If there's one thing I try to express in all my discussions about canning, it's safety. A couple of days ago I received an email that epitomized these concerns. I didn't ask permission to post the email so I won't, but I'll synopsize the contents.
It seems a gentleman and his wife, evidently in a happy and experimental mood, were canning crabapple jelly. They said they were new to canning and were clearly having a good time together, learning how to preserve... which is the wonderful part.
They had lots of crabapple juice left over, so they decided to experiment and add all kinds of different stuff such as peppers and "et cetera" (I don't know what else they added besides peppers).
In a "what the heck" mood, the husband pulled out a pack of bacon to add to the jam, hoping to have bacon-crabapple jam. Taste sensation aside, the plan was to cook the bacon "til just about crispy," keep the bacon fat, pour the bacon fat into the juice, and add a couple of chunks of bacon to the juice, seal it up, and let it set.
I'm very very very glad this gentleman heeded his wife's concerns that such a combination might not work... not because I think bacon-crabapple jam sounds disgusting, but because it's a dangerous thing for novice canners to willy-hilly throw together a bunch of ingredients without considering how those ingredients can drastically affect processing times and requirements.
I emailed the fellow back and said that canning fats isn't recommended, and that ALL meats must be pressure-canned at 10 lbs pressure (adjusted for elevation) for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). I also sent him a complimentary copy of my ebook Canning FAQs with particular emphasis on the tips about what NOT to can and how beginning canners should stick with pre-approved canning recipes. I also urged them to get a good canning reference book such as Ball Blue Book or Putting Food By, which gives detailed canning instructions and processing times.
I am relieved this couple sought outside advice before embarking on what could have been a risky canning adventure, since as it turned out they didn't have a pressure canner.
While I urge everyone to give canning a try -- I am convinced it is a second-to-none method of food preservation -- I also urge canners to embrace SAFE canning techniques, and to take the time to learn the proper methods.