Reasons for no-no canning with flour, eggs?

nancedar(z7NC)October 30, 2009

I have a friend who makes everything with garlic, which he grows in abundance. The scariest thing he makes (and offers for sale) is a garlic mustard with listed ingredients including flour and eggs. I doubt if he uses a pressure canner since he does know that you cannot sell anything that is home canned that way. However, I must find the reason from a reputable source why flour and eggs should not be used when canning using BWB method. If you can find a specific reason why it should not be used (not just "don't use it" according to NCHFP) I would appreciate it so as to educate him.

I hope he has liability insurance.


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readinglady(z8 OR)

For specific citations you might want to email Dr. Elizabeth Andress at the NCHFP. She has access to research documents unavailable to most laypersons. In many cases you have to have access to subscription databases.

But I'll give it a general shot. First I want to say with the flour and eggs and garlic, he's in a scary position re liability if anyone becomes ill and it's connected to his mustard. But then you know that.

It's utterly irresponsible to sell any food with an I'm doing it until someone proves otherwise attitude.

The pH line for BWB is 4.6, though most canned recipe developers aim for 4.0 or 4.3 pH. You want enough leeway to allow for inevitable variations in the home. Above 4.6 there's a risk for botulism in the product. BWB does not reach temperatures sufficient to kill the spores. Additionally, as with salsa, the mustard is generally eaten out of the jar, not heated. So boiling to kill toxins is not an option with this product, as it would be with something like green beans.

Flour is roughly 6.2 pH, so it's definitely low-acid. Eggs are 6.58 pH and garlic is 5.8 pH. So you have conservatively three pH issues in that mustard. Testing would indicate if there's sufficient overall acidity in the mustard to bring the pH down below 4.6 pH, but without testing there's no way to know one way or another. It's a gamble, and a scary one.

Eggs, by the way, have been implicated in a botulism outbreak, and those were pickled eggs. It just goes to show vinegar doesn't take care of all issues.

I know of one approved recipe containing eggs, a canned lemon curd. But to compensate for the eggs and butter, the recipe requires bottled (not fresh) lemon juice and isn't approved for shelf storage beyond a few months.

But let's assume the mustard is sufficiently acid for BWB. If there are solids in the mustard (i.e. garlic pieces), it is possible for there to be low-acid "islands" in a high-acid mixture. Again, only testing would indicate one way or the other. Just because jars are sealed doesn't mean what's inside is safe to consume.

Aside from the pH problem there's a density problem. The flour (along with the mustard) thickens the mixture so heat penetration is impaired.

That leaves pressure canning, though I have no idea what time/pressure would be required. Outside of the commercial world no recipe of this sort has been developed. I'm guessing in the home sphere pressure canning might cause a breakdown of the egg in the mustard, so there would be quality issues to resolve as well as safety.

Too bad someone doesn't take a sign and picket your friend's stand. It would be a public service.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 2:13AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I agree, get the information from Elizabeth Andress at the Univ. of Georgia. She wrote the USDA guidelines for home food preservation.
I know that in the guidelines for canning tomato products, salsa, and soups it states DO NOT THICKEN before canning.
Also, there are guidelines to not can your own recipes. Unless something is found in a current, safety tested publication, that would be considered not acceptable for home canning. That mustard recipe was never designed for canning. Just someone did what many do, made up their own method and processing time for a recipe meant for refrigerator storage.
This link from the Univ. of Georgia/NCHFP has some good reasons not to can your own recipes, about density, ph level, etc. It is quite informative and may help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Safe processing of foods from NCHFP.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 3:16AM
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kathy_in_washington(Zone 8 Sequim,WA)

Nancy, it's not popular to be a "Nark", but it might be worth it to someone (else) if you do report this. We have a similar situation with a farming neighbor (a couple of miles away) who is making and selling a non-approved salsa in a non-approved kitchen (but telling others it has been approved). I'm concerned about the homemade salsa and have discussed the problem with her -- but nothing changed.

Needless to say, I did mention it to "the authorities" and they did, well, whatever they did. At least I felt that the farmer-cook had been warned and maybe educated at the same time. And hopefully no one will get ill now.

It's a difficult problem to approach. I know.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 4:45AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

All excellent advice from the others and it should be more than sufficient.

But you are facing an impossible task I fear. Folks who practice and even worse, advocate canning practices such as this, use the old No One Has Died From It Yet yardstick.

That attitude is a good indication of their cast iron mindset that isn't going to change no matter what evidence is presented to them. I wish you luck.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 10:27AM
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I agree, Dave, some people become somehow emotionally attached to specific recipes or techniques. My own father open kettle canned tomatoes until he passed away and no matter how much information I gave him, that was what he was going to do. I finally just caved in and made his favorite dill pickles for him without BWB too, because they "weren't the same". They were too soft when BWB and he didn't like them. I figured he was 75 years old and going to do whatever he was going to do, so I gave up the possibility of ever changing his mind.

Now, selling stuff? That's something else entirely. As you know, I'm a proponent of giving everyone all the information available and letting them decide the level of risk they choose to take. That's what I did with Dad. So if someone is selling an inherently unsafe product to other people, those customers deserve to know the risks involved. it seems that in this case they do not.

I'm not sure what can be done in this instance other than give the "maker" the information available and let them decide.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 12:11PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I find Kathy's example even more troubling. In that situation being an informed consumer (i.e. asking the right questions) is useless because the seller is lying.

I really enjoy patronizing farmers' markets and small local purveyors, but I have to admit there are some products I steer away from just because there's no absolute way to know. This example just confirms it for me.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 1:26PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Excellent point on the selling to the public. The risk of the practice is bad enough for the individual but then selling it to uninformed buyers is totally unacceptable. Maybe their certification needs to be "on display" or asked for before buying. Wonder if a call to the local Health Dept. would accomplish anything?

It is situations like that when I wish there really was a "canning police" like Zabby and I joke about.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 1:52PM
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I was faced with a similar situation not long ago. I work with a non-profit managing a small food bank. Recently I was made aware that my aunt still does BWB tomatoes without adding the citric acid. She offered some of her tomatoes to us and I had to refuse her donation. I told her if they were done in a PC we would test them for use. After the initial outrage and list of our family tree that did them BWB or open kettle and the myriad of other excuses, She came to change her mind set simply so she could give them away. So maybe by you refusing them based on tested data your friend might also look at this differently. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 3:58PM
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afeisty1(St. Louis)

I've noticed an increased number of home canned vendors at our local Farmer's Market this year. I always strike up a conversation about canning and inquire about their recipes, processes, etc. I was amazed that very few used approved recipes or practiced safe processing methods. One lady sold home made salad dressings and many other items that caused me to raise my eyebrows. During my "fact finding" canning conversation, I found out she used her own recipes and had not had them approved; she bragged about having a certified commercial kitchen but when I pressed her on whether her recipes had been approved and if she had followed the proper processing methods, she stopped talking and shooed me away. I noticed she hadn't been around the last couple of weeks and in talking to other vendors, found out she was getting so many complaints from people that bought from her that she just stopped showing up. A couple vendors said they bought a few jars of her stuff and when they opened it, it opened with such a force they knew it was bad.

Another very nice lady had homemade salsa that was wonderful. I found out she open kettle canned it because that's the way her mother canned. I gently explained that she needed to do some serious research on her processing methods and that she might want to send her recipe in to get it approved and find out if it can be canned and the recommended processing. We only bought the freshly made salsa that had to be refrigerated and used right away but she sold jars and jars to other unsuspecting folks.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 4:29PM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

As a former caterer and prepared salad manufacturer nothing used to get my dander up more than items sold at farmers markets. I live in a rural area and there are lots of folks who bake or can without a licensed kitchen. Worse, was the Amish community was voided from health inspections, much political envolvement finally lead to include the Amish farms to manufacture under the same standards as those of us who carried insurance and licenses.

Unfortunetly, john Q public has a romance with "homade" products and unless there is a severe outbreak of a food borne illness that can be pin pointed to a certain supplier. It's tough to point fingers, inspectors are overworked.

If you don't already have a contact with your land grant college food science department I strongly encourage you to call them. I regularly called Cornell, Penn State and the USDA in D.C. if I ever had a concern or worse, recall.
Any food science department is a wonderful wealth of information and guidence.

Just a quick check for NC I see you can have a product tested for safety for a mere 50.00 with nutritional facts 100.00 per product. That's great, when we were in business that wasn't available.

I bet if you call the food scince dept with the ingriedent list they will fax right over a answer to you

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 5:01PM
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kathy_in_washington(Zone 8 Sequim,WA)

I'm working with our County Health Department and Washington State towards getting an approved kitchen for our canning. (We're fortunate, because we have a separate kitchen in a separate building on our property. It wouldn't be possible if we used our home kitchen.) Lots of stringent requirements -- but a bit more lenient if you only have immediate family members working (mainly allowing a "home bathroom" available and not requiring one JUST for the kitchen workers). Still and all -- I need to have the inspections and permits. Additionally, EVERY item I plan on making and selling needs to be approved. If the recipe I'm following is one of the standard, approved ones (say, for Apple Butter or Cherry Jam) I'm OK. If it is a recipe they don't have in their approved list, then I need to supply them with two jars of the finished product as well as the recipe, and pay $50 for the testing, before they will be able to approve or disapprove it. I feel that's reasonable.

Naturally, even when I'm donating jars to our church bazaar, I mention on the hang tag the ingredients, the method of cooking and processing, and the fact that it is an approved recipe. I don't want people to worry -- and I have nothing to hide. I've also started writing a batch number on the lid -- so even our home products are marked. It's just as easy to add a "1" or "2" or whatever after the date -- and then there's no worry.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 6:31PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

> It is situations like that when I wish there really was a "canning police" like Zabby and I joke about.

Ah, c'mon Dave, I bet you have the uniform already designed in your head, haven't you? 'Fess up! ;-p

I'm more like Annie --- I think people should have information and make their own decisions.

If someone's giving false information about the product they sell, we don't need a cannign police --- there are all kinds of consumer-protection laws against that already.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 8:55AM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

That's great Kathy every state has their own rules for small processors. In Pa you can get a license for in the home, the one requirement I recall is no pets are allowed in the house and dairy is another department. I worked with Cornell in their niche community kitchen project in it's infancy, but I did not get enough small processors who were intrested.
Growing up having a 3,500 sq foot licensed kitchen I can never understand why people would even want use their home kitchen to manufacture enough product to turn a profit. What a hasssle, and you can burn out a home stove real fast.
I am glad I looked up and you say the product testing outside of the approved lists are 50.00. I may drag out the old file of the products were were going to mass manufacture at a local, high volume high acid manufacturer.
When we were going to market our pizza sauce the costs in the 80's was outragious compared to now. Testing alone was in the 1,000's of dollars and they shelved the product for 2 years before you could start production.
Maybe they have a similar agricultural program in Washington Kathy like they have here. When you get your license you can sign up for the PA Pride program. You get all sorts of marketing aids, stickers that you are approved and manufacture in PA.
I think it is a good thing to be friends, not hiding or enemies of the ag/health departments.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 10:45AM
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Kathy, here in Michigan a separate kitchen is also required, and they are inspected regularly just like commercial kitchens. When I still owned the bar and grille we were inspected regularly and no one got a perfect score, EVER. I once brought a jar of home made jam in for one of my favorite customers and got marked down by the Health Department just for having the still sealed jar in the kitchen. It never dawned on me that I should have stuck it in my purse.

Zabby, I agree, we don't need more food police, we have plenty of agencies and regulations now, we just need to find out who and what they are and how to request enforcement.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:52AM
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caavonldy(8/9 N CA)

In our local farmer's market a bunch of Mennonite ladies were selling home made pies. The local health dept made them shut down their stand. They were told that they had to have a commercial kitchen in order to sell their pies. We sell all kind of jams, jelly's and baked goods at our church bazaar and nobody says a word about it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 11:03PM
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OK, so the general consensus is indeed, "because I said so." I'm not being confrontational here, as I don't actually intend to preserve anything with flour or eggs, but the question intrigued me. Everybody's so damn concerned with liability, that they won't explain the reasons, just "don't do it." Well, that answer is just not good enough for me and now that the question has been posed, I too, would like to know the scientific answer (Alton Brown, where are you?). How does the food industry do it (canned stews, chili, menudo...etc)? It it a matter of a certain threshold of heat/pressure, or maybe the canning medium being metal cans???
Inquiring minds want to know.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 2:29PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

OK, so the general consensus is indeed, "because I said so."

Hardly. This is a 2 year old thread you brought back to life but if you read through it from the beginning you'll find both the density issues as well as the bacterial insulating issues that underlie the reasons why flour, eggs, and dairy products shouldn't be used are addressed in detail.

Even more detail is available at NCHFP.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 5:39PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

The food industry has multimillion dollar equipment. You have at the most about a $200 pressure canner. When you can afford all of that, plus hire chemists and scientists to test your foods, then you can do it, too.
Plus, you don't have the chemicals to add to make the foods safe.
Then, the ph of those foods, along with the density issue would make them inedible if you could safely process them at home due to the long processing time with your little $200 pressure canner .
We can stew and chili at home. We just don't add thickeners to them and we use recipes that have been safety tested in labs.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 1:58AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I don't know how you concluded it's because I said so from the information provided.

I'm not going to backtrack and read the entire thread but the gist is this.

1) There is still one flour-thickened mustard pickle in the Ball Blue Book. Generally flour presents pH and density issues in canning; it's not that it can't be used, it's that little testing has been done to determine the correct processing time to compensate for the properties of the flour. ClearJel is today's preferred thickener. It presents less of a barrier to heat penetration and doesn't break down during heat processing as flour does. So in many regards it's the superior product.

2) Eggs or egg-thickened products don't hold up well to home canning and have short shelf lives. Again, except for an NCHFP lemon curd, I don't know of any egg products which have been tested to determine whether there's an optimal processing time which is both safe and results in a quality product with a reasonable shelf life.

3) It's futile to compare home canning and commercial processing. They're quite dissimilar. Aside from the fact that commercial processors have access to sophisticated equipment and labs to test their products and maintain quality control, all you have to do is peruse many labels for their lengthy list of preservatives, acids, sugars and gums to determine how they manage to make many of their products shelf stable. It's the obverse of home preserving.

Frankly, I think it's an insult to the good people here to claim they're falling back on because I said so when time after time they explain and re-explain why some of these foods can't easily be re-created in a home environment.

If Bill Gates wants to direct some of his money to the NCHFP (which last year shut down for lack of funding) so that new research can be done, maybe some of the commercial clones people are interested in can be tested.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 2:02AM
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