just whining (yucky tomatoes)

texasjohn(8 TX)January 22, 2008

This last summer I decided to put up

some tomatoes. Now I havn't put up any

tomatoes in about 30 years. I used the

citric acid at the prescribed dosage. The

only way I can use them in soup and chili,

is to strain off the liquid. If I put the

tomatos and liquid in, the taste is to acidic.

I sometimes wonder if the folks that make

the standards have any tastebuds.

With the comming gardening season, I may not

be canning tomatoes. just venting-john

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fedup321(7 NC)

john , I did the same thing, the tomato juice I did with the extra acid to make it safe just screes it up, and a lot of other things also.

But on the brighter side is the story I read in the paper this morning....At least we are not one of these!! Yet.........

Here is a link that might be useful: the news story

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 2:11PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

Add a bit of sugar to offset the taste. Yes, they do have tastebuds, but this is about safety. If you want to not have to add the citric acid or bottled lemon juice, you can always freeze the tomatoes.
I don't notice mine being that tart.
By the way, even the commercial industry has to add the acid to theirs. Check the labels at the store and you will see they contain it, too.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 2:29PM
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It may just be a matter of individual taste, too. I used very tart, 4th of July tomatoes picked very late Oct, early Nov, and added citric acid, to make juice. It's like battery acid -- but, I can't get enough of it, I truly like it that way. Of course, I've been known to peel a lemon and eat it like an orange.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 10:40PM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

I'm with Texasjohn, I almost want to give up canning tomatoes, they taste so bad! I use citric acid, in required portions, and tomatoes taste terrible! What good is safe--if you cant eat them?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 8:02AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

I froze or ate mine fresh last year.

However, my mind still tells me that if I can pressure can low-acid veggies - like beans, etc., I should be able to pressure can tomatoes that are only "borderline" without adding bottled lemon juice.


Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 9:15AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

There are a LOT of tomato varieties. The salad, beefsteak, and eating types, are usually not as well suited for making sauces. Here, I much prefer meatier tomatoes, like some plum types of an Oxheart. The last time I made a sauce, I also used the Villaware food strainer and cut each in half, dug out the seeds and any loose gel/water, before running through the strainer. I got quite a thick sauce, that looked like it was cooked down already. My canned tomatoes are sometimes so thick, I need a spoon to get them out of the jars. Sugar does help a little to offset the acid. Keep in mind that if they are watery to begin with, and you cook them down to remove the excess water, it will usually concentrate the acid content. I believe that a pressure canning of 'no extra added acid' tomatoes is quite safe. Interestling though, most commercial canned tomatoes usually do contain citric acid.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 9:25AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)


Most of my tomato varieties (especially the ones that mature early, as I imagine 4th of July is) start to taste pretty sour by late Oct - early Nov anyway; I have to taste them and throw out about half at that time of year. (Maybe I shd send them to you! ;-) )

I don't taste any bad effect from adding lemon juice if I use a reasonably fresh bottle of a good brand. When I've used cheap or stale juice I was astonished at how much of a difference it makes. So maybe before you give up you could try upgrading the lemon juice? I know tastes vary (I taste an unpleasant metallic tang in many commercially canned tomato products) so of course it may not solve your problem, but just something else to try!

Another thing to try is maybe red wine vinegar (by USDA guidelines it should be one that is at least 5%). I find that red-wine flavours work well with most tomato-product things.

That and adding a little sugar as Linda Lou suggests....

Of course, there's no law that says you have to add it. You can can any way you like. But even though the incidence of botulism is low (I think it's probably riskier to drive on the highway), since botulism poisoning is usually fatal, I like the risk to be 0%....


    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 11:43AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I pressure can and use no added acid. I boil my home canned tomato sauce for twenty minutes+ before using. This is supposed to killl the toxin from botulism.

I also avoid tomatoes known to be low acid. I assume the USDA bases their recommendations based on the lowest acid tomatoes as they do not differentiate between tomatoes. This would result in safe tomato sauce for all tomato sauces and too much acid for some tomato sauces.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 2:44PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

Good point, zeuspaul! Many tomato sauce dishes call for that amount of cooking after opening anyway, and if you're sure to do it, I don't see what the risk it.

My own cowboy behaviour is to sometimes use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled. Yep, that means I don't know for 100% sure that it's exactly as acidic as the directions assume, and because I'm using non-low-acid tomatoes (there are only a few varieties that are lower than the standard) and follow other directions carefully, I feel pretty confident that I'm well within the margin of safety. But that's just me.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 11:17PM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

This is interesting! I asked once before, and was told even IF I pressure canned--I MUST add acid. Has it changed? or have peoples minds changed?
Inquiring minds want to know, positively, please?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 8:32AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

According to the USDA you must add acid even when pressure canning tomatoes.

I don't go by their rules because I believe they base their recommendations on low acid tomatoes. I don't see how low and high acid tomatoes would require the same amount of added acid.

I believe boiling before use provides a higher level of security. To be extra extra safe you could do both.

The US Center for disease control says you can ensure safety by boiling after canning.

***Because botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, persons who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety.***

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 1:25PM
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When I've tried pressure canning tomatoes, the quality is never as good as with waterbath, but technically I think you're not supposed to...

On flavor, I think the problem was low quality tomatoes. I once juiced cherry tomatoes that tasted great fresh, but the juice was downright bitter.

Can't go wrong with good, firm paste tomatoes put through a food mill. I bring it to a boil, then waterbath can in pints with salt and lemon juice.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 4:05PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

The current USDA guides do call for bottled lemon juice in both the pressure and water bath canner.
The other websites can vary, but when there is a conflict of information the one at National Center For Home Food Preservation is the leading authority.
Even if you think you have a high acid tomato, you may not, depending upon the soil it was grown it. So, the added acid is considered necessary. If you process tomatoes in the pressure canner, using the same time listed , they are underprocessed.

Quality: Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning.

Caution: Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines. Green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit and can be canned safely with any of the following recommendations.

Acidification: To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.

Recommendation: Use of a pressure canner will result in higher quality and more nutritious canned tomato products. If your pressure canner cannot be operated above 15 PSI, select a process time at a lower pressure.

If a procedure from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for canning tomatoes offers both boiling water and pressure canning options, all steps in the preparation ("Procedure") are still required even if the pressure processing option is chosen. This includes acidification. The boiling water and pressure alternatives are equal processes with different time/temperature combinations calculated for these products.

Here is a link that might be useful: Safely canning tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 5:37PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)


Are you saying that boiling tomato sauce before use does not kill the botulism toxin as indicated by the CDC? The CDC seems to be taking it a step further than the USDA by recommending boiling before use of home canned food even if they are properly canned.

It seems to me the CDC is saying can properly but if somehow you screw up, boiling before use will remedy the problem.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 6:25PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I know that it does say you can boil the tomato products for 10 min. and it is supposed to destroy botulism toxins. I would not take a risk by not adding the required added acid when canning tomatoes just because I thought I may get away with it. I would use a tested recipe for something like spaghetti sauce without adding the acid, but the recipe is tested for safety in that case.
It won't hurt to boil the food , but if you canned it right to begin with you wouldn't have to worry about it.
Here are some guidlines for boiling the foods:
Before eating home-canned low-acid foods, heat to a rolling boil, boil corn, spinach and meats for 20 minutes and all other home-canned low-acid food for 10 minutes before tasting. This will destroy any toxin present.
However, what about the jar, and the lid that you just opened ? What about the utensil you just used to put it in the pan with and the can opener you used ? They would be contaminated, too. You can breathe in the toxins. If the jars are contaminated, you have to do a careful detoxification procedure or better yet, throw them all away in the trash. There are steps for all of this, as well.
So, this is my 2 cents worth.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 7:52PM
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Now, really, must we be so afraid of our food? When I open a can of tomatoes, or green beans, or soup mix, or whatever (which have been carefully handled from garden to canner), I listen for the seal to break, take a good look, and then a deep sniff. I would know if something was wrong. So would anyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

No, you would not necessarily know if they were bad. You cannot see, taste, or smell botulism....
Some other forms of bacteria you most likely would, like molds, flat sour, etc.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:55PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

> When I open a can of tomatoes, or green beans, or soup mix, or whatever (which have been carefully handled from garden to canner), I listen for the seal to break, take a good look, and then a deep sniff. I would know if something was wrong. So would anyone.


Linda Lou has science and medicine on her side on this point, bcomplx. You might have no idea if there was botulism in your canned tomatoes or green beans. Most likely you won't, because botulism poisoning is quite rare. But it can happen --- there are some cases from home canning every year.

But, Linda Lous, this is the part I haven't every seen evidence for:

>>"Even if you think you have a high acid tomato, you may not, depending upon the soil it was grown it."

All the expert sources I've seen about tomatoes say that almost all ripe, healthy tomatoes, whatever the variety and whatever the soil conditions, are of practically identical acidity. Tomatoes that taste as if they are lower acid are in fact higher in sugar. A few varieties of low-acid tomato were bred intentionally some decades back, and are very rarely grown today; the only one I've ever even seen in a seed catalogue is Jet Star.

People on this list frequently say that a tomato might be lower acid because of how it was grown, I've never, ever seen any references to studies that support this. Do you know of any? (This is me really asking because I want to know, Linda Lou, and because I know you have a lot of sources of expertise. It's really not me being argumentative. I am not advocating ignoring the USDA's rules. But I do wish they were clearer about the degree of risk associated with various things, because then people could make informed decisions.)


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 8:03PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

There is a difference between pressure canning and a boiling water bath. In my case it is 210 deg F for boiling water and 248 deg F for a pressure canner at 15 psi.

From what I have read 210 does not kill botulism spores and 240 deg does kill botulism spores.

The USDA seems to rely on acid to prevent their growth in lieu of killing them as they only recommend a boiling water bath. They don't say you can't kill botulism at 240 deg. They have a one size fits all government procedure that works in all cases. That doesn't mean there are not other safe ways to can tomatoes.

So if you can at 240 deg F your going to kill the Botulism. So how would the jar and lid and utensils get botulism on them?? Just because the USDA has not chosen this approach doesn't mean it is unsafe.

Who determines that the USDA is the ultimate authority or that their chosen method is the one and only safe method to can???

The CDC is also a well respected Fed Governmental agency. Boiling before use is not a way to try and get away with something. It's a recommendation for additional safety that applies to the USDA methods as well as others.

It seems like science to me. If you kill the botulism it isn't going to somehow regenerate itself. I am looking at a can of tomato sauce with the only ingrediant listed tomatoes. It must be USDA approved? and it has no added acid. Should I be concerned about its safety?


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 12:32AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

I gotta agree, zeuspaul. As you say, the USDA-approved method "works in all cases." It's designe to do so, so that anyone who wants to try canning can have instructions to follow that will result in a guaranteed safe product. That's as it should be, and good for the USDA.

But it really doesn't make sense to talk about "getting away with" something or "canning properly"; this isn't a question of MORALITY here, and what sensible definition of "proper" could there be other than "safe"?

Master Food Preservers who are trained on the USDA recommendations promise to teach them, which is fine. But there should be room on this forum for discussion of alternatives.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 11:16AM
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petrowizard(z5a NE IL)


Some niggling technical points here:

1) yes, the steam in pressure canners does reach temperatures of 240 degrees. However, the temperature that is reached in the interior of the jar does not necessarily reach that temperature. The temperature in the center of the jar depends on the amount of time it sits in the 240 degree steam and the density of the product in the jar. The amount of time required for tomatoes to reach 240 degrees in the center of the jar is unknown because the testing has not been performed. If you choose the wrong processing time, you will have underprocessed your product and that is how the jar, lid and utensils could be contaminated, even though you subsequently boiled the product and destroyed the toxin in the product.

2) It is certainly theoretically possible to safely pressure can tomatoes without added acid. Again the testing required has not been performed. Presumably the USDA has chosen not to perform the testing because of cost and because there is an acceptable alternative to most of us.

3) The USDA is not the only authority. People accept recipes provided by the Ball Blue Book because those recipes are tested. Testing is also performed by extension services in the various states. An example of this is Annie's Salsa recipe, developed by Annie and tested in Michigan. As long as the recipe is tested in approved lab, there should be no reason not to use it. There is conflicting information regarding home canning of tomatoes. An example is the canning information provided by Minnesota.


Personally, I think some directions for pressure canning tomatoes without added acid should be provided by some approved lab, for several reasons, not the least of which is that added acid does not always result in an acceptable product to everybody. By all means, pester all your available resources to make it happen.

But don't suggest that because you know that pressure canning tomatoes safely can be done, that you know how to do it. One doesn't follow from the other.


p.s. Zabby I have a reference for you regarding some variability but I will have to hunt for it.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 12:56PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I am trying to find my link to the info on how soil affects the ph of the tomatoes. They seem to be above 4.6 in their natural state, not acidic enough to can without the added acid.
In the meantime, this info may interest you and you can see the different ph of some tomatoes and how adding the acid affects their safety in canning them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Acidity of tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 12:59PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

When I can tomatoes, I don't add the acid while they are cooking. Instead, I add the acid to each empty jar before its filled with the boiling mixture. It tends to be a bit more accurate that way, as opposed to measuring every single quart you have and then calculate the needed acid for the whole batch. Some time ao, I recall that someone added a bit of grape juice to some tomato sauce to reduce its harshness. This was after the jars were opened and the sauce was being seasoned.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 3:46PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)


The amount of time for tomato sauce to heat in the center of a jar is not going to be that much different than the time it takes to heat a tested recipe. You don't need a certified lab for everything.

Choose the longest time between a tested recipe and the longest time for low acid vegetables and add twenty percent.

Also the temp at 15 psi is 248 which is higher than necessary. So the temp in the center of the jar will reach 240 a lot faster than it would if it were surrounded by 240 degree steam.

You don't need a lab to tell you that at higher temperatures and longer processing times the center temp will be reached.

Tomatoes are an ingredient in the tested recipies. The variation in heat transfer rate for tomato sauce and for tomato sauce with some onions and spices in it is going to be very close. If you don't believe me try it for yourself. Put an open jar in a boiling water bath and measure the center temperature over time. Do the same thing with a tested recipe. The transfer rates will be similar but higher at the higher temperatures in a pressure canner.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 4:47PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)


***But don't suggest that because you know that pressure canning tomatoes safely can be done, that you know how to do it. One doesn't follow from the other.***

I am not making these things up. It's in the link you provided.

***Researchers at USDA and at the University of Minnesota have found that most underripe to ripe, cooked tomatoes have a pH below 4.6. Unfortunately, a few varieties may have a pH above or close to 4.6. These include Ace, Ace 55VF, Beefmaster Hybrid, Big Early Hybrid, Big Girl, Big Set, Burpee VF Hybrid, Cal Ace, Delicious, Fireball, Garden State, Royal Chico, and San Marzano. Some of these are grown for commercial purposes and are not found in home gardens. However, safely canning these varieties requires additional acid for water bath processing OR a pressure canning process similar to low acid vegetables.***

The longest processing time I have found for low acid vegetables is ninety minutes. Do you really think longer would be necessary? If so use two hours.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 7:19PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

National Center for Home Food Preservation

The NCHFP says 20 - 100 minutes at 240 - 250 so 100 minutes at 15 psi should do it.


The National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods.


Although tomatoes usually are considered an acid food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6. Figs also have pH values slightly above 4.6. Therefore, if they are to be canned as acid foods, these products must be acidified to a pH of 4.6 or lower with lemon juice or citric acid. Properly acidified tomatoes and figs are acid foods and can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner.

Botulinum spores are very hard to destroy at boiling-water temperatures; the higher the canner temperature, the more easily they are destroyed. Therefore, all low-acid foods should be sterilized at temperatures of 240° to 250°F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 PSIG. PSIG means pounds per square inch of pressure as measured by gauge. The more familiar "PSI" designation is used hereafter in this publication (the Complete Guide to Home Canning). At temperatures of 240° to 250°F, the time needed to destroy bacteria in low-acid canned food ranges from 20 to 100 minutes.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 9:46PM
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but isn't the reason, USDA NCHPF sez add vinegar even when pressure canning:

No tests have been done to document how long it takes for all parts of the jar to reach temps that will Kill the spores. I seem to rememember someone saying the data had been "lost."

I know funds for testing are scarce, but given the popularity of growing and canning tomatos, it seems to me that such testing would or should be a priority.

Maybe we can take up a collection, because I think added acid turns Good tomatoes into Bad tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 10:35AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

The USDA method is a method for canning tomatoes which are considered low acid vegetables as acid vegetables by converting them to acid vegetables with the addition of acid. The pressure processing times are for tomatoes converted to acid vegetables with the addition of acid. That's the way I read the NCHPF statement.

They also state that they can be processed as low acid vegetables but fail to give a processing time. Instead they give a range for low acid vegetables.

Processing times are a function of temperature, time and acidity. More time and you need less temp or acidity. More temp and you need less time and acidity. More acidity and you need less temp and time. So one would assume that tomatoes would be towards the lower end of the provided range as they are borderline acid.

While waiting for a certified lab to find out how much less than 100 minutes tomatoes require in a low acid processing procedure you could you use one of the tested recipes that allow for adjustment.

The processing time for tomatoes and zucchini is 35 minutes. Zucchini is lower in acid than tomatoes so one would assume the time would be less for just tomatoes. However if you want to stick to the recipe you should use 35 minutes in a pressure canner.

Note the recipe is for UP TO one pound zucchini for every three pounds of tomatoes. So you can eliminate the zucchini and still be within the bounds of the recipe. If you think you have to have the zucchini add an ounce or two and I doubt you'll taste the difference. I generally use a little zucchini in my marinara recipes if I have it on hand.

Tomatoes with Zucchini or Okra

(boiling water bath) not recommended
(pressure canner) 30 min pts 35 min qts

Use up to 1 pound of zucchini or okra for every 3 pounds of tomatoes. Wash, peel and quarter tomatoes. Wash vegetables and slice or cube. Bring tomatoes to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add vegetables and boil gently 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to jars, if desired. Fill jars with mixture. Leave 1-inch headspace. Close jars and process. For variation, add 4 or 5 pearl onions or 2 onion slices to each jar

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 11:41AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

On most of the commercially canned tomatoes, I always see the mention of 'citric acid', being added to the ingredient list, along with salt, unless they are salt free.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 12:25PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I prefer using the commercial products that do not list citrus acid as an ingredient. I prefer the ones that list only tomatoes. I bought a bunch of S&W paste for that reason. I was going to use it instead of endless boiling to thicken sauce. Then I discovered that dumping the canned sauce in a strainer makes for a very thick sauce without boiling.

It's probably an economic decision on the part of commercial processors. Higher acid levels mean shorter processing times or lower temperatures.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 12:56PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

Ball still conforms to USDA guidelines, so do the extension offices. The lady who wrote the USDA guidelines works at NCFHFP at University of Georgia. The USDA guidelines are what we are taught at the university extension program. Same exact information.
There are new guidelines/clarifications coming out in the new version of the USDA guides. Elizabeth Andress said she hopes they are out soon, as she thought they already would have been by now.
You all just have to decide for yourself if you want to take a risk in your home canning. All I can do is pass along what information I have.
Some of the information on websites is older, so we also check the dates on them and use the newest information. Also, some, like the Univ. of Minnesota have done their own testing, but I asked Elizabeth about them. She said to use the USDA guidelines. When there is conflicting information, the Univ. of Georgia/USDA is what we are to provide as information.

Also, you need to keep in mind the difference of the size of pieces of food is a factor in the processing times, as well. The density of the food, etc. Not just ph determines the processing times... Something more liquid won't require as long as a time. Same with hot pack vs. raw pack in some cases.

Kayskats, the info you are mentioning about being lost is some old info. about regular steam canners.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 2:04PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Lind Lou and steam canners do not mix! Although I much prefer the steam canner method when doing vinegar pickles, and tomato sauc with added citric acid (or acid blend). Also jellies work well in a steam canner too.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 8:50AM
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