Canning Mistakes

 

 

 

I keep seeing an article about 7 mistakes people make while canning, so I wanted to give my two cents on this topic since I have been canning for quite some time!

 

The first mistake listed is about how oven canning is not safe and I agree. The oven can’t get the food in the jar hot enough to kill the bacteria and should not be trusted.

 

The next mistake is flipping jars to seal them. This is also not a good idea. The seal with not be strong enough and using a water bath or a pressure canner is necessary in order to kill the bacteria in the jar.

 

Another mistake is using Paraffin waxto seal the jars – this does not provide a proper seal and will allow bad bacteria to grow.

 

They also talk about inventing your own recipe. While I have to admit, I make up recipes all the time, the concern with this is the amount of acid needed to safely preserve food might be off (a pH of 4.6 or lower is advised). Another issue could be the temperature might not get high enough to adequately destroy bacteria and mold spores that are present.

 

The next mistake is if it’s canned at the store, it’s ok to can it at home. This is a problem. You cannot can certain foods at home, such as puree pumpkin ,because they are so low in acid and/or dense that you cannot kill all the bacteria in the jar with your non-commercial equipment.

 

Next they talk about not needing to boil the lids. They started making new lids a while ago saying just wash in hot soapy water and dry and set aside until ready to use. I tried that and half of my jars do not seal – I was not happy. So I always dip the lid in hot water right before I put it on the jar. This softens the rubber on the lid and I have a high success rate with this method.

 

The last mistake they mention is canning butter. I have never heard of anyone canning butter but it’s much easier to just freeze it as a way of preservation.

 

Although I agree with all of these “mistakes”, the article does not mention the most important aspect of canning – CLEANLINESS. If you have a dirty vent above your stove PLEASE do not can. Here is why: when you can you have a big pot of boiling water on the stove. The steam from the pot rises and will release the grease from the vent. This grease can fall into your pot of jam and now you have bacteria in your jars which can cause food borne botulism. And of course your kitchen should always be clean when starting to can.

 

Instead of worrying about these mistakes, come take a class with me so you have none of the stress and all of the fun!

See you in class

 

It’s Pickling Time

 

 

It’s pickling time of year! I just want to remind you of a few things to get the best pickle. 

One, is the type of cucumber you are using to make pickles. You need a pickling cucumber. The best ones are from the black spine type, with small black prickles, such as the Chicago Pickling Cucumber and National Pickle.

Wash all ingredients carefully to remove bacteria, which might spoil your product. In washing cucumbers, DON’T scrub so that you remove the black prickles. A good way to get off the dirt and bacteria is to soak them for a few minutes in a glass or plastic container with a tablespoon of pickling salt and one tablespoon of vinegar. Rinse well in running water as you gently rub them.                                The pot you will be using to make the brine should never be brass, copper, iron or aluminum. Any of these will produce a strange taste and undesirable color changes because the metals will react with the vinegar and salt solutions. Use enameled ware, glass, or stainless steel. Stir with wood spoon and or stainless steel ladle.  

Whenever possible, use water without chlorine. Here is how you can use your water to eliminate chlorine and other minerals. Plan in advance and boil the water for 15 minutes. Let stand for 24 hours. When all the sediment has settled to the bottom, ladle the water from the top. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with 5 % acidity to each gallon of water before using. Or buy bottled distilled water and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to each gallon. You will never regret all this effort. 

Do not use table salt in pickling or canning. Table salt has iodine and anti-caking agent. That will turn pickles an undesirable color and soften the pickle. Use Pickling salt for best results. 

Vinegar should be 5 % acidity. Check the label for percentage of acid and also check the expiration date. If it is past the expiration date, use it to make salad dressing not pickles. Vinegars of unknown strength should not be used. Either cider or white vinegars may be used. When pickling light-colored foods such as onions, white vinegars is preferable for it will not darken the ingredients. When making a simple solution of vinegar, pickling salt, and water, do not boil more than 5 to 6 minutes unless otherwise directed in the recipes. Long boiling weakens vinegar. Follow the timings suggested in the recipes: if a recipe says bring just to boil, do that. 

Always use fresh spices and herbs. Old ones will discolor the product and produce musty, strange flavors. If a recipe calls for you to put spices in a spice bag ( cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine) make sure it is not too tight so the brine can flow through during the cooking time. Remove bag before canning. If you have access to fresh grape leaves, wash them and place on top of produce in the jar. This will keep the produce under the brine and help with keeping the produce crisp. Any recipe can be changed to fit individual taste in SPICES Only. Do not change the amount of vinegar, water or salt. Blended pickling spices are available commercially, I like to blend my own. Here are a list of spices I like using: Allspice, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper Corns, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chili, Cinnamon Stick, Coriander Seeds, Clove, Dill Seeds, Ginger, Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg ( grated), Hot Red Pepper flakes, Turmeric, and Celery Seeds. 

Garlic is a wonderful addition to pickles. But one warning; If you wish to add garlic to a jar of dill pickles or any pickles, you will need to peel the cloves then plunge them into boiling water first for 1 minute. This blanching process kills the bacteria on garlic, which can cause spoilage. Or you can place the cloves in vinegar for about 1 to 2 minutes before filling the jars. 

I hope this helps you get the best pickle for you and your family. 

See you in class

      

Judging Preserves At The Alameda County Fair

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I was asked to be a judge at the fair. I’m very naive thinking I was going to taste some wonderful home made preserves. They had me tasting butters, marmalade, curds and hot sauces. They had other judges tasting jams, pickles, olive oils, honeys, relishes, chutneys, canned fruits and jellies. The butters had too much spice and sugar. I couldn’t taste the fruit. The marmalade had big pieces of peel, very bitter. The curd had the smell of eggs and you could see the egg whites. The hot sauce was in a new category for professionals. This is a category for people that sell their products and want to say they won in the Country Fair. We all know the first thing you do when opening a jar is look, smell and taste. The ” look”  you are looking for is bubbling and or mold. The “smell ” will be stinky if there is a problem. If a jar has bubbles, mold and smells bad please do not taste. After opening one of the hot sauces it started to look like a volcano, pouring out all over the table. This is a bad jar with a lot of bacteria built up inside. This could have happened because the room was warm. They had another category that was mixed fruit. This is where I found the best jar of the day. It was a Cherry Balsamic Chutney. It was a beautiful color with great texture. The balsamic was the perfect hint of vinegar and it had some nuts for a little crunch. After I was done I walked around to see what was out there. I asked where is the Pie Filling and Mustard. They wrote them down, so maybe they will be doing that next year.  There are a lot of bad canners out there and I hope they find All In A Jar Private School. Remember to keep jars in a cool dark place. Happy Canning.

See you in class