This morning I was reading CNN.com when I saw what looked like an interesting article on canning, entitled Capturing Summer in a Mason Jar. This led me to a CNN-sponsored blog called Eatocracy, and it included a nifty recipe for tomato sauce. However it included some misinformation on preserving the sauce that horrified me.
This article had a link to another blog post called Sauce Making is a Family Affair with even worse preserving advice.
Alarmed, I sent an email to CNN as follows:
While reading the "Eatocracy" post by Ashley Strickland entitled "Capturing Summer in a Mason Jar" which offers an excellent recipe for tomato sauce, I was disturbed to see that the author recommends (under Tip 8) "Additional tips: You can process the jars of sauce in a water bath to seal them."
This is INCORRECT. The recipe provided includes such ingredients as onions and bell peppers. These are low-acid foods and MUST be pressure canned in order to prevent the deadly disease of botulism. The rule of thumb for canning mixed-ingredient foods is to PROCESS THE FOOD IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INGREDIENT REQUIRING THE LONGEST PROCESSING TIME. In this particular case, bell peppers require processing at 10 lbs pressure (adjusted for altitude) for 45 minutes (quarts). Anything less -- much less water-bath canning -- invites the risk of botulism.
Even without the addition of low-acid ingredients, sauces made with modern hybrid tomatoes are often too low-acid to be safely canned in a water-bath. It is recommended that citric acid or another acidifier be added to increase the acidity in order to safely water-bath can.
In addition to this dangerous advice, Ms. Strickland links to another of her blog posts called “Sauce Making is a Family Affair” with a sauce recipe that concludes with the following advice: “The finished sauce is funneled those trusty mason jars that are layered at the bottom with a couple pieces of homegrown basil. The jars are sealed and then go, "to bed" where they rest on the floor of my garage, covered in blankets for about a week.” This is later supplemented as follows: “The jars should be laid down on their side and covered in an old comforter. I use my garage to store them. The idea is to keep the bottle of sauce warm for as long as possible. The jars of sauce should be kept under the blankets for at least a week. After that you can fill up your pantry with your fresh bottles of tomato sauce. They should last for about a year.”
This technique is known as “open-kettle canning” and has been debunked from one side of the planet to the other as an unsafe and unacceptable canning option. It is DANGEROUS for Ms. Strickland to promote a technique which could literally kill someone by inviting botulism. Several comments left at the end of this blog post confirm these concerns.
I am a master canner and have canned for over twenty years, and have about two thousand jars of home-canned food in my pantry. I've given talks, written articles, and taught classes on canning. It is irresponsible of Ms. Strickland to promote unsafe canning practices through such a broad media outlet as CNN. I strongly urge Ms. Strickland to correct her recommendations before some novice canner gets food poisoning.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Let's hope they listen.