This can't be safe......

missrumphius(4b)October 8, 2012

At my local library's used book sale this weekend I encountered a book titled 5 Minute Microwave Canning. I thought "That sounds kind of questionable" but when I got home (with way more other books than I planned on as always) I googled it - a discovered that lots of people think this is the best thing going. Can this possibly be safe? For anything?


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Simple answer - no. You will find no references to it whatsoever in the standard approved canning guidelines except to say: Open-kettle canning and the processing of freshly filled jars in conventional ovens, microwave
ovens, and dishwashers are not recommended, because these practices do not prevent all
risks of spoilage.

Does that mean people don't do it? Sadly no, but then some people will try anything.

Trust your instincts. :)


    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:53PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

All right, I had no idea I was that naive. I'd never heard of microwave canning. Then I went on Youtube. Good grief. Canning salmon and chicken in the microwave. Jam? Who cares? But salmon and chicken?

Truly frightening.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 4:08AM
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Trying to get my head around cultural differences in canning, this raises interesting issues.

I live in England where we never know, unless using US recipes from USDA etc, if a recipe is definitively safe or not, because they are never tested in a laboratory. No-one ever worries about the safety of a preserving recipe, either. Whilst in England, we have no tradition of home-canning low acid products, in mainland Europe, meat, fish and vegetables are canned with non-tested recipes, using pressure cookers not canners. Botulism is very low incidence: 'Between 1980 and 2010 there were 33 recorded cases of food-borne botulism in England and Wales. Twenty-six of these were linked to a single outbreak in 1989 that was caused by contaminated hazelnut yoghurt.' ( aspx) So far as I am aware, botulism is also very rare in Europe.

I am trying to resist becoming paranoid about the safety of pickle recipes I have used happily for years. I read this and suspect most botulism cases in the US are not caused by omitting water-bathing jam or changing the vegetable in a pickle recipe, but from people thinking it is a good idea to process salmon in a microwave, or similar such off-piste ideas.

This leads me onto how I can work out if a British recipe is safe. My current thinking is, for high-acid recipes, botulism is ruled out. Therefore, if it is spoiled, you can tell - from sight/smell.

From my quick Google, the Australian author of this book only suggests high-acid fruit bottling, chutneys, pickles & jam. I have no idea of her credentials, but is strikes me as possible these recipes are safe, albeit not tested by USDA or similar? Jam isn't an issue anyway, nor is a pickle with enough vinegar. For fruit canning, if there is a seal, it will keep, and if it hasn't been heated enough to prevent bacteria/mould growth, it will be evident and not kill anyone.

Not recommending anyone in the US experiments in this way, but interesting nevertheless.

I'd also welcome thoughts from the experts on here about my way of negotiating this minefield, benefiting from adding US recipes to my repertoire without losing trust in our own food culture.

It's also an example of the joys, as well as perils, of world-wide communication and exchange of ideas from the internet.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:31AM
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Sorry, the link for my quote doesn't work. Reposting.

Here is a link that might be useful: botulism - NHS choices

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:33AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Hello Amanda1962 - you sound a much more experienced and thoughtful 'canner' than I am, but I,too, have been interested in the extreme emphasis on safety in the US, even down to jams and chutneys. I like your approach of trying to find a middle way. As you say, we don't have a history of canning meat, fish or mushrooms in the way they do in the US. I assume it's a result of the pioneer days. I'm also often surprised by the things people on here bother to can, like potatoes and carrots. But again maybe that's because these things have always been available fresh throughout the winter in our climate.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 4:39PM
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Hi Flora, good to hear from you :)

Where in SW UK are you? I'm between Basingstoke and Reading.

I've been making jams, chutneys and pickles for years, but I've only ventured into 'bottling' in the past few. I do think the US is ahead of us in this respect, though over-cautious at the same time. Probably for good reasons - the whole approach seems to be different. Interesting what you said about the pioneer culture. There's also a much wider mix of food traditions coming together, which must lead to potential confusion and unsafe practice.

I made Delia's runner bean pickle recently, a family favourite, and had to give myself a stern lecture as I was looking at it slightly anxiously in its jars, wondering if the cornflour would poison us all...

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 5:59PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The emphasis on heat processing of high-acid foods like jams and chutneys is primarily for extended shelf-life, not so much a safety concern. I don't know of anyone who ever died from unsealed jam.

Americans are more prone to large-batch preserving and long-term shelf storage is an issue.

It may be also that cultural differences play a role in the botulism concerns. Alaska has a very high incidence of botulism as a consequence of native preservation practices of foods like salmon, beaver and game. The U.S. west of the Rockies also has a high incidence of soil-borne botulism so it's more "on the radar" so-to-speak, especially given the propensity for canning of fish, shellfish, beef, chicken and wild game.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 6:49PM
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sheila0(7a So. MD)

I also believe it has a lot to do with the fact that there are so many that are NEW to canning. The first thing "newbies" need to learn is how important it is to keep everything clean and free of botulism, and many were not careful at all about it, and didn't understand that it's a serious issue, and could be fatal. That was started a few years back, and even continues today.
I've watched videos that are down right scarry, and not safe at all.
I have canned for many years and it still shocks me at how many start canning without even reading the instructions, and I believe it causes a lot of us to go overboard when it comes to giving instructions. I know I do sometimes, but I believe it's better to warn someone, than it is to have nightmares about it later.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:11PM
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