It's great to see so many new folks learning how to preserve food. In these tough economic times, we're definitely seeing an increase in the number of people who want to feed their family for less. Freezing, canning, pickling, drying, and root cellaring can help you achieve this.
However, as with any new venture, there are some rules and regs to follow. Why, you ask? Well, when you're dealing with your family's health and safety, it's important to do things right. Sometimes you can do things wrong and nothing bad happens. Other times, you might not be so lucky. It just doesn't pay to take chances. Do the job right every time and you'll be fine.
Fun with Math
On Friday I gave you sort of a math problem. If you loved word problems as a kid, you probably went right to work, ferreting out clues. If you hated word problems, you're my kind of person. I found them intriguing, sort of like ancient Egyptian curses on pharaohs' tombs. So, without further discussion, here's the scenario again and the explanation.
The Scenario: "I created and canned my own salsa recipe. I used onions and peppers and squash. I added tomatoes and fresh lemon juice and even some vinegar. I used the open kettle method to finish it up. I poured it into jars and put on the lids.
This salsa sounds delightful. It's an interesting mix of good foods and would be delicious freshly made and served. Leftovers should be refrigerated and used within a reasonable amount of time. However, if you've made enough to feed the 101st Airborne Division, freeze the rest. This is a safe and easy way to ensure it's going to remain healthful. Because......
The operative word here that should have set your danger antennae up and alert is canned.
Vegetables are low-acid foods. This means they must be processed in a pressure canner or have enough acid added to them to ensure they will not grow some nasty, nasty organisms when the food is sealed in canning jars. What's the danger here?
We don't have any way of knowing the amounts of anything that's gone into this recipe. It's a hit or miss affair and while it may taste wonderful fresh out of the cooking pot, there's a definite danger waiting in the wings. How acid is it? We don't know. Is this salsa safe to eat? Maybe. Maybe not. Want to take a chance? You're flirting with....
When you heat food and then put it into jars and seal those jars, you have created an anaerobic environment. This means an environment without air. Botulism finds this homey and comfortable and sets to work making itself to home.
The problem with botulism toxin is that it's colorless, odorless, and tasteless. However, it can kill you.
Follow tested and approved recipes when you're planning on canning. You can get the Extension Service Bulletin "Salsa Recipes for Canning" by calling your local office. The number is in the phone book.
Experiment to your heart's content when you're serving fresh foods. Follow the recipes to the letter of the law when you're canning. Sterilize your jars and measure ingredients exactly. I've been told some people have played Russian Roulette many times. True, but others only play it once.
On Wednesday, more on open kettle canning and why you shouldn't do this.
Check out the Fact of the Week in the right hand column for an additional safety measure.