Home Canning

I've been teaching home canning for a long time.  I'd love to share what I've learned with you.   Simply Canning School's online video based classes .

It all has to do with the issue of boiling low acid foods prior to eating them - not during the processing! SimplyCanning.com clears a few things up about this misunderstanding.

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.  

Please note:  I'm emphasizing this!.....  :)  This article is not about how to process your foods.  It is rather about the choice of boiling the food before you serve it.  Some say yes you need to boil your meats and veggies prior to serving it... some say you don't.  

But either way... don't confuse this with how to process your jars for storage on the shelf. 

The suggestion to process your foods is still the same.  High acid foods (fruit and pickles) can be boiled in a waterbath.  Low acid foods (meats and veggies) must be processed in a pressure canner.  

One little paragraph within the post from Freda 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 prior to serving it.  

(And remember this is NOT regarding how to process the jars for storage)

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. 

And if you are unsure, I suggest you do to!

Another Resource - Different Conclusion

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.  

I used to always boil my veggies.   Now I don't.... well occasionally I do.  :)   But either way, I know my food is processed correctly so I am ok.  

The perfect solution if you are unsure.  Make a call. 

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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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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