Home Canning

home canning article, to boil or not

I've published a guest post from Freda who has graciously offered her experiences. And it is a good post! You really should go read all of it. Click here for the whole article then come back here. 

One little paragraph within that post has caused some angst! I've had readers really very upset with me for publishing that page. It all has to do with the issue of boiling low acid foods prior to eating them. 

 I want to clear up some issues here. In Freda's post she states. 

"BOIL all your product for at least 15-20 minutes after you dump it from the jar to cook..."

She is discussing what to do with your food after it has been canned, not as a part of the canning process.  Freda then goes on to explain how long to boil your foods.  This is where the confusion set in.  

First of all, don't worry, you don't need to boil foods like jam or jelly or pickles.  This boiling recommendation is for low acid foods from a pressure canner.  She is only suggesting that you boil any vegetables or meats.  You do not need to boil foods like pickle and salsa recipes, jam, jelly fruits.

Judging from comments, it seems to be a misunderstanding in the article.  People can't understand why you would boil jam or jelly or pickles.  And they are right... it is not needed.   I've added a side note right there in the article but it seems people are skimming and missing it. 

So please know.... you do not need to boil your jam jelly or pickled items before eating.  That would be crazy.  These are all high acid foods that are processed in a waterbath canner.  

Now we get to the low acid foods.  :)  This is where the fun begins.

So, is boiling home canned foods necessary or not?

This leads to the topic of whether boiling is ever needed for low acid foods.  These are foods like meats and vegetables. Some say yes, boil.  Some say Nope not necessary.  

The best argument I've heard suggesting that boiling is not necessary is this....

  • If you have pressure canned the food then what could a simple boil for 10 minutes possibly do that the canner did not? 

That is a pretty good argument.  It makes sense.  

Not to mention the fact that the University of Georgia's NCFHFP now says it is not needed. However, even among extension services there is different information about whether boiling your foods when you open the jar is a necessary step. 

Where I live

From the Colorado Extension Service website

 I live in Colorado. What you see to the left is a snippet of information from their website.  

The last time I checked the Colorado extension website  still adds the precaution of boiling your low acid foods.

Colorado has the extra challenges that come with canning at high altitudes.  Therefore they still recommend the extra step of boiling your foods when you serve them.   Other state extension websites do not have this extra recommendation.  I have not checked them all. 

So what's a safety conscious mom to do??? I called my local extension to speak with someone.  After that discussion with them, I made the personal decision to continue boiling my foods. It is my habit, I am more comfortable boiling first, so I do it.  


Another Resource 

Botulism is a food poisoning that can be very serious.  

But it is avoidable!  

Really pretty simply.  Just follow USDA recommended guidelines.

Here is a quote regarding the necessity (or not) of boiling home canned low acid foods when serving them.  The following comes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the Georgia State University.   


If Clostridium botulinum bacteria survive and grow inside a sealed jar of food, they can produce a poisonous toxin. Even a taste of food containing this toxin can be fatal. Boiling food 10 minutes at altitudes below 1,000 feet altitude should destroy this poison when it is present. For altitudes at and above 1,000 feet, add 1 additional minute per 1,000 feet additional elevation. Boiling means that you are able to see the liquid in the food actively forming large foamy bubbles that break all over the surface. Note that as of July 2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation is to discard any home canned food that might contain botulism toxin. (http://www.cdc.gov/features/homecanning/)

All low-acid foods canned according to the approved recommendations may be eaten without boiling them when you are sure of all the following: (emphasis mine)

  • Food was processed in a pressure canner operated according to the procedures in the USDA guidelines.
  • The gauge of the pressure canner was accurate.
  • Up-to-date researched process times and pressures were used for the size of jar, style of pack, and kind of food being canned.
  • The process time and pressure recommended for sterilizing the food at your altitude was followed.
  • The jar lid is firmly sealed and indicates a vacuum seal is present.
  • Nothing has leaked from jar.
  • No liquid spurts out when jar is opened.
  • No unnatural or “off” odors can be detected. No mold is present.

In other words, if you are sure it was processed correctly you don't need to boil again.  


The perfect solution. 

If you have questions about the importance of boiling your foods call your local extension service and ask for more details.    The perfect solution.  Get definitive answers regarding your area.   Easy.  

I've been accused of fear mongering with this information.  I was even accused of trying to get people to NOT home can.  That I believe is crazy.  Look at this website... it is full of information about home canning.  Why would I want you to turn away? 

Really.  I WANT you to enjoy your canning experience.  It is not hard.  It is fun.  It is perfectly safe if you follow proper procedures.  Really. 

So.... to boil or not to boil.   YOU get to decide.  Do what you are comfortable with.  Happy Canning! 

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