Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Little More about Food Safety when Home Canning

This should be my last post about food safety. I have covered that topic pretty well and it is time to move on.

One thing that I would like to point out, is that the high altitude instructions begin at just 1,000 feet. You don't have to live in the mountains to be that high. Even parts of Iowa are over 1,000 feet. Type your location followed by the word "elevation" into your search engine. You might be surprised.

The other thing that I would like to write about is unsafe canning methods. Here is a description of what NOT to do.

Open Kettle Method

The open kettle method was once a pretty common canning technique. Basically you boil your jars and all of the equipment that you are using, add the hot food, add the lids, and cross your fingers. I include crossing your fingers as one of the steps, because numerous studies have shown that the open kettle method is not very reliable.

Personally, I can remember my mother using this method when I was small. It was the times that she found spoiled food on the shelf that led her to decide that instead of just doing things the same way her mother had, she needed to read up on food safety and update her technique.

As somebody who sort of collects old cookbooks, I have several recipes that say, "pour into sterilized jars and seal." You even occasionally come across a new cookbook written by somebody who has obviously has not been keeping current with the research out there. I admit that I use these recipes, but I always update the canning instructions.

The Paraffin Wax Method

This method was once common for jams and Jellies. Unfortunately, it too is not a reliable method. Any jam recipe that says, "pour into sterilized jars and seal with paraffin wax." should be updated to, "Fill hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add lids and process in a water bath for 10 minutes."

Other Unsafe Methods

People who are looking for easier ways to do things have came up with all sorts of interesting ideas such as; putting a tablet of aspirin in each jar, processing jars in the stove, processing them in the microwave, and even processing them in the dishwasher. For safety sake, please do not try any of these.

Whew! When I started blogging I didn't know that it would take me 8 posts just to cover the topic of food safety. I almost wrote a book. Well, it is an important topic, so I don't think that I over did it.


  1. You've done a really good job of laying out all the issues related to food safety when putting food by. Have a wonderful day.

  2. Hi Charlotte,

    I think you did an excellent job! It is a good and necessary reminder.

    Last week, Anna and I canned a VERY small amount of rhubarb preserves. It wasn't enough to get out the canner--2 pints. We knew we would eat them right away. Surprisingly, the first one did seal due to the heat, but we opted to refrigerate it to be safe. If we hadn't refrigerated it, would it have been safe to store on the shelf for a couple of weeks?

    Leslie and Anna from VA

  3. The processing in the canner does two things; it helps it to seal, and it helps destroy any mold spores. I think refrigerating it is a good idea, just in case there did happen to be a live mold spore there.

    Enjoy your rhubarb preserves. Sounds tasty.

  4. Charlotte, once again you answered a question before I could even ask it, and that was about the open kettle method. My mother used paraffin wax; glad to hear we don't have to do THAT anymore.

    I am enjoying ALL your blogs. I learn something everytime I come here.

  5. Your blog is very inspiring. I need to find more time to can.

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    i appreciate your food safety trips especially the altitude tips. I had no idea!

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