Country Living Series

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Invincible Canner

Once upon time, I thought I was the Invincible Canner.

Oh my, anything I could put in a jar and seal was a success. Astounding! I was invincible! Unbeatable! Indomitable! I could can... ANYTHING!


Take refried beans, for example. My family eats a fair bit of refried beans. They're easy to make, but rather time-consuming; and it bugged me to buy cans of refried beans at the store. So, being the Invincible Canner that I was, I concluded I would can my own refried beans.

This turned out to be much more challenging that I thought.


But I finally succeeded and proved -- told ya so! -- that I was the Invincible Canner.

Therefore it was annoying to get a comment on my Refried Beans blog post from a Master Canner (with actual bona fide credentials), informing me that refried beans were too viscous to safely can at home because home-canning equipment is not sufficient to render this food safe.

What was she talking about? My jars sealed just fine, thank you -- didn't she know I was the Invincible Canner? Who was I, goddess of the pressure canner, to listen to this mere mortal, just because her qualifications exceeded my own?

Harrumph.

So when the Invincible Canner decided to write some inexpensive ebooklets on canning in order to share my passion for this science with lots of others, I invited everyone to send me their basic canning questions so I could be sure to address them all.

And then the research started. I'd been canning for over twenty years and thought I knew it all. Boy was I wrong.

This research gave me a Master Canner education (without the credentials) and taught me an astounding amount of information I didn't know before. Who knew, for example, that milk products were unsafe to can? And fats, such as lard? And -- oh shucks -- the list of unsafe viscous foods included refried beans. Crud. My critic was right.


In short, this research toppled me off the Invincible Canner pedestal I had put myself on, and knocked some humility into me. And humility, as anyone knows, can be painful to acquire.

One of the things I learned is just because a jar seals does NOT mean the contents will be safely preserved for all eternity. Botulism is an insidious little bugger, and it can lurk in foods with certain chemical compositions regardless of whether a jar has successfully sealed.

That's why it's important to consider research done by such organizations as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which does exhaustive research and testing on safe canning procedures. Normally I wouldn't trust a government agency any farther than I could throw it, but I trust the USDA to give reliable guidelines for canning. In other words, I don’t think the government is trying to undermine our self-sufficiency efforts by advising us not to can puréed pumpkin -- know what I mean?

I hear far too many people say, "I've always done it this way and I've never gotten sick" while trying to justify unsafe canning procedures. And you know what? They're right. People drive for years and years in perfect safety without wearing a seatbelt...until they get into an accident. People smoke for years and year in perfect health... until they get lung cancer. People can for years and years in perfect safety using unsafe canning procedures... until they get botulism.

This is why I trust the USDA's guidelines for what constitutes safe canning procedures over anyone's "I've always done it this way and I've never gotten sick" experience. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

I don't mean to sound like a know-it-all when it comes to canning; I'm merely saying that I learned a whole lot while writing these ebooklets, and I've revised my own canning techniques as a result. I'm also begging people to be safe. Canning is a remarkable science, and it's also become one of the most researched subjects in the food industry. That's why guidelines are continually being updated.

Here is the portion on what isn't safe to can from my ebooklet Canning FAQs: 100 Basic Questions about Canning. I harvested this info from many different sources, but it's all confirmed by USDA guidelines:


51. What should NOT be pressure canned?
There are some things that home canners shouldn’t can at home, even with a pressure canner, and even if those products are available commercially. Commercial canneries have additives, preservatives, and processing controls not available to home canners. They also have professional processing equipment which we can’t duplicate at home.

The foods not recommended for home-canning include:

Foods packed in oil. Canning in oil is not recommended because oil coats and insulates botulism spores and creates an anaerobic micro-environment which allows the spores to survive high heat. To kill botulism spores encased in oil would require pressure canning at such high temperatures and for so long that the food itself would be destroyed. (A small amount of oil, for example sautéing before canning, is acceptable.)
Highly viscous foods. Items such as refried beans, peanut butter, pumpkin purée, or squash purée should not be home-canned. (Cooked cubed pumpkin can be canned at home, but cubed squash will compress during heating and become too thick; it should not be home-canned).
Lard. Too dense and too fatty to safely can at home.
Pickled eggs. Too dense to safely can at home. There are no tested recipes for canning pickled eggs.
Dairy products. Soups (or other foods) made with cream, milk, butter, or other dairy products are not recommended for home-canning. Like oil, dairy products are low-acid and support an environment which fosters botulism growth at room temperature. The fat in dairy products can protect botulism spores and toxins from heat during the canning process. When milk is over-heated, the milk proteins drop out of suspension and separate. The amount of heat that would need to be used to kill botulism is so extreme that the food would be rendered inedible. For this reason, canning milk or canning butter is not recommended as a safe procedure for home canners.
Cornstarch. Cornstarch is a thickener which breaks down during processing; more importantly, it retards heat penetration. For thickening agents, use Clear-Jel, which is a modified corn starch formulated for canning. Clear-Jel does not break down in acid food mixtures, and it does not thicken so much that it interferes with heat-killing of pathogens. Please note that processing times listed in published reference books are not sufficient for using any thickeners other than Clear Jel. Unfortunately this product generally can’t be found in grocery stores. Some online sources include:

- The Ingredient Store www.theingredientstore.com
- Kitchen Krafts www.kitchenkrafts.com
- Walton Feed www.waltonfeed.com

Flour. Some people believe they can make “cakes in a jar” or other foodstuffs which contain flour. This is strongly inadvisable. Home canned flour products (breads, doughs, etc.) are considered very prone to botulism. No one has yet been able to come up with a reliable recipe and canning direction that doesn’t produce botulism some of the time. Flour products are low-acid and “baking” them in a jar is not “canning” and is not recommended.

The reasons behind the inadvisability of canning these foods are generally due to one of two things: either scientific research has demonstrated that home-canning of such foods is potentially hazardous; or the only way to can them is at such high pressures that the results are unpalatable. In other words, if it’s not possible to kill off botulism spores while producing a palatable product, then the food is placed on the “not recommended” list.

There will always be people who think the rules don’t apply to them, or believe they’re special enough to refute the science behind safe canning. This is the kind of sloppy canning techniques I continuously warn about. Remember, past performance (“Granny always did it!”) does not guarantee future results. Canning is a highly developed science, and to assume the rules don’t apply to you is asking for trouble. Be safe.
____________________________

Now of course, I'm not the Canning Nazi. Whatever you do in your kitchen is your own business. If you choose to water-bath tomatoes with low-acid ingredients like onions and bell peppers "because granny always did it," fine. If you don't think the USDA guidelines are worth following, I won't agree; but I won't argue either. If you believe you can refute the USDA guidelines because you, too, are the Invincible Canner, then so be it. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

I am passionate about canning because I believe it is one of the most remarkable ways to preserve food on this earth. It gives me tremendous pleasure to share and invite canning stories, tips, recipes, and advice. But at least on this blog, I will always try to post advice that's backed up by science.

I no longer believe I'm the Invincible Canner. I now know there are things that are not safe to can in my beloved All American pressure canner. And since I want my family to be able to depend upon me to provide food that is safe to eat, I won't can up things the USDA specifically advises against.

Now let the arguments begin...

90 comments:

  1. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)November 25, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Kudos for the up date - going to print this out and put it with my printed copies of your E-Books. I keep them in a spiral binder along with your recipes.
    Thank you!

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  2. Interesting about what the USDA says about canning squash when the Ball Complete Book on Home Preserving has recipes that include Zucchini and Summer Squash.

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    Replies
    1. summer squashes are a lot softer than winter squashes

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  3. Does the USDA provide figures on how many deaths due to botulism from home PRESSURED canned foods in the last 10 years? How about the figures for deaths caused by COMMERCIALLY processed foods in the last year (I'll include salmonella) ?

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  4. You may not be the Invincible Canner but with a pantry that well stocked with home canned goods, you are certainly the Industrious Canner.

    What do you think about recanning nacho cheese sauce. We use about a cup at a time but buy it in #10 cans. I was concerned that it is dairy and viscous. Thanks for all your work on the blog.

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    1. I would say "no" to the nacho cheese sauce for the two reasons you mention: viscosity, and dairy.

      Pity, too, because I would love to have cheese sauce canned up. We did, however, buy a fair bit of cheese powder at Winco (bulk bin department) as a substitute to canned cheese sauce.

      - Patrice

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    2. I'm a bit late to the party here, but some types of prepared processed cheeses that use melting salts (like nacho cheese, anything with sodium citrate or one of those) freeze and thaw quite well. Might be worth giving it a try? I make my own big batch nacho cheese and freeze it in portions.

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    3. I freeze nacho cheese ALL the time! I freeze it in freezer ziplocs 1-2 cups and it lasts a good 3 months with no taste difference! Just thaw completely eithere in the fridge or cold water and heat in microwave or on stove...whip vigorously and the texture comes right back!! :)
      I hope this helps!! :)

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  5. Patrice -
    Glad to hear it.
    Does this gets me off the s**t list now?

    http://www.rural-revolution.com/2011/01/canning-bacon.html#comment-form

    You may be interested to know that you helped to inspired me to write this post a couple of years ago.

    http://www.granny-miller.com/how-to-crock-or-pot-meat/

    Believe me I have no use for the USDA.

    But the sad fact of the matter is that most people today did not grow up in a household where home canning was practiced.

    Many people can not remember a time when unsafe canning practices sickened and killed people.

    The last time I remember a big outbreak with bad home canning was in 1972 when everybody was "getting back to the land" and didn't know what they were doing.

    It was at that time if remember correctly that the wonderful Beatrice Vaughn
    (one of my heros) began to write PUTTING FOOD BY, with 2 other women (I can't remember their names).

    What I do remember is that Mrs. Vaughn died before the book was published.
    She'd be rolling in her grave to know that people are canning butter & bacon.
    If you ever get a chance to read Beatrice Vaughn I highly recommend her.
    All the very best to you & yours
    K.Grossman

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  6. i have been canning since the age of 12 and then i was doing it over open fire pits with those big black iron pots..but even then, i was also taught that it was important to follow instructions, use safety first and foremost, and if unsure about something -look it up or dont do it. even with the usda requirements it is extremely important to look at the end product for proper color, mold, etc.. and to smell the product-if bad, throw out and to always cook or bring product up to proper temperature before consuming... honestly, i tend to side with the ball book on canning and it is the first book i go to when researching the rules for canning something new.

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  7. No arguments here! So, dear Patrice, this research toppled you off your Invincible Canner pedestal, did it? You say it knocked some humility into you? Yes, humility can be painful to acquire, but humility is the way to increase our faith. It shatters our pride and that's a good thing, for pride is the father of all sins. Pride does not only "goeth before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18), Proverbs 11:2 tells us "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, BUT WITH THE HUMBLE IS WISDOM." We all have a tendency to think we know all there is to know about things we've spent many years learning about. Pride creeps into all of our lives. The important thing is how we handle that pride. Do we swallow it and admit we were wrong? That is what our Lord expects us to do, and every time we do, our faith will be increased! My sinful pride is challenged every day. I hate to admit when I'm wrong as much as the next guy or gal, but as a Christian I HAVE TO. I've taught myself not to automatically go on the defensive when someone points out my errors. Instead, I try to humbly accept their advice, then I do some research to see if they are correct. Often they are not, and when I point this out to them, THEY then go on the defensive! Being humble doesn't mean we're always wrong, just that we're willing to admit it when we are. Sadly, many people do not feel this way. --Fred in AZ

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  8. Patrice, you may want to consider either dehydrating your refined beans or just buying a 50lb bag from the Mormons. Just add water and stir.

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    1. We already have bulk amounts of dried pinto beans -- I can always make my own refried beans from scratch. I just like having the convenience of jars in the pantry (wink).

      - Patrice

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    2. The dehydrated refried beans from the Mormon cannery are delicious. We eat them dry in a snack mix as well as rehydrated. Learning how to dehydrate our own would be a good idea since we won't have enough fuel to boil beans if the is a disaster.
      Thanks!

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  9. So now I am a little confused. Being fairly new to canning, I would be thankful if someone could explain. If it is unsafe to can things with oil or fat (because the fat insulates botulism from the heat, how is it ok to can meat which would include fat? When you can chicken pieces do you remove all of the fatty skin? It would be impossible to remove all of the fat in beef (other than in ground beef which is pre-cooked.) However, I know that my Ball book says it is safe to can these items. Is my Ball book wrong?

    Thanks,
    Southern Gal

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    1. Southern Gal, it's unsafe to can things IN oil, i.e. packed in oil instead of water or broth or whatever. A little fat or oil is fine, such as cuts of meat or sautéed veggies. I'll be canning garlic soon, and rather than packing the garlic in oil, I'll pack it in water.

      Your Ball book isn't wrong, that's a good resource.

      - Patrice

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  10. So, when you say not tocan refried beans, are you talking about the beans which have already been "refried" or just the beans? I can pinto beans which we then use for refried beans or baked beans or whatever we can use them for. Hope that is okay.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, canned beans are perfectly fine. It's when they're squished (i.e. refried beans) that they get too viscous. Go figure.

      - Patrice

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  11. Wonderful article. I put a reference to your article on my blog.
    http://paulaoretirement.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-must-read-for-canners.html

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  12. I never thought about canning refried beans .. but I do follow the Ball Blue Book and can pinto beans .. which after opened (and rinsed) are very easy to mash in a pan, add a water and a teaspoon of bacon fat .. in a few minutes, presto .. refried beans.

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    1. I think I'll follow your example, since I do like having refried beans on hand. I'll go "halfway" by canning pinto beans, then take it from there. It would be a lot less time consuming than making them from scratch every time.

      - Patrice

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  13. So we can't can lard... how else can we preserve it? (my freezer will be out of space when we get our cow soon)

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    Replies
    1. Lard is a fat and is shelf stable. That is why in stores it is on shelves...not refrigerated or canned.

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  14. Patrice - you can safely "ferment" hard boiled eggs - delicious and they last a few weeks. Not like canning but still longer than just the plain old boiled egg.

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  15. I am confused about canning butter. I have read in many places that because store bought butter is pasturized, if you put it into steralized jars with steralized lids and "oven process" them, there is no way for botulism to be introduced...if you keep all utensils & work areas steralized. Could you explain why this isn't correct please. I don't want to risk making my family sick!

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    1. Oven processing is not a recommended canning procedure regardless. And home kitchens are not sterile environments -- you can sterilize equipment, jars, etc., and the moment you expose them back to air, there is the **potential** for re-contamination. Short of sterile laboratory conditions, you can't have a sterile kitchen.

      That said, I don't know of a way to safely home-can butter. Putting aside worries about botulism, friends who have experimented with canning butter haven't been pleased with the results.

      - Patrice

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    2. Patrice, to echo the sentiments of others about refried beans...I love to pressure can whole pinto beans with a sliced jalapeno pepper. They are so easy to mash into refried beans.

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  16. This is so great. Thank you!! I have been becoming more and more daring with pressure canning. Your list of "no's" is great because you really answer my nagging question of "why?" Just because the gub'ment says so? I want real answers! Like "cheese is too thick to can" or "fat insulates botulism." Great stuff! Thanks.

    So that said, what do you think about canning bacon bits now? Too fatty? I canned a bunch of bacon bits last year. We ate them all and didn't die. However....I don't want to push my luck!

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  17. PS: So fun to see Granny Miller chime in. I've missed her!

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  18. Holy Moly! Granny's back to blogging! Where have I been?!

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  19. Hi Patrice, no arguement here, just a question. I've wondered about your pantry photo since you ran it as your header for a while. What are the boards on the right? The shelves on the left/back have brace boards under them, but the ones on the right don't and no sagging. And they're stacked two high and I don't know how deep, I'd guess at least three and maybe more. Anyway, what are your shelves made of? Thanks, Jeff

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  20. There is a place though for home canned milk. But it is NOT for human consumption. I keep home canned goats milk for feeding animals when my goats are dry. It seperates and looks nasty but after you shake it up the consistency is that of commercial canned milk and it works well for emergency bottle feeding of baby animals. They seem to do better on it than the powdered commercial replacement milk which seems to kill baby goats...

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  21. How much fat is too much? Is bacon now out? I have not tried canning bacon but it was on my list for this winter and I have stocked up quite a bit in the freezer for just that purpose.

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    1. I pressure canned bacon yesterday. Have been canning it for a year now with good results. Don't know how long it lasts because the oldest jar I have used has been a year old.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo9BwawYEpI

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  22. http://www.offthegridnews.com/2012/11/22/food-storage-canning-butter/

    video canning butter....comments

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    Replies
    1. I have been canning butter since 2009. I now pressure can it (rather than a more primitive method I started with) and don't worry about it at all. Here's the method I use https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjpY3Kv5mRY
      Just canned some this past Saturday. I would recommend canning in in half pint or smaller jars. Takes too long to use it up (unless you're using large quantities to bake with) in pint jars.

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  23. I get frustrated with all of the USDA rules. Sometimes I think that one person has a problem and then the rules are changed for everyone, I suspect the one person did something wrong and it was their own fault. On the other hand, I look at my beautiful grandchildren and know that their lives and not worth risking and follow the rules to the T.
    Shirley

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  24. The National Center for Home Food Preservation states that the USDA does not recommend home canning summer squash or zuchinni but states it's okay to home can cubed (not pureed) pumpkin or winter squash: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/pumpkin_butter.html

    Wikipedia has a nice list of what constitutes a winter squash. The only squash I have personally canned (butternut) is a winter squash, and I canned it according to USDA guidelines, so I feel pretty safe.

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  25. I look at canning this way. The upside of putting something on the shelf is FAR outweighed by the potential down side of botulism!

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    Replies
    1. So.... you're OK with being dead?? Or killing a family member to have a little butter on the table? Alrighty then.

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    2. Stve, you make it sound as though botulism or salmonella poisoning is a "minor inconvenience," on par with your shoelace breaking or someone putting an empty milk container back in the fridge.
      I've had food poisoning several times; once while on a 22-hour road trip and nursing my son. It's more than a minor inconvenience. Sure, it's nice to have those pretty jars filled with toxic substances on the shelf.
      Until you hold your kid's hair from her face while she's vomiting and crapping herself, because YOU cut corners, deciding YOU know better than some scientists, then you'll learn. Hopefully you are the one who gets sick, instead of your kids.

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    3. I read Stve's comment the other way, the upside is outweighed by the downside, meaning it isn't worth putting stuff up if it might kill you.

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  26. Thanks Patrice for all the info.. As I read your post I realized I was beginning to think of myself as the Invincible Canner also. Your humility is spreading. I'm taking care of my aged home bound Mother, and giving her botulism just wouldn't be cool.

    So I'm making changes here and compromising. I'm emptying my freezer of things that I can can...meat in broth, beans, blackberries, veggies, etc. and reserving it for things like butter, milk, bacon, quick breads, etc. It's a tradeoff, but one I'm willing to make for safety's sake.

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  27. I never thought to can up the mashed beans. I found this recipe and it suits us pretty well. Dump the jar, heat it up and mash.

    http://thebeginningfarmerswife.blogspot.com/2008/06/canning-refriedburrito-beans.html

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  28. Good timing on this article as I wanted to write you anyway about a canning question. I have a Maitres canner and haven't used it in about 20 years. Wanted to get back into canning so I purchased a new weight pressure control, rubber gasket and safety valve. I downloaded the manual where it was highlighted NEVER USE YOUR CANNER WITHOUT THE SPRING SAFETY DEVICE. This device is located on the side of the lid. The manual says its purpose is to avoid the cooker to pressurize before it is totally closed with the superimposed grips. So is this device for a canner or a cooker? I don't have one or remember having one. However, this device is nowhere to be found. Maitres went out of business several years ago and everyone selling the other parts do not sell the "Spring Safety Device". My question is: Is my canner safe without this? Maybe you or your readers can explain and tell me. Thank you.

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    1. I have never heard of this brand of canner and therefore cannot suggest whether or not it's safe to use. So yes, if anyone else has any advice, please post it.

      Meanwhile you may want to invest in either a Presto or an All American, if you can afford it, just to be on the safe side.

      - Patrice

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    2. I'm currently looking at a Presto. However, was trying to avoid having to purchase one. Thanks.

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  29. On another blog, there was a discussion about a quick and easy way to can dried beans (no, not USDA or Extension Service approved)...I had to chime in to NOT do it, even though it was SO easy. (I've done 'em that way myself, and had 3 cases in the basement...and used them for several years with no problem...BUT...)

    Last summer, in a rural county near us, three people at a family picnic got very sick (and one died) due to improperly canned beets (water bath, not pressure canned)...botulism. I prayed about it, decided "better safe than sorry" and disposed of the contents of my 3 cases of improperly canned dried beans. Sigh...all that hard work gone. What a waste.

    I work in Extension, and have talked to the state level people about the USDA and Extension food preservation information. They WILL err on the side of careful, preventative information...that is why so many don'ts...because we canners should never want to risk our family's or friends' health by trying unapproved canning methods. No, not the canning nazi's, just folks who seriously care about your health and well being.

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  30. Oh, my! I am a novice canner (no one in my family or friends has ever canned.) This summer I canned fruits per recipes with regular ClearJel. I use instant ClearJel in baking with great results. With an abundance of tomatoes, I oven-roasted many with herbs and some olive oil. Then I followed the guidelines of adding lemon juice to get the pH correct. Very hesitant to eat as a doc who has seen people die from certain home-canned foods. Should I be concerned? Boy, I feel like I'm back in pre school!! Thanks

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  31. hey, patrice, loved your article on this subject. i always wondered how you were getting away with canning all those things, but i honestly just assumed you were ignoring the USDA, as many others do. i received my master food preserver certificate almost 2 years ago, and i just wanted to clarify some of the questions people were raising. some of these ingredients have been thoroughly tested through USDA research and have been found to be unsafe for home canning. Commercial canning allows for higher, more consistent temperatures throughout the jar and therefore, you may see things at your grocery store that are still unsafe to ca at home. There is also a "questionable" group, that includes clarified butter, that has NOT been tested at all, and therefore cannot be deemed as safe to process. I spoke to someone at the local extension service here in Utah, who informed me that the USDA does not receive any more funds to research canning recipes and methods; our local extension still does research on food storage, but each project costs around $14000 to carry out, so they stick to broader studies rather than trying out individual recipes. you can buy a pH meter to test out your own recipes, but remember that this only will test the pH of the liquid you are canning, not the solids...each local extension is different in each state. i tend to be attracted to utah, idaho, and that region, because the states as a whole are motivated to research food storage, but i've heard that some of the eastern states have great programs as well. :)

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  32. oh, i meant to give some stats on botulism too. cases are getting lower and lower, but over half of all cases in the past few years were caused by infants/toddlers eating honey. next highest cause was from outdoor pathogens, and last was from food contamination. of the food contamination, its a ratio of about 65 to 35 of home canned meals vs commercial or restaurant meals. the majority of cases involved vegetables, specifically asparagus. there are different statistics as you go back in years, with more issues in food safety than more recently, i suppose because of information gaps; the last outbreaks were in alaska and hawaii...i hope this is understandable, i am pregnant and typing on a tablet, which means every word i type, i lose more patience! :)

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  33. For me, it is about probabilities. I like to educate myself and then decide whether I want to take the risk.

    I can butter, cheese and bacon. I don't can milk because it curdles. I can meatloaf, but not refried beans.

    I cube winter squash, but do not puree it, before pressure canning it. At the same time, I wonder why it is okay to ca applesauce. I guess the acidity of the fruit is the reason it is safe.

    I teach canning. I tell my students what the government says, and tell them to follow those instructions. But basically, do as I say, not as I do.

    The canning regulations are written for the most part by lawyers who are there to make sure their employers don't get sued. The rules say that canned food is only good for one year. I have heard MANY, MANY people who apparently cannot think for themselves and on the one year date of canning the product, throw it away. I really have to control my mouth when they tell me that.

    Anyway, do some reading and decide for yourself if you think the risk is worth taking.

    A little information from the Centers for Disease Control:
    In the United States, an average of 145 cases are reported each year. Of these, approximately 15% are foodborne, 65% are infant botulism, and 20% are wound.

    So there seem to be about 20 cases of food borne botulism a year in the US.

    From http://nchfp.uga.edu/educators/historical/botulismreview04.pdf

    Foodborne botulism, a potentially lethal neuroparalytic
    disease, is caused by ingesting preformed Clostridium
    botulinum neurotoxin. We reviewed surveillance data and
    reports from 1990 to 2000. Of 263 cases from 160 foodborne
    botulism events (episode of one or more related
    cases) in the United States, 103 (39%) cases and 58
    events occurred in Alaska. Patients’ median age was 48
    years; 154 (59%) were female; the case-fatality rate was
    4%. The median number of cases per event was 1
    (range 1–17). Toxin type A caused 51% of all cases; toxin
    type E caused 90% of Alaska cases. A particular food was
    implicated in 126 (79%) events. In the lower 49 states, a
    noncommercial food item was implicated in 70 (91%)
    events, most commonly home-canned vegetables (44%).
    Two restaurant-associated outbreaks affected 25 persons.
    All Alaska cases were attributable to traditional Alaska
    Native foods. Botulism prevention efforts should be
    focused on those who preserve food at home, Alaska
    Natives, and restaurant workers.

    How many deaths from botulism per year in the US:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulism#Epidemiology
    Between 1990 and 2000, the Centers for Disease Control reported 263 individual 'cases' from 160 foodborne botulism 'events' in the United States with a case-fatality rate of 4%. Thirty-nine percent (103 cases and 58 events) occurred in Alaska, all of which were attributable to traditional Alaska aboriginal foods. In the lower 49 states, home-canned food was implicated in 70 (91%) events with canned asparagus being the most numerous cause. Two restaurant-associated outbreaks affected 25 persons. The median number of cases per year was 23 (range 17–43), the median number of events per year was 14 (range 9–24). The highest incidence rates occurred in Alaska, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. All other states had an incidence rate of 1 case per ten million people or less.[

    Additional information and sources:

    http://nchfp.uga.edu/educators/historical/botulismreview04.pdf

    http://www.medicinenet.com/botulism/page3.htm
    In the United States, on average, 110 cases of botulism are reported each year. Of these, nearly 25% of cases are food-borne,

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    1. Hello - I canned butter, cheese and bacon as well. Am not too pleased with the cheese because it tends to burn, so I have started waxing cheese recently with food grade wax (so far so good, stored in a a cool place). Am pleased with the bacon and butter. Tried pressure canning milk - seems to start changing its texture after 6 months and really starts separating after a year. Not sure I will pursue that anymore. I don't trust the FDA or USDA but follow most of the Ball Blue Book guidelines. i.e. I do not use thickeners when I can.

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  34. Maybe if you just canned fried beans Patrice? ;)

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  35. Well, I canned some butter 2 years ago and stored it, so I'm okay with getting rid of it. Likewise the carrot cakes and pumpkin breads I did, since they were such a hit around here, there are only a few left, so no real loss...but just 5 weeks ago, my husband helped me core and peel a bushel of apples that I canned into apple pie filling. A lot of apple pie filling, a weekend of work! It has cornstarch in it!! So how much cornstarch is bad, or is any amount a problem?? I dread the thought of even telling him, so any advice here? I followed the instructions from a canner/blog that I think is top-notch, very experienced and prudent canner.

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    1. Mary, I have mixed feelings about cornstarch. The advice I gave -- namely, not to use it -- comes from USDA recommendations. That said, I've canned my apple pie filling for almost twenty years with cornstarch, because I didn't know any better. I'm the first to admit that "past performance does not guarantee future results," but if I were in your shoes, I would just enjoy your pie filling. However, for future canning projects, you might want to get some Clear-Gel.

      - Patrice

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    2. Thank you for taking the time to answer, Patrice. My inclination was to use it, I just wondered what your thoughts were. I know that I alone am responsible for my decision, but hearing that someone else has had no bad results is encouraging. By the way, I did order some Clear-Gel last night and will use it in the future, thanks again!

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    3. Mary I use tapioca too me it works great I can not find clear gei

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    4. Mary I use tapioca it works great I can not find cleargel

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    5. Mary I use tapioca it works great I can not find clear gel

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    6. I make pie filling with just apple slices and sugar, can stir in the cornstarch/flour after opening to make the pie. 1 quart apples to 1 cup sugar, let make juice overnight in large bowl/crock, then put in jars, hot water bath for 20 minutes

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  36. Hi! I got my first All-American pressure canner this summer and have yet to use it! I was hoping to can chicken noodle soup for the winter, but should I can it without the noodles since they have flour in them? Thanks!

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    1. Yes, that would be my recommendation. Besides, canned noodles tend to be very soggy. Cook the noodles separately and add them to your soup just before eating. Happy canning!

      - Patrice

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  37. Oh how I love this post! This is what I've been wanting to say on my own blog for a looong time, but I'm not a great writer and didn't know how to say it. I love how you came across in this post. I'm totally linking to this so others will read it. Way to go!
    By the way, I love the convenience of ready to go refried beans too, so in my family we have just canned beans with seasonings and then we open them up and mash or blend them. People tell me they taste like the good stuff from a Mexican restaurant! Here's a link if you're interested in how we do it:
    http://hollythehomemaker.blogspot.com/2010/06/tip-of-week-how-to-pressure-can-beans.html

    I do have to admit though, I showed some "cheating" in that post. Naughty, naughty. I actually do generally follow all the rules to a "T".
    Anyway, thanks for your post.

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    1. Holly - I liked your method so much I pinned it on my Canning/Freezing/Preserving Pinterest board http://pinterest.com/canninglady/canning-food/. I probably won't alter my processing time, but I agree the 90 min for quarts and 75 min for pints is probably longer than it needs to be for most foods as a precautionary measure. It's probably making allowances for denser foods.

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  38. I have read your post, and many others, and am no closer to a solid understanding of what is safe in regards to canning with flour. I want to can a tomato bisque, but it requires a roux early on in the cooking process for thickening and flavor. It is about 1 cup of flour with 1 pound of butter in a volume of almost 2 gallons of liquid. Is this too much flour? Is flour unacceptable in any amount? If possible I would rather not forego the roux, not so much for the thickening, but for the flavor. I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Thank you.

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  39. http://www.canningsupply.com/product/Clear_Jel_Starch_1_lb/ingredients_and_mixes/?p=CSGOOGLE&ne_kw=clear%20jel&ne_ad_id=1373342&ne_ppc_id=1100&gclid=CJSKwISG7LYCFYFo4AodhEoA6w

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  40. Hi there, I have a couple of questions for you. I am fairly new to canning and am concerned about siphoning. I noticed a batch of chili that I canned had some sauce in the water in the bottom of the pressure cooker. After examining the jars I did find that there was some juice/sauce around the ring, BUT the lid was sealed. They have been in my pantry now for 2 weeks and I tested them and they are still sealed tight. Are they safe? Im so nervous about food poisoning.
    Also I was reading on a website that it is not recommended to can "homemade" recipes and to only use "tested" recipes. I have been canning my own chili, soups, sauces and even chicken stew. Do I really have to follow a specific recipe?
    Thank you for any and all information!
    ~Hailee

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  41. Hi Patrice,

    I have a canning question. I received a recipe for canning okra that can be fried. You can see the detailed recipe on my blog. It only has 6 tbsp. of vinegar per gallon of sliced okra. The rest of the liquid is water. The recipe calls for packing boiling okra and liquid in jars and sealing without using a water bath. I have had several comments asking about how well it might keep without canning it. Do you have any input for us?

    Thank you!

    Fern

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  42. Great article! I just started canning last summer, stuck to jams/jellies and tomatoes. I am hoping to branch into pressure canning this summer. I was hoping to be able to can my refried beans too, but I guess I will just stick to freezing them. They work great frozen and never last more than a few months anyways. Just a little more planning to take them out the night before to thaw.

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  43. I started canning jellies and jams 4 years ago & last year I started pressure canning. I adore canning. It fills me with a joy that I had when I was very young but seem to have lost with the age of tech. Can you tell me if you can CAN spinach flake? I love to make soup and would love to add these. I just love your blog.

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean by spinach flake, but it's certainly possible to can spinach. Please see this post:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2010/10/canning-spinach.html

      Happy canning!

      - Patrice

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  44. What about hot water bath canning a batch of preserves that has 1 teaspoon of butter added during the cooking time to keep the foam down. Does that 1 teaspoon of butter compromise my preserves?

    And...what about a tomato soup recipe that is pressure canned? The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon flour....is that an issue also?

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  45. I want to pass on a wonderful tip: Find your local Ag. Extension Service office and become friends with the Home Economist! I call her every year to find out if anything's changed that I should know about. Also, she tests pressure canner lids and gauges to see if they're reading correctly. This is how I found out my gauge reads 1lb. high. So, if I need to keep the pressure at 11 lbs., I need my gauge to read 12 lbs. This is a GOOD thing to know and it's FREE.

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  46. I want to can cooked beans because I season them when I cook them not after canning. Is that a problem?

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    1. Not at all. Just be careful about using sage, though, since sage will turn bitter after canning.

      - Patrice

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  47. Hmmm. I found this post very interesting. I do a lot of canning because I prefer to eat organic foods. I recently canned quite a bit of apple-pie filling but chose not to use clear-jell because it's not organic. I used a small amount of flour as a thickener instead. Is all my work now unsafe to eat?

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    1. I can't tell you since I don't know how much flour you used. Certainly in the future I would avoid using any flour at all. I recommend you contact your local county extension service and ask to talk to a Master Food Preserver for details -- he or she might be able to make a recommendation for your apple pie filling.

      - Patrice

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  48. So is it is ok to use flour or cornstarch in relish and pickles that aren't processed in a canner?

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    1. Off-hand I would say "yes," but since I have no experience in this I would confirm with either online research or with your local County Extension Office.

      - Patrice

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  49. Thank you for the article. I am three years into caning and LOVE it. Haven't gotten into pressure canning yet but want to try it next year. Our family goes through lots of refried beans too. So, I make "refried" beans in the crockpot. Everyone loves them and super cheap and easy. I have the recipe here http://ladyandthecarpenter.com/crockpot-refried-beans/ if you are interested. Happy Canning!

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  50. This article and the comments (most of them) are awesome! I am so grateful to have found it. I got here via Pinterest. I've been frustrated with the lack of reasons for things; I'm not one to blindly follow a rule, I have to know why. "It's not safe" is not a reason, it's a challenge to someone like me. You give such good explanations, helping me feel like I can actually know what I'm doing, rather than just following because someone told me to. Might have to finally consider pressure canning, a mere 2 years after buying the spendy canner.

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  51. Can Ghee be canned? If so, what would the procedure be?

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  52. Hi! I am so glad I found this site! I have canned safe stuff like peaches and jam for years but have always been too nervous to venture into pressure canning low acid foods. My husband has recently decided to pressure can in small 1/2 pint jars the rice and veggie mix he loves for breakfast. He puts in about a teaspoon of dried rice and fills the rest of the jar with raw carrots, mushrooms, greens, celery etc with a boiling sauce that usually has a bit of vinegar. I had read that rice is dangerous to can and have insisted that if he does this he must keep the jars in the fridge. He is not looking at long term storage just a quick way to have his favorite breakfast handy with an occasional weekend of canning. He likes the rice cooked with the veggies so won't consider doing the veggies and adding the rice later. Since most of what I have read says botulism thrives at room temperature is storing this in the fridge enough to make having rice in the jar safe?

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    1. There are two danger points here. One, I have no idea about safely canning rice; my trusty canning book doesn't even mention the possibility, which in itself makes me nervous. Two, when venturing into mixed-ingredient recipes such as your husband's, the rule of thumb is to process the food in accordance with the ingredient requiring the LONGEST processing time. Especially with rice, I'm not certain he's processing this food correctly, in which case refrigeration won't make any difference (he might as well skip the canning and just put it in the fridge).

      I suggest he just freeze the food in individual-size baggies instead of canning. Much quicker -- and safer.

      - Patrice

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  53. Hello! I just found your site (thanks to Pinterest) and would love some advice. I have TON of garlic and I'm having a hard time figuring out how to can it safely. If I were to jar it and put it in my fridge, 1st I couldn't use mit all in 3months and 2nd it would take up all of my fridge. How do you can garlic so it can be in my pantry until I needed to open a new jar?

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    1. Welcome, Sarah! I'm just about to can up this year's garlic and will put up a blog post on it, so please check back. Meanwhile here's a post from a few years ago which may help:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2012/12/canning-and-planting-garlic.html

      - Patrice

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  54. I know you said no milk but I have slow cooked sweetened condensed milk and canned it. It never lasts more than a few months because I do it when I know I will use it. I was wondering if that's something I need to stop doing? How long does it take for the botulism to happen?
    I'm so glad I came across your site!! I never knew canning could be unsafe!! I'm one of those...well my grandmother did it so I can! Lol Just didn't know any better!

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    1. I would NOT recommend canning sweetened condensed milk. Here's a quote from an article I wrote on what not to can (http://www.countrylivingseries.com/category/the-canning-series):

      "Soups (or other foods) made with cream, milk, butter, or other dairy products are not recommended for home-canning. Dairy products are low-acid and support an environment which fosters botulism. The fat in dairy products can protect botulism spores and toxins from heat during the canning process. When milk is over-heated, the milk proteins drop out of suspension and separate. The amount of heat that would need to be used to kill botulism is so extreme that the food would be rendered inedible. For this reason, canning milk or canning butter is not recommended as a safe procedure for home canners."

      This article was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Elizabeth Andress, Project Director for the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) as well as Extension Food Safety Specialist at the University of Georgia. The NCHFP is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U of GA. Dr. Andress helps write or update the USDA guidelines for canning safety upon which all national guidelines are based, including such canning classics as The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Putting Food By, among many others.

      So ... no dairy.

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