Thursday, June 29, 2023

"Two to three hours in a water bath will do anything"

Okay, confession time: I just "lost it" on a blog reader. Forgive me as I rant a bit.

Eleven years ago, I put up a post called "The Invincible Canner" which chronicled my canning education, specifically how I got knocked off the self-built "invincible canner" pedestal I had put myself on, and learned some humility. Go on, go read that post. I'll wait.

Now that you're back, you may have noticed that post received a lot of comments – nearly 100. It was a lively discussion from many people interested in canning, both newbies and experienced.

And it's still getting comments. One came in yesterday afternoon as follows:

"I find this all so funny since the Amish have never used pressure canners, but can meat, milk, eggs and pasta all with water bath canners! Cleanliness and two to three hours in a water bath will do anything. I've been doing it myself as well. Haven't lost anyone to botulism yet!"

And I confess ... I lost it. No matter how much you try to educate someone about something as critical as food safety, they'll still dismiss it – tra la la – as immaterial. "Two to three hours in a water bath will do anything." NO IT WON'T. But I guess this person thinks they're special and the laws of science don't apply to them.

"Just let it go," Don suggested when I read the comment out loud to him. But I can't. I simply cannot stand by and watch someone promote something as unsafe as water-bath canning low-acid foods.

So I replied. Here's what I wrote:

"Well, if you're going to completely disregard the proven science behind canning, I suppose there isn't a lot I can do to change your mind. It's like driving without a seat belt; most of the time you'll be fine ... until you're not. Personally I don't want to play Russian roulette with the safety of my canned food, so I'll continue to follow USDA guidelines for safe canning procedures."Oh, regarding the Amish: A few years ago, my daughter and I were in Pennsylvania and visited a place called Kettle Kitchen Village which sold tons of Amish-canned foods. I saw many Amish women working in the kitchen facility, preparing the various commodities for canning. The food was all canned safely in pressure canners because they would not have been able to sell to the public otherwise. Do you really think they could have gotten away with canning those food products in a water bath? Of course not, BECAUSE IT'S NOT SAFE."Yes, many Amish can low-acid foods in water baths in their home kitchens. My admiration for the Amish is second to none, but that doesn't mean it's a safe practice. Even two to three hours in a water bath won't kill botulism spores. It’s not the length of time that matters; it's also the temperature. Botulism spores aren't killed at 212F; they require temperatures of 240-250F, which can only be achieved in a high-pressure environment."Good luck with your canning; you're going to need it."

I'm sorry if I came across as snarky ... but honestly, what else could I do? Let it go? It was clear this person had read all the comments and still came away unconvinced about the need for a pressure canner.

Some people are unteachable. I doubt my snark will make a difference, but at least I tried.

Okay, rant over.

27 comments:

  1. Don is right.
    https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png

    ReplyDelete
  2. My grandma canned enough food for 6 kids and 3 adults to get through winter. She never owned a pressure cooker in her 80 some years. She told me she would water bath green beans for 4 hours. Now, this was on a wood cookstove & no running water in the house (the kids brought it up from the creek (can you imagine how hot that house was?).
    I don't know how my mom learned to use a pressure cooker but thank goodness she did & passed that knowledge on to me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My daughter and I belong to a Facebook group called Stocking our Shelves and I can't tell you how many of these women post how they have been bath bath canning in their family for hundreds of years and no body died. Why listen to the government, they just tell you what to do. These are the same women who leave food out way longer than you should and think expiration dates on anything isn't true. Some one is going to die following their 3 hour canning of green beans or meat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I got my SERVSAFE MANAGER CERTIFICATION (FDA) years ago, the instructor told us that the#1 place people get food borne illnesses was church potlucks. People make their special foods but know nothing about temps things Must be kept at...different temps for different foods, and times they're safe at temperature before bacteria begin to multiply. Exponentially. And what happened back at the house during prep? How is the fridge and freezer organized? For example, chicken must be at the bottom. The book can probably be picked up on eBay for a few bucks, and I think anybody that has potlucks needs food safety training. Heck, even back yard barbeques. If you cook you need a copy.

      Once upon a time we didn't have migrants from "Tim buck to" harvesting our foods. Their hygiene in the fields is atrocious. And they work sick.
      Not to mention all the imported foods that didn't use to be. We're exposed much more than we realize.
      And growing your own still requires dirt most of the time. Earthworms carry tapeworms. OK, I have to stop now. Only certain temps kill certain eggs, both high and low.
      FOOD SAFETY NEEDS TO BE SHOUTED FROM THE ROOFTOPS!
      It would have been a mistake to let it go.

      Delete
  4. My dad, born in 1932 grew up on an old farm where they farmed with horses, had no power or indoor water. They canned everything by waterbath on a wood cookstove in 2 quart jars. Fish, meat, veggies, everything. He said what a nightmare it was for canning meat and fish, 3 hours on the stove with one kid just standing there all day long putting wood in the fire and making sure extra water was always boiling to keep adding it into the pot when it would get too low. While it got the job done and they did 1000+ jars a year, they opted to sun dry most veggies to save time. While it didn't kill anyone, once they could afford to purchase a pressure canner after WWII they bought one to save time. I would think in modern times people would embrace technology and value their time and health more. People back then did stuff out of necessity, now people just want to be different. And most Amish do embrace pressure canners, it's why they make the giant All Americans, designed solely for the plain communities.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Patrice, there are things that people do, and there are best practices. Your seat belt analogy is a good one: while people can drive without seat belts, best practice is to wear one.

    Just because something was done once upon a time and there were no perceived harm does not mean the potential absence of harm. To your point, it only takes a single "until you do not" moment to have significant consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My mom leaves food out for hours and hours. Her reasoning is that her mom grew up in a ranching family where your big meal of the day was lunch. Their leftovers were keep on the counter in an unairconditioned house just covered with a towel and no one got sick. I wonder if your gut gets used to the "bad" bacteria over time...maybe mild versions of the illness which allows you to build up a tolerance? Just a thought...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got food poisoning once. One too many times for me.

      Delete
  7. My Mom never used a pressure canner and one ever got sick. But I do use one for a l

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have a church friend that water baths potatoes. I told my husband to not eat any of her dishes at church that have potatoes in them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My friend canned all her beans in the oven because it was quicker. We were gifted a dozen jars of those beans. I told my husband we are not eating them. She insisted that it was safe and they never got sick. She did tell us occasionally that a jar or two would burst when removing from the oven.

    ReplyDelete
  10. OK but how do the Amish can everything without electricity? I understand the need for it in public but how do they can meat at home without electricity? They do it somehow without people dying. Does anybody know? I think it's something we should all learn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These days, most Amish use propane for canning, just as we do. Using a wood cookstove during roasting-hot summer months creates an inferno inside the house, which is why pioneers had "summer [outdoor] kitchens." However propane appliances are not against the rules for most Amish, so they use their pressure canners on propane stoves.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. When I was growing up, early 1960’s, all we had was a wood cook stove. My mother pressure canned using that stove. It can be done. Of course she had to be more diligent in watching temps and pressure. A few years later dad had an electric stove installed, (but it still had the wood stove part for heating our hot water tank), which made canning, and I’m sure all cooking, easier.

      Delete
    3. not all amish are electricity-less.
      the progressive ordnung in my area have not only generators, but cell phones and electricity in outbuildings. some also have tvs.

      no wonder their kids leave the fold, sometimes

      Delete
  11. Trying to break through the "that's the way my mama did it" mental barricade is nearly impossible. However, my mama always said if someone's safety was at stake, one should intervene, so I do.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've been meaning to buy the newest USDA canning manual for some time. After reading this post, I got it ordered. Thanks for the reminder to keep current on guidelines. SJ now in California

    ReplyDelete
  13. I use the comparison of choosing to not wear a seatbelt too. I would never do anything that might harm my family, so I’m using a pressure canner for low-acid foods.

    As far as responding to the id10t who thinks bacteria behave differently in her canning jars, Don is right. You will never convince her. Even if she gets sick, she will blame it on something else.

    ReplyDelete
  14. As a novice canner I once attempted to can fresh cut corn off the cob. I water bathed it (again, not knowing any better and before the internet; I was relying on memories from canning jams with my grandmother year prior) for about 2 hours. They all sealed. I was so proud of the dozen or so jars of beautiful corn sitting on my shelf, until about 4-5 days later when they all became cloudy, and every last seal about exploded off with the pressure from the bacterial build up inside. I waited years until I attempted canning again, after purchasing books, and a proper pressure canner.

    KinCa

    ReplyDelete
  15. In theory you can water bath everything IF you make it all acidic enough - but that isn't whats being discussed here, unfortunately.
    It's basic (very basic) biology and chemistry.

    JH

    ReplyDelete
  16. I adamantly declared I would continue to leave rings on all canning jars. Well, I did this for years in person and on the internet. Now, I humbly admit I was wrong. I have gone to church dinners for many and refused to eat food certain people prepared. I knew nothing about their canning habits, just they were sketchy cooks.

    ReplyDelete
  17. When we went to visit Aunt Willie down in Mississippi, she always had food on the table, covered by a tablecloth. No one ever seemed to be worried about how long it sat out. I do worry.

    ReplyDelete
  18. There are a lot of reasons that it might "work" most of the time. Heating the canned food to boiling can deactivate the toxin if it is present, and while the botulinum spores can be anywhere, they aren't everywhere. But using a boiling water bath won't kill the spores if present, and there's no way to know if they are on/in food. It only takes one failure to completely ruin or end one's life.

    Pressure canning intimidated me until I tried it, so for years I stuck to acidic foods (eg, when I put up green beans, I pickled them). But once I actually did it, I worked it into the routine whenever I dealt with non-acidic foods. It's not a big deal.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm wondering about the acidic factor too. The directions call for one tablespoon of vinegar to a quart jar. Wouldn't the jar be recognizable as toxic - such as bulging, cloudy, smelly, or something? Trusting the science is difficult for some these days given their record.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Some foods contaminated by botulism will be foul smelling with bulging lids, but not *all* of them. That's why I heat all the canned veggies and soups to boiling. If I need botulism toxin, I'd prefer to get it from a dermatologist.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I see people put up all types of things in water bath canners and I wonder why? Pressure canning is so easy and foods last such a long time. The only things I water bath are jellies and cucumber pickles.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm not a home canner but I have a question about home canned foods. My MIL taught me to push on the top & bottom lid of canned foods from the store. She said if it pops up & down, the food is bad, throw the can away. Does the same thing happened to the lids of home canned foods? Thank you for your reply.

    ReplyDelete