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Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

Posted by ajsmama (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 1, 11 at 9:55

I was thinking of getting an electric coil range and putting it in my basement for canning - I can't really PC on my glass-top in the kitchen. Running water (actually the sink drain) might be a problem though since basement is below grade/and waste pipe is fairly high on the wall, don't want to have to put in pump just for a sink drain.

I don't know what Health Dept would think of a basement kitchen though, since I am thinking of making acidified foods to sell, I don't need a commercial kitchen as of today, but there will be inspections. Maybe it will be easier to pass inspections if I cook and jar upstairs, but I don't know if I want to run hot jars downstairs. The BWB with water and jars is heavy (as would be the PC). I could just fill pots (cooking and BWB) with water upstairs, then cook and process, cool, downstairs. The BWB isn't that heavy with just water (no jars) in it.

But don't know if cooking in basement would be a no-no. Maybe cook upstairs, then run the hot preserving pan and fill jars (heated in BWB in basement) downstairs? Would that still be frowned upon (having open pan/jars in basement with concrete floor & walls, exposed insulation in ceiling)? Maybe I'd have to finish the ceiling in that area? Do I *need* to have running water in the processing area? Or just the prep/cleanup area(s)?

Thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

Regulations vary from state to state of course so your state dept. will be you best source of information and you need to investigate them in depth before spending any money. It could easily be wasted money.

I do know that my state (AR) wouldn't allow a basement kitchen and they make no distinction between the preparation and the processing stages or areas - both have to be done in the approved area. Even the basic regulations are demanding for a normal home kitchen environment, much less one that isn't completely finished, below grade (increased mold and mildew exposure), and without running water.

If you can't invest in an alternative canning heat source for your regular kitchen then I'd suggest you contact your state agency for specific requirements and instructions.

Dave


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

The FDA does not want you to sell acidified foods unless you have successfully completed their food safety course for acid and acidified foods. Here in NC it is a week long class, through the State University; you'll have content-covered tests every day that you must pass with 80% min; and pay $500. The government is very strict about our food supply, especially those canned goods that could harbor clostridium botulinum (botulism toxin) prevalent in foods with a high pH; you must have your "facility" registered with them under the Bio-terrorism Act of 2002; you must supply and get approval from them for each product's "Scheduled Process" (aided by the State's Food Safety Lab for $100 min each product) and that each product must be the same for every batch with no deviation; and keep mounds of records for each batch in the event of recall along with the method by which it could be put in place. Besides, no one can sell foods prepared in a home canning pressure canner in the US; no exceptions. I've heard that if they find you selling any acidified foods without jumping through those hoops that they can shut you down permanently and forever. And, yes they do visit little people who advertise locally or by word of mouth, or set up a farm stand, or sell at farmers markets, or at retail stores offering their homemade goodies. I've witnessed it first hand (not me - I've jumped the hoops).

It sounds like you want to start a cottage industry but I seriously doubt that you have done enough research to know if you can or cannot be clean enough to pass a muster of the level that commercial establishments have to pass, let alone know the rules governing such, to which you must also follow. In itself, a basement is not bad, just that it has to be washable and isolated from dirt, animals, and contamination, and surely, exposed insulation and unfinished walls and floors are a major "no-no", let alone transporting it down the stairs, open to contamination with every step. Having a sump pump to pump the waste water up and out may be quite a problem too, since it cannot be made into the required sanitary drain. And, you cannot have two canning kitchens. The State inspectors would not allow the contamination between them. And, should you fall down in between, I doubt that your homeowners insurance would cover you, since you are operating a "business" in your home, and not covered under a normal policy.

You might want to do a little more research before you jump.

Nancy

Here is a link that might be useful: General Overview of Homemade Food Sales


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

Another possibility would be to rent a commercial kitchen - for example a church kitchen or senior center kitchen that's only used part-time. Of course, not all locations will rent due to liability concerns, but there are some.

Dave's point is well-taken. State laws vary so much it's impossible for us to provide any specific advice. However, from my perspective it's difficult to imagine a basement kitchen such as you describe would be approved by any municipality.

Carol


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 1, 11 at 19:49

I don't sell food items so can't add to the above other than anecdotal -

But our local 'bread lady' had sold at the local farmers market for years - and by sold I mean sold out each weekend opening. Something changed in our food safety regs a few years back to where she had to stop baking at home, and now makes her breads and pies in rented commercial space. Her children are older so she can manage now, back when she was developing her reputation and first selling she really did need to be at home.


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

As of today, CT state law allows a farmer to sell acidified foods subject to much the same requirements as jams and jellies - except that the well must be inspected, non-processing personnel (and animals) must be excluded from the kitchen while food is being processed, each recipe (batch?) must be pH tested, food safety course (though I'm not sure it's the same one nancedar is referring to). I do have to call to find out specifics since law is vague on training/testing and local Ag commission, instructors in the women farmers course don't know anything.

I just had the thought of trying to put stove in basement after I saw the tiny one at SA this week. Guess I'll have to stick to my "farm" kitchen (don't have to have separate commercial kitchen), just get a good standalone burner. I wasn't going to sell any PC'd foods, the Pickle Law I believe only covers BWB foods (just added acidified foods to jams and jellies that were allowed previously), not specified but just my interpretaion. But I have that older All American PC, was thinking I would use coil range for that to can our own food if I bought a separate range for canning.

Thanks for pointing out problems with basement kitchen. I was thinking open preserving pan would be a problem - read the law again and yup, "potential contaminants" there unless we finish a corner. I *could* fill and cap jars upstairs and process downstairs, but don't relish the prospect of going downstairs with a roasting pan or something full of hot jars to pop in the BWB, and I don't know that state would be OK with that even if the jars were capped when they left the upstairs.

I'm sure there must be lots of record-keeping involved too, to track batches in case of a recall, the law just doesn't mention it.

I'm not going to be selling enough to make renting a commercial kitchen cost-effective - at least not any time soon. I'm still on the waiting list for the farmer's market, and while we're still eating blackberry jam (I made 30 jars this summer)and Paradise jelly (which I can't sell since I don't grow the quinces), I don't have enough of anything left to even last our family til August. I gave away jams, jellies, pickles and salsa during the summer and for Xmas - big hits. We're going to have to plant a *lot* more tomatoes (and peppers, and cukes)! Just thinking that if we do, I could sell some excess salsa and pickles at market.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pickle Law


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

ajsmama - Please contact the CT health department who authored the Pickle Law (specifically asking about the US gov't's FDA regs for acid and acidified foods that I noted in my last post), along with your town/city/county's zoning departments - and home owners association - as there may be zoning restrictions or HOA's rules for running a "business" from your home.

Nancy


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

No HOA around here - and the Pickle Law was written to specifically cover small-batch preserving by farmers in a residential farm kitchen (these 3 products are the only ones that don't require a commercial kitchen - if you want to sell baked goods, PC'd goods, or even just fruit salad you have to have a commercial kitchen).

The town's Ag Commission was very glad to hear from another farmer in town when I attended my first meeting a couple of months ago, I will ask at the next meeting (or in Beginning Women Farmers class) about zoning (since we're already zoned farmland). They were supposed to get someone from the state to come and explain the Pickle Law at the next Ag Commission meeting - I will have to see if it's on the agenda for next week. If not, I'll call the POC I have at the Health Dept. Thanks


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

I haven't sold any food products commercially, but I heard a lady that sells jellies in my town just rented the kitchen at the Food Bank....It met all the requirements for this area. She just planned well and made the best use of her time there. I think that is much easier than trying to get your own kitchen to pass inspection.


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

Again, in CT, a residential farm kitchen does not need to be inspected as long as jars are labeled as "Processed in a non-government-inspected farm kitchen". I did call the Health Dept, never got to discuss kitchen since we spent so much time discussing pH testing of acidified foods (they didn't know if "laboratory testing after completion of the recipe" meant test the first batch or each batch, but "recommended" testing each batch myself with a pH meter) and "food safety" training, again not clear what is required by the letter of the law (and guy didn't know who wrote the bill, said his office wasn't involved???), but suggested basic food handling safety (as for restaurant personnel) supplemented by NCHFP online course, or else Cornell Acidified Food Processing 2-day course (meets FDA requirements) which is offered in upstate NY "every couple of years." I suggested that UCONN might have a course, or some extension office in the state might have a Master Canner who could teach a course that meets the requirements. They're going to look into it.

Ag Commission minutes from Dec mentions tasks assigned to members to get speakers, instructor, kitchen space and see if we can get products donated from Ball for a "demo" in March. I have to go to the meeting next week and see what's been scheduled over the holidays. Maybe they found a Master Food Preserver. But I don't think we're going to learn how to can (at least not well enough to meet the law!) in an hour or less (or else it's going to be a very long night! Mtg starts at 6 or 7pm!). I'm going to suggest that the "demo" be changed to a "course", maybe 2-part (high acid jams and jellies, and then acidified foods), or maybe just acidified foods so that no one gets confused, and scheduled for a weekend (all-day, maybe 2-day if 2-part).


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

This is all between you and your state. In this case CT and your state extension service. There is little, if any, help or information anyone of us here can provide. Like Nance posted above in most states acidified food sales aren't allowed without extensive FDA-certified training and lots of homework on your part.

So limit yourself for now to the high acid jams and jellies like most home canning sellers do. Then expand gradually as time and money permits and if the laws allow. Changes to some state laws will be coming anyway with the new Food Safety Bill.

Trying to jump in the deep end of the bureaucracy pool with both feet and no water wings almost guarantees drowning.

Dave


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

You're right Dave. The state doesn't even know how they're going to implement this yet, not even the training requirement. Apparently there is no one qualified in the state (not even in UCONN's food safety dept) who is qualified to teach a course in canning acidified foods to farmers. Or else the state Dept of Consumer Protection is still thinking "commercial food processing" training even though the law specifically exempts farmers making high-acid and acidified foods in their residential farm kitchens, selling at retail (including farmer's markets, but not third part "country stores" or wholesale) from the commercial inspection, licensing, etc. requirements.

I thought I'd get my ducks in a row for next year (this year if we plant/process more than we can use! - I only have 2 jars of tomato sauce and 6 jars of salsa, plus some pickles, left for acidified foods). But looks like I have to wait for the state to get organized first.

I still think it's not a good idea for the Ag Commission to have a "demo" after the meeting one night - and there is a Farm Marketing Conference going on in MA the day/night they're thinking of.


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RE: Thoughts on basement canning kitchen for retail

For what it's worth, I have a small one burner butane stove that I use for BWB because my electric stove is not very efficient. There are a variety of types of one burner stoves you could buy for the BWB to use in your regular kitchen.


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