Home Canning

Home Canning, To Boil or Not to Boil: Serving Home Canned Foods Safely

Home canning and boiling your food before serving. This is one of those changes in canning recommendations that I heartily agree with! It used to be recommended that one should always boil any low-acid food (meat or vegetables) that has been home canned. Boil it before serving, that is. In other words, pressure can the food, store it on the shelf, and when you open a jar for dinner, boil it for 10 minutes. Then, and only then, serve it.  

I'm soooo very glad that home canning recommendation has been changed. Currently, if you know you have processed properly, there is no reason for this extra cooking time.  

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, and then come back here.  


Please note: I'm emphasizing this! :) This article is not about how to process your foods during the home canning process. 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 them...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 water bath. 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, or fruit.

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...with home canning, you do not need to boil your jams, jellies, or pickled items before eating. That would be crazy. These are all high-acid foods that are processed in a water bath canner.  

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

Home Canning: Should You Boil Home Canned Food Before Serving?

This leads to the topic of whether boiling is ever needed for low-acid foods prior to serving them.  

(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 NCHFP 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. 

Home Canning Where I Live

On Guard Against SpoilageFrom the Colorado Extension Service website.

I live in Colorado. What you see above is a snippet of home canning information that used to be on their website...as of about 2018? Anyway, it was there when I was researching. I'm not actually sure when it was removed but...it is gone. Yahoo! 

The Colorado extension website, https://extension.colostate.edupubs/foodnut/09348.pdf, used to add this precaution regarding home canned 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 too!


Botulism is a food poisoning that can be very serious.  

But it is avoidable!  

Really pretty simply. Just follow USDA home canning recommended guidelines.

Here is a quote regarding the necessity (or not) of boiling home canned low-acid foods when serving them. The following quote comes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the Georgia State University (https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/for_safety_sake.html).   


"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."

http://www.cdc.gov/features/homecanning/


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...I know my food is processed correctly, so I am ok.  


The Perfect Solution If You're Unsure About Any Home Canning Issue: 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 home 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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Page last updated: 11/14/2020.

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