Canning Safety Overkill?

with Sharon Peterson

Home canning is something that I've been doing a long time.  I always emphasize safe current methods and practices. 

Sometimes that gets me in a position to not agree with the "old" ways.  

Canning Safety Overkill is a concept that doesn’t make much sense. Food can be spoiled even without mold. Botulism is the #1 worry for improperly canned food. goes into more detail.

There is a lot of wisdom in SOME of the old ways... but some of the old ways can be improved upon.  Please notice I said some.  I'm all for old fashioned skills.  But with food preservation you may want to be open to new knowledge. 

There are safer methods available. You have to make your own decisions. 

 We all make our own decisions in our own kitchens.  

I also want to mention.... don't be afraid!   That is the last thing I want.  I've been accused of scaring people off from canning.  That is not what I'm about.  I believe knowledge conquers fear and I also know that some have a true fear of canning.  It is so simple and so safe if you just follow simple (mostly common sense) directions.  

My goal is to give beginning canners the confidence to get started.  It really is simple!

Here is an example of someone who is honestly looking for answers.  It may seem like we are on safety overkill. But really we are not! 

 Hi Sharon,

I am just wanting to get your opinion.  My brother and his wife have been canning for years.  They don't pressure cook or technically even water bath their vegetables. They simply pour boiling water or broth over their vegetables, tighten the lids, turn upside down and cover with a towel until cool.  That's it.  They have never had a problem with botulism. 

Also, after some research the reported cases of food born botulism in the US per year is less than 20 cases (granted I don't want to be one) with the majority of these 20 being from meat. 

So, I am wondering if we are on "overkill" on the vegetable canning process - ~  Thanks in advance.  BTW, we have 3 boys here that we have home schooled most of their life.

Hi there, 

That is actually a great question... and I've considered it myself.  BUT I've had too many questions from people who have waterbath processed their vegetables only to have them go bad. 

I shared on facebook an article about a man who took some short cuts canning his meat and got very ill.  I've heard stories of people who have died from botulism from improperly processed vegetables. One of these  was directly from a friend of mine who knew the family.  

The fact is some food spoilage is easy to see.  Mold, fermenting and such you know is there and can take care of it.  But the main concern is botulism.  You can't see, smell or taste botulism.

It is something you have to decide for yourself.  Obviously there are no preserving police out there.  :)   But I personally would NEVER ever ever open kettle can vegetables.  I always use a water bath on my fruits and fruit products and pressure can meats and vegetables.  

Please read through these articles and consider the risks. 

I hope that helps you make your decision.

Question: I was showing a friend and her mom how to can chili. Her mom has been doing it for years, however, when I looked into her canning room, more than just a few had mold on the top of the canned food in the jars. I use the Ball Canning Guide as my canning Bible.

I have always been taught that you heat the jars, setting them and the lids in hot water until you go to fill them. The stuff you are putting into the jars must be hot and fully cooked. The headspace for chili according to the guide should be 1 inch.

We overlooked the last point until after a few batches, which explains why our jars bubbled and spewed and did not seal. However, they decided that the reason this was occuring was because we heated the jars and the lids. They also wanted to reduce the time to 1/2 hr after jiggle. I was always taught to time it after jiggle. If the recipe called for processing at 10 lbs for and hour and a half, thats what you do.

Now some of the jars are not sealed and honestly, I am nervous about eating chili that has not been processed but 1/3 the time the book calls for. I am thinking of tossing the chili out for the chickens. Any thoughts? Also, time begins after jiggle - correct???

No one has ever gotten sick from my canning and I give it as gifts to friends with no worries or reservations. Need some input on this!

I would not eat this. You are right to be concerned. Chili MUST be pressure canned. Do it the correct way and you won't have to worry.

Now here is a fact: You may never change their minds. Even so you can graciously give them the safety information.... then smile and let them make their own decision.

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Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You are encouraged to verify all canning and food preservation advice on the USDA food preservation website. 

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