Why am I so scared to eat my canned goods?

mtam0707March 4, 2013

I have been growing vegetables for over five years now and last year I decided I wanted to try my hand at canning. I bought a water-bath canner and a Ball book on canning and got to it. I made about 10 quarts of tomatoes (diced in some and sauce in the rest), some pickled jalapenos and pepperoncinis and lastly about 4 quarts of pickles. I was very proud of myself when they all sealed correctly and I stored them as instructed. However, when it came time to opening them I ended up freaking out and tossed them all, except for some pickles. My boyfriend took hold of those and refused to let go, lol. (He is still alive so I don't know why I'm still scared of it all.)
Everything looked okay, but I started to panic when I realized that in about 4 of my tomato jars I forgot to add the lemon juice. So, I convinced myself that botulism spores were running rampant throughout the sauce. Then, in another instance I had made my tomato sauce recipe, using onions, garlic and herbs and canned it. Only after did I read that doing that is a big no-no, so again, I panicked and tossed them. Soon, I just tossed everything without trying anything once. Now I'm debating on getting a pressure canner, since it seems you can do so much more and it is safer (is it?) than water-bath - in regards to risk of bacteria - but I don't know if I should since I'm already such a weenie about my canned products.

And I'm so deranged I am finding myself wanting summer to come so I can get back in the saddle with canning again. *Sigh....

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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

There's nothing wrong with a little healthy caution, but it's not very efficient to can if you aren't going to eat it.

It's important to understand the process and follow it. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has self-guided instructions. This is a good place to start. You also might want to check with your local Extension Service and see if they offer preservation classes.

The tomatoes could have been boiled for 10 minutes to ensure their safety since the lemon juice was omitted.
Without knowing exactly what you put into your sauce (with onion, herbs, etc.), tossing was probably the safest thing to do. Again, following a tested recipe and sticking to it is the best way to feel comfortable that you're canning a safe and pleasing product.

Botulism doesn't grow in vinegar or other high acid environments, such as most fruits. Assuming you followed tested recipes, your pickles were safe.

Pressure canning isn't any more less safe than water bath canning. Safety comes from understanding what you're doing and why, using the appropriate process and method for the food you're preserving and sticking with tested recipes. Once you have a solid understanding of what you can adjust, and what you can't, you can experiment with some things.

There will always be some things we just cannot do in a home environment (i.e. eggs, dairy, using thickeners). There a few exceptions to this, but very few. Again, recipes that have been tested by a reliable source.

You can do this! Don't give up.
Start small (jam, maybe?) and get used to the idea as you learn.
Keep asking questions, there's lots of help here!


    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:54PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It is a fairly normal concern for those new to canning so you are not alone. The resolution of the fear comes with knowing that you have done everything right and because you did the food is perfectly safe.

But you know now that you didn't do everything right so in this particular case - the tomatoes and the sauce - what you did was the safe thing to do. Pickles, assuming an approved recipe was used are no problem because of the vinegar.

You learned a valuable lesson in the process and I'll bet you'll be 10x more careful this year, right? :) So you'll be much more comfortable eating your canned foods done this year,

But a pressure canner is a big step. Yes you can do more things but it also has a much bigger learning curve and more room for making mistakes. And the mistakes, if made, can be more risky since you would be working with low acid foods.

Plus the cost of the PC is only warranted if you are going to be doing meat and vegetables. It isn't needed for any reason for tomatoes or tomato sauce (with a correct recipe) or for pickles.

So I'd advise that until you get comfortable with doing BWB recipes correctly and comfortable with then eating that food, you should hold off on the pressure canning. Why spend the money, time, and produce if you aren't going to be comfortable eating it?

In the mean time why not spend some time reviewing all the great info at NCHFP, and here of course, and even consider signing up for their online canning course.


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:54PM
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Thank you both so much! Dave, thanks especially for the info on pressure canning. We are vegetarian so we probably won't be canning meat anytime soon. :)
I'll stick with the BWB and will get back into it this year! Now I'm even more excited.

Thanks again for the boost!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 7:10PM
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Just do as the others have said. You will be fine. Just follow the directions word for word and don't add anything extra. You can add anything you want when you cook it. Just stick to proven safe canning recipes and you will be fine. I have been canning for 30 + years and have never been sick from eating any of it. If it makes you feel better I have ate green beans that where 3 years old and they were fine. A pressure canner is the way to go. You can, can so much more than with water bath canner. With a pressure canner you can, can meats that are on sale and save a lot of cooking time and money. Also check in your town and see if there are any garden clubs or groups that offer free canning lessons. Check with the master gardeners in the area. Happy canning and eating it!!! :)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 1:47AM
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The thing that worried me about pressure canning was the boom factor. Just knowing that thing was there and was building pressure and was sitting mere feet away from me while I watched that gage was unnerving the first time or two. Then I got used to it and it was fine. Eventually, I preferred using the pressure canner over using the BWB canner because you don't have to keep that boiling water level topped off. Quarts especially are terrible in a BWB because there is usually not much room to spare above them as it is. Granted, you can't just set it and forget it with a PC, but it is a lot easier to just watch and adjust the burner.

The one thing that I do not like about PC is that it is more time consuming per batch than BWB. You have to start with relatively cold water, wait for the temp and pressure to ramp up, then time it, then wait for the temp and pressure to fall, then you're done. With BWB, you can fill the pot with new hot filled jars as soon as you are done with the first load and never miss a beat. Water maintains a boil before, during (mostly) and after. Double or triple batching (separately maintained batches) is a breeze with BWB since you can prep and fill jars close to the time the current load is going to be done. You can't make one big triple recipe and divide it, but you can make three separate recipes and process individually and then can each in succession. Nice for relishes or chutneys or anything that has to marinate overnight as long as you have refrigerator space to do it.

I PC canned a lot of pints of green beans and they tasted just like the cans you get at the store. That's fine by me because I like that flavor. But if I do them any more, I'll do quarts instead of pints since I can down a pint by myself at one sitting. usually two. And I canned carrots in it as well. And it seems like plain blueberries. Been a while since I did those.

Neither method is really that difficult. Just understand each and how to do them when you do them.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 3:14PM
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