Why didn't my Mom's preservation tactics not kill us! ;)

wertach zone 7-B SCFebruary 15, 2014

I just took a stroll down memory lane!

I bought a half of a pig. While I was putting it in my freezer, already possessed and frozen in vacuum bags, It brought back memories of how Mom preserved our pigs. We didn't have a freezer back in the 60's and we would butcher two pigs every fall.

It was my job to grind the sausage with a hand cranked grinder. She would fry the sausage and put the hot patties in a canning jar. Then pour in the hot grease, put the lids on and wait until they "popped". Then she would turn the jars upside down before the grease set up and store them in our milk cellar. I think she believed that the grease helped with the seal.

We had a safer way to store the bacon and big cuts since we had a salt box in the barn, I remember digging in the salt many cold mornings before breakfast could be cooked.

It was so tasty. Thank goodness no one ever got sick!

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wertach zone 7-B SC

Bumping down

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 12:43PM
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I truly believe that the normal person's immune system was stronger then versus now. Of course, you're stating that she 'sealed' them and then put them in a cooler place (refrigeration without the refrigerator).

I know 'back then', people had more 'common sense' than I see now. I remember my mother always saying, if in doubt, throw it out, and we did throw out a lot. If the seal was popped, out it went. Looked weird to us, out. Smelled 'off', out. I'm surprised we had much left, but we did can 100s of everything, enough for a least 1x per week x 2 years. I remember my basement 'fruit room' being full each fall. this room had been built especially for canning. It was dug out under the house and the 'wall' wasn't so much a wall, but a shelf on the outside edge of the house.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 1:49PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Luck plays a role but the majority of the "safety to consume" came from the heavy cooking after opening the jars. Any toxins that had developed were killed by the cooking. This, assuming they were not eaten right out of the jar.

And there is always an element of mis-remembering too. Often the way we remember something being done way back when isn't quite accurate.

My sister and I both helped Mom and grandma with the canning back in the late 40s and early 50s but you'd never know we were even in the same county much less the same kitchen when we compare memories of how it was done. :)


    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 2:26PM
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I have plenty of vintage cooking books with borderline scary preserving suggestions, if you consider what is regarded as safe today, so it's not all a matter of faulty memory. I do believe a good deal of why people didn't fall like flies is that as suggested, most old timers just cooked the bejeebers out of vegetables, both canned and fresh......oft times to the point of mushy. Al dente was just not in vogue for rural families, especially. People also accepted what was considered 'generally safe' unlike these days where food scientists actually test the safety in laboratories and publish guidelines with wide margins for error in techniques. I think most old timers also had a better handle on which foods were not so dangerous and understood about fermentation, salting, crocking with booze and brines. What I really do think is lost in memory is how those foods, though safely preserved using old methods tasted. Some of them were actually rather nasty and for those who like them today, it's more of an acquired taste. Also people who died from food poisoning were seldom autopsied. I do historical and genealogical research and what passed for a cause of death then would not today. I suspect a lot of deaths from food poisoning got lost in those statistics. I do know 'summer compaint' was a big one in hot weather and of course you could imagine it was most likely salmonella. I have looked at food botulism statistics often and really study the data closely and considering how much food is home canned, and how casually some home canners do it, the deaths from it are surprisingly low and a lot of them are specific to indigenous diets and fish preservation. But, it shouldn't give anybody a sense of safety to take those statistics lightly. It only takes one bad jar of the wrong stuff. Even a baked potato or bean dip (something just not refrigerated properly) can do it. It's just too easy to do it right.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 10:26PM
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'What I really do think is lost in memory is how those foods, though safely preserved using old methods tasted. Some of them were actually rather nasty and for those who like them today, it's more of an acquired taste.'

This cracked me up :).

'Even a baked potato or bean dip (something just not refrigerated properly) can do it.'

Beans, sure, but baked potatoes? I don't refrigerate them at all, this time of year, when the house never ever rises above 63 degrees (and that only for an hour in the evening). Am I doing it wrong?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 12:06PM
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Yes, baked potatoes tightly wrapped in foil and kept at room temperature (I forget how long, it was at least overnight, maybe a couple of days) were the source of a botulism incident in a restaurant a few years back.

I wouldn't worry about baked potatoes left wrapped in foil at room temperature for an hour.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 6:42PM
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calliope -- I studied those botulism stats a few weeks ago before I did my first pressure canning (wanted to figure out what I was getting my family into!) and was amazed to find something like 5 deaths from home canned food in 10 years, and those were almost all cases of low acid foods being canned in a hot water bath canner.

Then I looked at the CDC stats for people dying from all food borne illnesses, and it's about 3,000 a year (botulism is not one of the leading culprits). It certainly seems to me that home canned food and botulism get an undeserved bad rap.

Follow all safety rules, of course. But it seems like there is unnecessary fear about home canning. We should be more afraid of eating hamburgers out. Just my opinion from looking at some of the numbers.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:01PM
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Wow, thanks elisa!

Your post prompted me to do some googling. It looks like the foil is the main culprit, because it keeps air out. But the center of an unwrapped potato can sometimes be anaerobic enough, too,

I also found restaurant cases involving other vegies held at room temp -- fried onions, fried mushrooms, garlic in oil. I guess what these have in common is that they are very low acid and were all sitting in a lot of fat. I should probably throw out some things like sundried tomatoes in oil that got warm when my fridge was ill.

I had no idea, and thought botulism was only an issue with (improperly) canned food.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:40AM
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Oh, and by the way, traditional preservation methods are NOT all that safe:

Here is a link that might be useful: Linky

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:05AM
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Nila -- YES! It's definitely time to update methods for preserving fermented fish heads, aged seal flippers, and aged Beluga whale skins. (the report was Canada -- but Alaska natives have similar issues). I hope the US and Canadian gov'ts are putting as much time and resources into that area of education as they are into safe home canning info.

And yeah, after my research I'm terrified of restaurant aluminum foil wrapped baked potatoes!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 8:31AM
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Well, ok, those things do sound disgusting :).

But I was watching the a thing on how they make Worcestershire sauce, last night. You start with anchovies that are 'aged' in barrels for 4 years... When they come out, even hardened workers wear masks.

In Canada in particular, I wonder if there are a whole lot more first nations folks eating flippers than newbie urban hipsters pickling cucumbers -- presumably the main target of the NCHFP.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:46PM
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It isn't that botulism is so prevalent, it's that it's so nasty. It's not an automatic death sentence because of modern medicine, but spending time hooked to a respirator because your diaphragm is paralyzed isn't anybody's idea of fun either. Deaths from botulism poisoning doesn't necessarily equate to number of cases. Everyone who handles food, not just people who preserve it should be well versed in food borne illnesses and how very common they are and also how very under reported. Botulism is just one of them, but it makes the headlines when it happens. Other causes of food borne illnesses are much more prevalent.

Of course those who teach food preservation MUST present information discouraging any but the latest and most approved methods to process food. To make any suggestion of deviation opens them up to liability and encourages people to base their techniques on 'iffy' principles. I also found that a good many people don't even understand botulism, toxin production and sporulation. Unlike rancid fats, moldy fruits, and decaying meats.......you can't taste the toxin, and the food can look perfectly normal. I think a lot of the fear new home canners face about it is in their own perceptions about the necessary warnings. Back when my great grandparents put up their own food, many of them couldn't even read, so they were dependent on having the process handed down to them word of mouth. I had a great uncle who died within days of 'creeping paralysis'. It's what his doctor listed on the death certificate. The first thing that entered my mind was botulism.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:05PM
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Last year they discovered a new strain that they're not releasing info about, for fear of it being used as a weapon. It's that deadly.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 7:00AM
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Many people get food poisoning from commercially available products, and if you saw what went on in many restaurant kitchens, you'd probably never eat out again.

In 2007 there were 4 cases of botulism linked to canned hot dog chili sauce, and there were cases of botulism from Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice, and an update shows the serious effects of botulism.

"All of the victims of the Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice botulism outbreak developed respiratory failure and required lengthy ventilator treatments. One victim in the United States fell into a coma and died three months after ingesting the botulism toxin. A couple in Canada also experienced lengthy comas and nearly died after drinking Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice. Two years after the outbreak, in December 2008, two victims were at home, two were at a rehabilitation facility and one victim remained at a hospital. At this time, two of the five survivors were still dependent on mechanical ventilators."

Also in 2006 there were a couple of cases of botulism from some home fermented tofu, so it doesn't need to be canned food alone.

However, when you think of the thousands of people with e coli from improperly handled beef and salad greens, the salmonella from improperly prepared chicken, from jars of peanut butter, from fresh cheeses, and the countless and endless recalls of everything I can think of, well, I'm a lot more comfortable eating my home canned food and home grown beef, even if I don't have the same equipment and may not have been diligent about following all the "rules".

It's a good thing I like to cook, that's for sure.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 12:57AM
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I bumped into someone who was starting a food co-op and natural food store today, she said she was a nutritionist, but she's selling raw milk and raw cider (sweet and hard - I don't know if she's got liquor license). Wants me to wholesale my produce to her but I don't know, if her customers are drinking the raw milk and cider, I don't want to get tangled in a law suit about e. coli while they try to trace the source, have my veggies get a bad rep.

Saw an article recently - think it was Oregon - small raw milk dairy with "cow share" had a number of kids, including their own, get very sick with HURS due to e. coli and they thought they were clean. One little girl needed a kidney transplant. My dad grew up on raw milk but I won't touch it.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:13AM
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ajsmama, it would be hard to get targeted in a lawsuit while they try to trace the source, as the only evidence of wrongdoing would hinge on tracing the source. However, you sure could give your product some very bad advertising.

I get my milk from a local organic dairy, but it's pasteurized. Herd shares are popular here too, but I'm of the opinion that I want to know a LOT more about the source before I started consuming something like raw milk, although I also grew up on it.

I did just see a recall on cheese from a place in Delaware, Roos. One death in California, 7 ill in Maryland due to Listeria. (sigh) The cheeses are presumable from pasteurized, not raw milk, and the recall has expanded to include sour cream.

I'm all for local foods, I grow most of my own, frequent the local farmer's markets, grow and buy organic when ever possible. I eat eggs from my own chickens cooked soft and I've been known to eat my grassfed beef raw. That does not mean I'm going to eat a rare burger that came from somewhere else, I want to know exactly where it came from, how it was raised, fed and processed and handled during packaging, how it was transported, stored.

You just have to be careful, I think our own food is a lot less dangerous than the commercial stuff. That's even before we take into account all the pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and all the other "cides" which are actually meant to kill things. Yeah, we should eat those...


    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 7:41PM
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I'd have to know a lot more about the apples and cider pressing before I drank someone's raw cider, though I did it as a kid. But after reading that article (I guess the incident was a few years ago, but I just saw it), I don't think I'd drink raw milk even if we had our own cow.

I do eat soft-cooked eggs from my uncle's and cousin's chickens (and still thinking of getting our own), even thinking of making mayo as we need it since we literally go through a jar a year (DD is the only one who likes it). I suppose the chickens could be infected without showing it, but I'd trust their eggs before other people whose coops I've seen (or smelled). Like anything, you have to trust the source (though I'm still thinking of that raw milk) - there are some people's houses I won't eat at, since I've seen how they handle their food and cooking utensils.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:15PM
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My grandma had an old Kerr canning book that she followed religiously. She only had a water bath canner but the book gave processing times for WB. I remember that green beans took 3 hours and shelled beans took 4 hours.

If you boil your canned food for 15 minutes (depending on your elevation, we're at 3000 ft), it kills the botulism toxins, if there are any.

I remember hearing about a family on the news that got botulism after eating baked potatoes that were left on the kitchen counter over night. I believe they were foil wrapped but I'm not sure. This was back in the 1980s.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:35PM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

"Many people get food poisoning from commercially available products, and if you saw what went on in many restaurant kitchens, you'd probably never eat out again."

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Spicebush, I probably had the same book. I remember canning greenbeans in a WBW, but I lost several years each year. I never figured it out until I started pressure canning them, now I might lose 1-2 out of 100s.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:59PM
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I still have her book but just as a keepsake. I don't use it! She never did can with a pressure cooker. she was afraid of them.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 8:39PM
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