was the canning done properly or did they skip a step or two in the instruction book? Were they doing pressure canning or water bath canning?

    • In the United States, an average of 145 cases are reported each year according to the CDC. Of these, approximately 15% are foodborne, 65% are infant botulism, and 20% are wound.
      That means that each year less than 22 people get Botulism from food. Out of that less than 5% die. So that means that less than 2 people have died each year due to botulism out of a population of around 306,896,103 (census report). Out of those (less than 2) people, do we KNOW that they got sick from eating home canned food? Just something to think about when we hear the scary stories about canning at home.

  19. CalamityJ says:

    WOW! I went to the local library today and got the Complete Guide to Canning by Ball…got in the car and got a notification and see that it is on proper canning…pretty fitting!!

  20. As the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. I’ve become very ill many times from “approved” store bought foods, but never become sick from anything I’ve canned or preserved in other ways, sometimes using “approved” methods, and other times using the old ways and common sense. The extension service changes its recommendations with the wind. Common sense goes a very long way in keeping one healthy. People used to know, just using common sense and information passed on throughout the generations, not to eat food straight from the jar. It must be boiled well for at least 10 minutes, or they wouldn’t eat it. The way the natives used to preserve fish and meat was safe. It wasn’t until they began trying to mix the old and the new, using plastic buckets that they began having problems. How long has aluminum foil been around? Not long enough to call anything being done with it in the way of food preparation a “traditional” old method. I’m not saying everything the extension service says is wrong. But the people making their claims don’t have the knowledge or experience to correctly say that the old ways are unsafe. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, without a pressure canner and the electricity or gas to make one work properly, and without the government to guide us in their “infinite wisdom”, it would be prudent to know how to take care of food the way our ancestors did.

    • At least one person on Yahoo’s Canning2 list is using a pressure canner on a wood-burning stove, so pressure canning definitely does not require electricity or gas.

      Regarding the “old ways” of preserving food, my grandfather used to tell us that the “stomach flu” during the winter would carry off a lot of people – the elderly, the sickly, etc. It was something that everyone took for granted. Along comes electricity, with fridges and freezers instead of the old ways of keeping food, and suddenly almost no one got the “stomach flu” anymore.

      I think it’s easy to become nostalgic about the old ways, but the generation that passed on in the 1980s would recall differently – a lot of people died from “stomach flu” before the modern preserving methods.

      • I live in the bush without electricity or a gas stove. We cook on a woodburning cookstove and haul our water from a spring or a creek. I know quite well that a gas or electric stove is not a requirement, but I also know that it cannot be done over a campfire, and you’ll go through a bunch of propane trying to pressure can with a camp stove. Learning the old ways may save your life someday. I live the “old ways” on a daily basis, so I’m not being nostalgic. I’m speaking from first hand experience. Many who passed on in the 1980’s that you refer to were the same ones who had gotten used to all the modern medicine and all the modern conveniences that they tried to combine with the old. It’s unhealthy and dangerous when the Natives here try it (I’ve seen some die trying), and it was dangerous for the folks of that generation you referred to,as well.

        I’m not at all saying that the information from the extension service is wrong. Neither do I necessarily believe that they are correct when they say something is safe or say something is dangerous. I have seen them be totally wrong way too many times to blindly follow. If the only way that I have available to me to preserve food, be it meat, vegetables, or rendered fat, then I will do it over an open fire in a boiling water bath if I have to. It isn’t ideal, and it poses risks, but so does eating rotten food or starving to death. I’ll take the lesser of the evils, and to me, that means learning and practicing the old ways. Again, I’m not saying to toss out what the extension service says about canning. I use a pressure canner, and I use the Ball book, but it’s not the end all. I also can butter every year, and have used it safely for many years. It’s either can it, eat rancid butter, or go without it for many months at a time because we have no access to grocery stores without chartering a plane. There are no roads here. If we listened to everything the extension service and other agencies say about what’s safe and what’s not, then my family and I would live in fear and starve to death or die of other causes.

  21. The brainwashing wore off... says:

    Excellent article and very timely. I have been bouncing around the idea of canning but due to fear poisoning my family, I haven’t taken the plunge. I keep reading comments about people canning meats and all I can say is you are a braver soul than me!

    Growing up I watched my mom can, but I she never canned anything other than tomatoes and jellies (she was also afraid of botulism). She felt safe canning tomatoes because high acid foods inhibit the toxin. Based on what I have read, it is the combination of acid, time and temperature that kills the bacteria. I think to be safe anything canned should be boiled for at least 10 minutes (though some web sites say 30 minutes!). Maybe someone can clarify this.

    I agree with Michael C- dehydration seems easier and probably cheaper, although your food choices would be more limited.

    • Actually, meats are the easiest thing to can. They require the least amount of preparation. You can raw pack or hot pack. I prefer to hot pack as it produces a much more visually appealing final product. I don’t like jars that look like science experiments!

      Canned meats I currently have in my pantry:
      Meatballs
      Diced Chicken
      Shredded Chicken
      Shredded Beef
      Ground Beef
      Barbecue Pork
      Turkey
      Ham
      Various soups and stews that have meat
      Spaghetti sauce with ground beef

      Don’t be afraid of canning meats! Just follow the procedures and pressure can for 90 minutes. Pressure canning turns the toughest piece of meat into a melt-in-your-mouth tender delight.

  22. Bonnie, Thanks for the great post. We had a good garden this last year and canned 100 qts of tomatoes, 130 qts of green beans, 40 pints of corn 30 1/2 pints of carrots and I forgot how many pints of beets and pickles. My wife followed the Ball Canning book intsructions and so far everything has been great but then we usually make soups or stews and I always make sure it has boiled good. Now my worry is with pureed pumpkin because thats how she prepared it. She made one pie with her canned pumpkin and it was O.K. (kinda thin for my like, I prefer store canned). But lately she’s been threatening to make another. Now you got me worried. If you can’t tell by the seal being lost, or you can’t tell by any look or smell, then I guess I’m better off not eating it. I’ll show her your post. Thanks.

  23. Great post, thank you! There have been so many posts about canning meat I thought I had forgotten something crucial from my canning days in the 70s or there had been some big change in thought on food poisoning. We never canned meat, too scary. I plan to get back into canning this summer and your advice will be taken to heart. Will be buying a Ball canning guide and taking a class with our extension office (we have excellent ag support in our area).

  24. preppergirl says:

    Sure wish I could find a Master Food Preserver course around here…only Master Gardener through my local Extension Office.
    Anyone know of any of these courses being offered in PA, MD, DE, NJ, VA ….

  25. So what do you think of the article in Backwoods Home about canning bacon? (Jan/Feb 2011 issue #127) She laid raw bacon on brown paper (masking paper from a hardware store, or suggests parchment paper), rolled them up, put into jars, and canned for 90 minutes at 10lbs. The slices cooked up in 3 minutes for the ‘breakfast test’, and were deemed “the epitome of a convenience food”.

    Another thing I keep wondering is – wasn’t preservation the entire point of smoking bacon and hams? How come that doesn’t work anymore?

    One last canning question – if a person is allergic to peppers, is it truly unsafe to leave them out of the official Ball recipes for things like meat sauce and vegetable stock? It doesn’t seem to me that tweaking recipes to be pressure canned (as long as texture is same, i.e. no puree) should be an issue.

    • I know that it’s painful to throw food out, but you should throw out any home-canned pumpkin puree. It is not safe. In the future, can it in chunks and puree it when you need it. My mom made the mistake of canning some pumpkin puree a couple of years ago, and I fed it all to her chickens last summer.

  26. I like my home canned butter. Is there a simple/cheap test for Botulism toxin that I could run before eating it (or anything else for that matter)?

  27. I’ve canned tomatoes and peaches with the help of my mother. I’ve done jam on my own, as well as smoked fish. The only thing I have to add is that the best home canner, in my opinion, is an All American Pressure Canner. Instead of having to have an in-shape rubber gasket on hand, all you need is a jar of vaseline to use on the metal-to-metal lid of the canner. I love it!

    • OhioPrepper says:

      Brenda,
      I’ve been canning with an old Mirrobatic for more than 30 years, and I’m starting to have problems finding gaskets. Do the new All Americans use the oiled metal to metal connection or is yours also an older canner.

      • I think they all do. I got mine at a local outdoors store about seven years ago, I think.
        Here is a link to one place that sells them online. They are kind of spendy, but considering you never have to struggle to find a gasket again, I think it’s worth it. I have the 20 quart model, and I love it.
        My mom has an older canner, and she got an All American probably 15 years ago to replace it because she had a similar problem of finding gaskets.
        Here’s the link:

        http://www.allamericancanner.com/allamericanpressurecanner.htm

        • OhioPrepper says:

          Brenda ,
          Thanks (He says drooling). I need to start saving my pennies. These look pretty good.

  28. John brown says:

    My granny canned her butt off! She’s gone now unfortunately many of us younger generation lack these skills. However, through your blog it’s peaked an interest in me. I think I’m gonna get all of granny’s old jats and pressure cooker and rekindle some worthwhile childhood memories. (Make fer sum good eatin later too!). Thankyou all for your posts.

    • One note: Be careful with those old jars. If they are really old, you might consider replacing them. It’s kind of rough to work so hard to can, only to have the jar break during the process.
      Also, if you do decide to use them, make sure that you wet your finger and run it along the lip of each jar. You have to check them for tiny chips, because even a tiny sliver can cause the jar not to seal properly. Again, a lo tof work for food you have to end up freezing or eating sooner than you would like.
      Have fun!

    • Remember to take the lid to the extension service and have it test to see how far off the gauge is off if it has a gauge. Mom’s old canner is off 2 pounds so we a two pounds when using it.

      • I’ve been talking to the kids again!
        Remember to take the lid to the extension service and have it tested to see how far off the gauge is, if it has a gauge. Mom’s old canner is off two pounds so we add two pounds when using it.
        Okay, I think this makes more sense!

  29. SrvivlSally says:

    Thank you for speaking about the Botulism toxin because it really is a serious issue for everyone. My mother, grandmother and other mother’s of my family’s line have always canned their own foods so they pretty much know the in’s and out’s of it, what is safe and what is not. They always took safety, sanitation and other things into account. No one, down through the years, has ever become ill from any type of poisoning, one way or another. Guess they have always done something right.

  30. I have had so many questions about canning my own food. You are right also there are a lot of websites that claim to offer tips like they know what they are doing, and they are only setting you up for disaster. If you don’t do it right, you could kill your whole family in a survival situation by getting them all deathly sick. Great article, loads of useful information that any survivalist could use. Canning is very important. Especially with the coming times.

  31. Luddite Jean says:

    I’ve been making home pickled eggs for over 40 years, they get stored for up to 6 months, and I’ve never, ever had anyone get ill from them. Are people using the correct strength vinegar? Pickling vinegar is at least 7% (10% is better), whereas modern table vinegar and cider vinegar are only around 3%.

    Perhaps that is the problem? The vinegar isn’t strong enough.

    Most people in this country (UK) use the oven for canning, except for high-temperature preserves such as jams and jellies, which are just simply poured into warmed jars.

    It IS important to be aware of botulism, but we need to get it in perspective.

    • Using the oven for canning is definitely not recommended. High acid foods need to be waterbathed, and low acid foods must be pressure canned.

      • Luddite Jean says:

        Not recommended by whom? Here’s a quote from the NHS website:
        “Botulism is relatively rare in the UK. There have only been 33 recorded cases of food-borne botulism in England and Wales since 1989. Twenty-seven of these were linked to a single outbreak that was caused by contaminated hazelnut yoghurt.”

        The hazelnut yoghurt incident was caused by contamination of a commercial product, which leaves 6 cases to unstated agents. Even if all 6 were due to home-canning (which I doubt), that’s 6 in 22 years. That’s less than one every 3 years!

        Mostly, I just hot fill jars, as does everyone else I know (unless I’m cold-pickling). I don’t know of a single recipe book in this country which uses water-bathing or pressure cooking. Actually, I’ve just realised I do know someone in this country who uses the water bath and pressure cooker methods. She’s American.

        • http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/general/equp_methods_not_recommended.html

          That link answers the question of who does not recommend oven canning or open kettle canning. Simply heating contents to boiling only brings them to 212 degrees, which is not enough to kill all bacteria. To be safe, you must use a water bath for high acid foods or a pressure canner for low acid foods. I am sure you and many others have been doing what you do for many years, and obviously you are still alive to tell about it, but open kettle canning has not been recommended for a long time. There are still people in the U.S. like my mother-in-law who do it, but I choose to follow the most current canning guidelines because I don’t want to take the chance of making my family sick or worse. YMMV.

    • It is important but not the only bacterial contamination that can incapacitate or kill you. Far more people are harmed by the toxins from Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli than from Botulism. In survival situations food safety is extremely important. So know how to store your foods.

      • Luddite Jean says:

        Certainly in the UK, those agents are almost exclusively found in commercial ready meals, supermarket meat, restaurant meals and takeaways.

        Even when I worked for Public Health in the NHS, 99.99% of our cases were from commercial foodstuffs. One case was from a drug addict’s house where the walls and floors were smeared with human and dog excrement. Not a single case from home preserves.

      • Luddite Jean says:

        Just for the record, I do know how to store foods, and also for the record, I have a UK degree in medical biochemistry and have worked in bacteriology, haematology, histology, forensics and pathology. (You work in all fields before you specialise.)

        I’ll retract my prickles now. :-)

  32. I am looking for a good quality pressure canner and would appreciate any suggestions you might have. I am just starting to learn how to can and need something that is going to be easy to learn with but will serve me for a lot of years. Any suggestions??

    • All American 921 is a good size for most people and will out last you :-)

    • shotzeedog says:

      I have the All American pressure canner and they are very expensive. I also bought a 16qt Presto pressure canner from Walmart for $65.00. I like the Presto because it uses a weight instead of a pressure gauge so it is much easier to use. You don’t have to be right there to baby sit the gauge for 90 minutes while canning meat as long as you are close by to hear the weight rocking and steaming away.

      • Shotzeedog,
        I, too, have a 16 qt. Presto, and I LOVE it. I looked at the American pressure canner…would have loved it, too, I’m sure. It was just WAY outside my price range. I also bought my Presto at WallyWorld, got it on sale for $53 w/tax!!! I just love the little “pfffhttt, pffhttt, pfffhttt, rattle, rattle, rattle” sound it makes. Call me crazy, but that sound actually puts a smile on my face :)

    • The All-American will last forever. I have always used a Presto and still have one. It has worked well, but it has parts that wear out and buying spares was going to cost almost as much as a new Presto. I just got an All-American, and it is heavy duty. It has an all metal-to-metal, no parts to replace. Mirro’s and Presto’s are more affordable, but they are also made in China these days, and the quality has gone down. The All-American is twice the money, but you will pass it down to your grandchildren. Also, no matter which brand you buy, buy one tall enough to double stack pints. My 23 qt Presto can do 19 pints at a time and is deep enough to waterbath quarts, so I had no need to buy a separate waterbath canner.

  33. I canned 6 quarts of chicken breasts a few weeks ago based upon a you tube video. I pressure (steam) canned for 1.5 hours at 11 pound of pressure. The results looked okay, but all of the cut up chicken had clumped together in the jar. Now I’m wondering if the “internal” part of the block of chicken reached the required temperature.
    I was always under the impression that the lids would eventually push back up if botchulism developed.

    • It sounds like you raw-packed it. As long as you kept it at the proper pressure for your elevation for 90 minutes, it will be fine, it just looks unappealing in the jar. This is why I like to hot pack meats. I boil them first until they are mostly cooked (maybe a little pink) and then pack loosely in jars, covered in broth. It looks a lot better that way.

      • Yes I raw packed it. I am going to pull out my Ball Canning Books and read them again (regarding meat), as I feel this is the area in “my” food storage that is the most lacking. We have a freezer full of meat, but what if the grid goes down. Buying canned meats is great, but expensive. I’m trying to learn a less expensive way to have meat available. Canning seems such a great option for storage.
        I really want to can ground beef as we use it for lots of recipes.
        Any hints? I watched another You Tube where the woman boiled the meat, then canned it in pints jars (l pound per jar). She poured boiling water into the jars as the fluid.

        • I canned some browned ground beef several months ago as a test. I cooked it and drained it very well (the less fat the better) and covered it in beef broth. After processing it is very soft and a bit too mushy for my taste. I think it will work well in a soup, but as taco meat or sloppy joe it is lacking in texture.

    • The bacterium responsible for the toxin releases gases as part of its metabolism. If enough of the bacteria are present you will get the high pressure push back. The problem is that you could have enough contamination and toxin even without the pressure build up so don’t count on the bulging cans and lids as your only indicator. Do your canning correctly and you shouldn’t have any problems.

  34. This is an age old argument and it’s been around for decades. You’ll get people who refuse to do it, and then there are those who are successful at it.

    My grandma is 97 years old in March. She’s been canning since she was a young girl. She’s canned meat and meat recipes and products for over 60 years. We grew up eating these very products. Sadly, I did not grow up canning and I’m newer to it, but I will stick to my grandma’s teachings. It’s just hard to beat 60 years of experience. To my knowledge, she never canned butter or milk products, but I’ll have to ask on that one.

  35. petecolorado says:

    “…food that could make family members ill or even kill them is not a good survival tactic”

    I love it.

    • From Wikipedia – “Between 1990 and 2000, the Centers for Disease Control reported 263 [only 263!] individual ‘cases’ from 160 foodborne botulism ‘events’ in the United States with a case-fatality rate of 4%. Thirty-nine percent (103 cases and 58 events) occurred in Alaska, all of which were attributable to traditional Alaska Native foods. In the lower 49 states, home-canned food was implicated in 70 (91%) events with Asparagus being the worst culprit. Two restaurant-associated outbreaks affected 25 persons. The median number of cases per year was 23 (range 17–43), the median number of events per year was 14 (range 9–24). The highest incidence rates occurred in Alaska, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. All other states had an incidence rate of 1 case per ten million people or less.[16]”

      One in TEN MILLION!

      I will second both of these comments:

      “It IS important to be aware of botulism, but we need to get it in perspective.”

      “My mother, grandmother and other mother’s of my family’s line have always canned their own foods so they pretty much know the in’s and out’s of it, what is safe and what is not. They always took safety, sanitation and other things into account. No one, down through the years, has ever become ill from any type of poisoning, one way or another. Guess they have always done something right.”

  36. Jim (toledo) says:

    Pressure canned 7 qts of beef stew about a month ago using the Ball blue book recipe, and ate the first quart tonight. I’ll let everyone know if I get botulism! :D

    P.S- It was delicious and tasted very similar to Dinty Moore.

  37. Great information! It’s good to be reminded and instructed! Thanks for sharing!

  38. Curious,
    You do not have to put peppers into you meat recipe. You do not have to follow the recipes exactly as giving. You can make substitutions or deletions in something that is going to be pressure canned. Go through the list of ingredients note the times for processing and size of jars you are going to use. Use the longest time for which ever ingredient, usually meat or corn. That is why commenter Mother Earth doesn’t pressure can corn but adds it latter to the dish.

  39. I grew up eating canned foods, including meats, and can a great variety of foods now, most of which have been mentioned by others. To all of you who vow to never can again because an elderly relative is gone, I encourage you to not let the memory of this skill die with you. Someone must keep learning and passing the skills along.

    I have a question. Just today I canned sloppy joe sauce with meat. This is my first attempt on this recipe. It is rather thick, much thicker than the pasta meat sauces I’ve done in the past. There are visible bubbles. The jars are still warm and bubbles are still rising so I don’t know yet how many, if any, will remain. After reading this article, I wonder if this particular recipe puts us at risk of sickness. I hot packed the food and processed the quarts for 90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure.

    What do you all think?

    • It depends what was in your recipe. I just canned some BBQ pork that is rather thick, having lost some of its liquid in processing, but I believe it will be fine. I will thoroughly heat the contents before I eat it, as I’m sure you will with the sloppy joe.

  40. Sorry it’s taking me so long to answer questions! In my defense, I do have a life away from the computer. :~)

    Instead of answering each question individually, I’m going to answer in “bunches” in a single post. So here’s my first “bunch.”

    Q – Is there a home test for botulism toxin?
    A – No. There is no way to test for the toxin expect feed it to an animal. If after say, 24 hours, the animal is still alive, then the food is safe to eat. A more simple procedure is to bring the canned food to a boil & boil for a minimum of 10 minutes. This is why I like to can meat & vegetables for soups & stews. I know it will be heated long enough & hot enough to kill any toxin.

    Botulism poisoning is rare, so if you feed it to an animal, the odds are that it won’t die. If botulism were no different than other food poisoning I wouldn’t worry about it. However, it doesn’t just make a person sick, it kills. Unsafe canning of meats & vegetables is like playing Russian roulette. It’s possible to get away with it, for years & maybe one’s entire life, but it takes only one time for the hammer to come down on a round – game over.

    Q – Why isn’t home-canned bacon safe?
    A- There has been no testing. The recipes one finds on-line have been made up by individuals who have not tested the products.

    Elizabeth Andress, the national head of Extension, recently sent out an e-mail to all Extension offices about home-canned bacon. The e-mail says, in part:

    “I am unaware of any appropriate testing that has been done to determine what the pressure processing time or temperature should be for bacon canned as a dry pack at home…Heat distribution during the canning process would be affected by the amount of fat in the bacon as well as the paper included around the pieces…If people choose to can bacon with the directions they find on the Internet, they would be assuming the risk themselves. I am not going to endorse or support these procedures that someone has made up at home…
    “We do not have recommendations for canning bacon at home, other than we recommend not doing it because there are no properly researched procedures.”

    Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D.
    Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist

    University of Georgia
    208 Hoke Smith Annex
    Athens, GA 30602-4356
    phone: (706) 542-3773
    fax: (706) 542-1979
    email: eandress@uga.edu
    web: http://www.homefoodpreservation.com

    Q – Canning in 1/2-gallon and 1-gallon jars.

    A- For food, only 1-quart and smaller jars have been tested. Canning fruit juice in 1/2-gallon jars is OK – process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes at sea level. Adjust for altitude. But few of us have the equipment to water-bath 1/2-gallon jars – the water must be at least 1-inch over the lids. I think Lehman’s sells these extra-large water-bath canners. Canning in 1-gallon jars is not recommended. The empty jars are great for storage. I buy honey in 1-gallon jars & re-use the jars for storing dried foods.

    Q – Canning on a wood-burning stove.

    A – No problem. Water-bath canning is, of course, the easiest, as the water only has to be kept boiling. Pressure canning is fine – just keep adding wood or moving the canner around on the stove-top. The pressure has to be kept even as fluctuations can result in improperly sealed or under-processed foods.

    Q – Problem finding gaskets for MirroMatic pressure canners.

    A – Check with Presto. As far as I know, they are the only company making replacement parts. Make the gaskets last longer by removing them from the lid after canning season, and wipe with a little bit of oil – any kind of oil will work as it never touches the food. Store the gasket in the canner – not in the lid. Also make sure the groove for the gasket is thoroughly cleaned out.

    Q – What are good-quality pressure canners?

    A – All canners being sold are good quality. However, All-American is the Cadillac of canners. They can be found 2nd hand fairly cheap, but even bought new they are a good deal because they can be handed down to future canners. Modern canning equipment won’t blow up like some of the old ones made before 1950. Just make sure the valves are clean.

    Because of the present difficulties getting dial gauges tested, I strongly recommend canners with weighted gauges. Dial gauges should be tested yearly, weighted gauges never need testing.

    Q – How to test for pH?

    A – There is no need. The pH of foods suitable for canning is printed in most – if not all – canning books. It can also be found on-line. Specific pH is not needed for home canning – just knowing if a food is high pH & must be pressure canned is enough.

    More Q & A later!

    God bless,
    Bonnie
    Opportunity Farm
    Eastern WA

  41. Here’s my 2nd “bunch” of answers/comments.

    Q – Canning ghee

    A – Ghee is a fat & so not a safe product for home canning. The solids are removed so the oil can be stored at room temperature – very much like olive oil, which is not canned. At room temperature, the worst that can happen to ghee is it could become rancid. Then, like yak butter, it could be used in primitive lamps. Wouldn’t smell too good, but would give some light. If your ghee goes rancid often, then you are making too much at one time. Store excess in freezer or refrigerator or make smaller batches.

    I would not trust any commercial canner that says its canned product has an “indefinite” shelf life. Commercially canned butter & cheese are not recommended to be stored for more than a few years. That’s what a commercial butter & cheese canner told me when I called a few years ago while doing research on the subject.

    Q – Bubbles in canned food that is still warm.

    A – That’s normal. The bubbles go on for a LONG time!

    Q – Canned ground beef too soft & mushy.

    A – That’s how I feel about canned chicken. Rabbit, pork, & beef chunks tend to stay firm. For ground beef, you might want to try different recipes. I particularly like the Seasoned Ground Beef recipe in the BBB & the Chili recipe at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/.

    Q – Canning meat is easy.

    A – I agree! Less prep than any other canned food.

    Q – Salmonella, e coli, etc. cause more harm than botulism toxin.

    A- Yes & no. There are many more cases of food poisoning by other bacteria than botulism. I know from personal experience. I have suffered from it a couple of times, once landing me in the emergency room. But, except for the young, elderly, or immune system compromised, these cases are seldom fatal. And the sufferer can usually recover. The problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that the botulism toxin damages nerves. There is NO cure for nerve damage. Also, botulism toxin is an equal opportunity killer. Survival mostly depends on how quickly the anti-toxin can be delivered.

    While I strongly encourage everyone to can food in a safe manner, I do not “demand” that anyone do so. Those who want to can butter, bacon, ghee, & other potentially problematic foods may do so. They can even use a steam canner (not the same thing as a steam pressure canner), water bath low-acid foods. or can food in the oven. That is their decision to make.

    All I ask is that they be aware of the dangers involved & warn the people to whom they feed these foods. Everyone should have the chance to make up their own minds about eating potentially hazardous food.

    A true story to end this batch of comments. A friend (who has an MA in food science) had an elderly couple for neighbors. The elderly woman canned her vegetables in a boiling water bath. She said she had canned them that way for nearly 50 years, and they were were still alive, as were her adult children, so she had no intention of changing her ways. It was the green beans she canned the 51st year that were a problem. She died, her husband ended up partially paralyzed & on a ventilator.

    God bless,
    Bonnie
    Opportunity Farm
    Eastern WA

  42. Well, you can’t can milk (it will spoil in less than 30 days, I’ve tried with all sorts of methods), but you can make cheese from it. You only need natural milk, some vinegar and salt.
    Boil the milk with salt, and add vinegar. The solid cheese will precipitate into “curds”, gather them with some fine cloth.
    Then, you can marinate it in very saline solution (like 2-3-4 tablespoons of salt per liter of water) and pack them densely. Cover the recipient, and store it in a cool, dry place.
    We store cheese like this in Eastern Europe for 2-3 or even up to 5 years. Just remember to desalinate it before consumption (soak a piece of cheese in water, with a slice of bread).
    Notes:
    * If you want to consume the cheese fast (like in less than 3-4 days), don’t use any salt .
    * Vinegar is also easy to make at home.

  43. I’d like to point out that boiling food does not destroy toxins. It might kill the bacteria, BUT if while in storage, there was bacteria in your food already and it produced toxins, if you boil it after taking it out of storage, you might kill the bacteria that are there, but the TOXINS will still remain.

    • While that is true about some toxins -staph, for instance, is highly heat resistant – it is not true of botulism. The toxin is killed by boiling for a minimum of 10 minutes at sea level.

      Here’s a link to CDC that will tell you more detail about botulism.

      http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/aip/research/bot.html

      God bless,
      Bonnie
      Opportunity Farm
      NE WA

  44. Shannon says:

    Thank you for your article. There needs to be more of these articles out there on the web. I have been a Master Food Preserve for 15 years and it still amazes me that we can tell people the SAFE way to can and they still go and do it unsafe anyway. In your piece you posted the Home Food Preservation website by the Cooperative Extension/The University of Georgia and in the comments section it is obvious that some folks did not go there to look up information. It is discouraging sometimes that the information falls on deaf ears. But we need to keep putting it out there! With all the new interest in canning there will be a rise in food born illnesses from home canning if people don’t do it safely. Again, Thank you for your post and Happy SAFE Canning!!!! :-)

  45. Cathleen says:

    The “canning rules” are established by extension offices and state universities through the USDA. Keep in mind, the top two goals of the USDA, per their own website are: “expanding markets for agricultural products and support international economic development, further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities.”
    They are primarily a marketing organization. There are “no tested recipes” for a great many products, because it is very expensive to do this testing, and it is in the food industries’ best interest for people to purchase perishable products from them on a regular and ongoing basis.
    In regards to the pumpkin puree debate, the USDA gave canning advice for that product until a few years ago, when a research paper showed it was theoretically possible that it was unsafe. No cases of botulism in pumpkin puree were reported, and no tests proved the theory. But now, the experts say it’s unsafe.
    Statistically, you are more likely to be hit and killed by a delivery truck while driving to a grocery store, than to suffer botulism poisoning. Will you stop driving to the grocery store?
    Be careful, be clean, and take ALL advice with a grain of salt, regardless of whether or not the person advising is an “expert” or not. (And look both ways for delivery trucks.)

  46. Bonnie says:

    You can can your food in any way you choose, but if you choose to use possibly unsafe methods, have the decency to warn others before you feed it to them. Let others make up their own minds if they want to take the same risks that you do.

    For those of us who have impaired immune systems, the risk of becoming ill from improperly canned or prepared food is higher.

    Years ago I knew a musician who refused to ride in my car because I didn’t have insurance. He said that if we were in an accident & his hands were damaged, he’d be up that certain creek we all know about. I thought he was overreacting at the time, but I no longer think so. We have to make up our own minds about what risks we are willing to tolerate.

    God bless,
    Bonnie
    Opportunity Farm
    NE WA