Thursday, May 28, 2009

Waxing is Taboo

Hope that got your attention. Actually I'm referring to using paraffin to seal your jams and jellies. It's been done forever, I know, and you may be thinking, "It was good enough for grandma, it's good enough for me." And you may very well be right. However, the Practical Preserver is all about safety, so hear me out and then make up your own mind. I promise not to sulk.

Back in the day, jams and jellies and other fruit spreads were generally stored in very cool conditions - an unheated back porch, the basement (or cellar if you grew up back East), or in some other dark, cool place. Today, homes are heated to the max. We've got coils embedded in our cement garage floors to keep our cars nice and toasty warm throughout the winter. Not too many of us even have a back porch, and if we do, it's probably not designed with food storage in mind. You most likely will be storing your preserves in the pantry right off the kitchen. Warm. Comfy. But not if you're a preserve. And especially if you're a preserve sealed with paraffin.

So much for the background. Molds and fungi grow beautifully in warm conditions. Once these spoilers get growing, they can penetrate all the way down to the bottom of the jar. Yes, I know that folks used to just scoop and scrape off the mold and use the preserve, but it's an iffy idea. You're preserving food to nurture your family, so feeding them mold or fungus isn't a spiffy idea.

One final convincer: Making preserves is a fun family activity, but heating paraffin so you can pour it on top of the jam or jelly is literally playing with fire. It can give you a nasty burn and can also catch on fire in the blink of an eye.

So, there you have it. Best practice is to use lids and rings and ensure a tight, safe seal.


  1. Oh wow, good to know! I know my grandma always used wax...I guess the times are a changin'

    Nancy, from Just a Thought…

  2. You might as well be talking about aliens, because no one in my family preserved anything, but this is so fascinating to me.

  3. Wow, I learn every time I read your blog! Do you write a column for any food publications? You should!

  4. Thanks Alexis. Actually I did write a food column for a local paper a while back, but time became an issue. I travel a bit now and deadlines are difficult to manage on the road.

  5. Such a naughty title, Karen. One question from my sister, not sure if it's realted to preserving or storing. She peeled and crushed some garlic and put in a jar in fridge but they still all turned rotten. What's the best way to store garlic?

    In Quest of Theta Magic

  6. So, I woulda never guessed. Wax is a no-go. Another of my childhood myths/memories gone with my size 30 waistline….and hair. Thanks, Karen…I think. (Wink)

    Best Regards, Galen.

  7. Enid, garlic likes it cool and dry. The fridge is too humid. Best to smush it just as you're ready to use it. Once you remove the hard skin, it starts its slow, steady decline to the grave. I've got to stop reading Poe.

  8. I love reading your posts!! Always learn something important. Thank you.

    The Berlin Sex Diary of Lady Eve Marlowe

  9. Wow! You learn something everyday. I am an old dude you lived with foster parents on a farm, who used paraffin to seal their perserves. They had a pantry, but I don't remember if it was kept cool or not. In fact, they canned everything including meat. They grew all their own veggies themselves...raised their own chickens, beef...some habits from the depression. We are all spoiled nowdays with all the conveniences. If by chance, we were to have a depression period again who would be prepared to survive? Would folks survive without cell phones, cable TV, Internet, Gameboys? Best to you!

  10. Thom, great to hear from you. I think that in hard times the old ways come back. We are a strong people, but it only takes 3 generations for knowledge to be lost. It's important to teach the upcoming generations so they will be prepared for whatever life throws their way. Thanks very much for following me.

  11. I put up plenty of jams (many years ago) using the paraffin seal, as did my mother and grandmother. Live and learn.


  12. Ha! Good title, there. Yes, it caught my attention, for sure. I'm so glad you're cataloging this information for future're right; it's in danger of being a lost art.

    Mystery Writing is Murder


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
~ I'm the author of Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen. If you're a WWII buff, you'll like it here!