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Newbie question about safety

Posted by work_in_progress_08 (My Page) on
Mon, Sep 3, 12 at 9:19

Newbie to this forum, and to the canning world. Received a Victorino BWB canning pot, utensils & "The Art of Preserving" by Williams-Sonoma for my recent birthday. Very excited to do some canning, my SIL and I did a peach jam recipe and tomato sauce recipe from WS.

A knowledgeable canner from the HDF recommended I come here to ask the questions posted there about what we canned using the recipes in the former title. I had no idea that the source wasn't a good one, had safety issues, etc.

FWIW, I now know I need to read some very important titles and consult the NCHFP site before even attempting to do anything further with canning.

My question is, the peach jam was processed in sterile jars in the BWB for 10 minutes and all jar seals popped. Are they safe to eat?

Also, we made a spaghetti sauce which precipitated my questions because it separated, leaving about and inch and a half of tomato water in the bottom of the sealed quarts.

Important disclosures that I feel may be red flags/problems with how/what we canned ~ the lemon juice called for was fresh lemon juice vs. the lemon juice discussed here, which I believe is like the Real Lem stuff you buy in the grocery which is mass produced. I like fresh foods, and the recipe in the book used called for fresh lemon juice, that's what we used. Will using fresh lemon juice render the peach jam unsafe?

Peach Jam recipe from WS book:

5 1/2 lbs. peaches, fuzz gently rubbed from skins - cut into chunks
3 c. sugar
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice

Sterlize jars, cook mixture, pour into half pint jars and BWB for 10 minutes.
* We doubled the recipe, and used some 5 oz. jars

Also, I haven't been able to confirm it here or anywhere yet, but the Simple Tomato Sauce called for olive oil & also called for fresh lemon juice. I am very concerned about the sauce, and only have one jar that was not processed in my refrigerator and will use same within the week.

The remainder of the jars that were processed are still sitting at my SIL's. I am not at all comfortable with using those since from what I've read here, seems as though we may have made some errors in following the recipe, at the very least, doubling the recipe, and assuming same to be a reliable recipe, and safe item to can.

Any thoughts would be sincerely appreciated. I've been wanting to can for years and now I have the equipment. What I need is to spend the winter months reading as much credible information as possible before venturing into actually canning anything else.

Be gentle, for I now know it was a dumb move to jump in with both feet as a complete novice. In fact, the night after doing the Peach Jam recipe, without even talking or reading anything else about canning, my own mind was racing, dissecting the whole day, what we put up, etc. Intuition perhaps? My fears were then confirmed when a kind poster on another forum pointed out that the book we used is not to be trusted as a true source for safe canning.

Thank you so much for any help, thoughts, direction.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Newbie question about safety

The jam is fine. Jams are normally safe because all fruits, with a few exceptions, are high acid to begin with. Folks frequently use fresh lemon juice in jams since it is added to help with the set, not as a safety issue as the bottled lemon juice is with low acid foods.

The tomato sauce could be another issue but need to see the entire recipe please. Is the link below the same recipe?

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: WS - Simplest Tomato Sauce


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Thanks for your quick reply Dave. I am glad to hear the jam is safe.

What is the situation with using fresh vs. bottled lemon juice.

Yes, that is the WS recipe we followed. We did however, saute garlic which was added to the tomatoes while cooking. Also, drizzled olive oil over the whole tomato sauce mixture as directed in the recipe.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Thanks for your quick reply Dave. I am glad to hear the jam is safe.

What is the situation with using fresh vs. bottled lemon juice.

Yes, that is the WS recipe we followed. We did however, saute garlic which was added to the tomatoes while cooking. Also, drizzled olive oil over the whole tomato sauce mixture as directed in the recipe.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Other than being a weirdly written, chef made-up recipe with all sorts of strange directions in it (the source is some euro-based french chef) it would probably be safe assuming it is cooked well before eating. Except for the oil. Adding the oil and using the same processing time called for for a sauce without oil is risky as the oil insulates any bacteria preventing the heat from killing it.

Bottled lemon juice has standardized and stabilized acidity, fresh lemons range widely in acidity and are not stabilized.

The oil is the real concern and how much concern depends on how one defines "drizzle" as that can mean anything from 1 tsp. to a 1/2 cup.

From a strict guidelines interpretation you should toss it or if less than 24 hours old, freeze it. If it were me and I was confident it had no more than 1-2T of oil total I would dump all the jars back into a pot, return it to boiling, simmer it well for 15-20 mins., and then pack it for freezing. But that is just my opinion.

So it is your choice whether to keep and use it or not.

Dave


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Fruit and tomatoes without anything added are safe. The sugar and natural acid makes them safe. Jams and canned fruit in sugar syrup are safe

Tomatoes alone have enough acid to keep them safe especially if you add a bit of lemon juice. A hot water bath is essential for a good seal

Adding other vegetables like onion peppers and garlic lowers the acidity of the whole mixture and should be canned in a pressure canner or frozen


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RE: Newbie question about safety

I must disagree on tomatoes. They are not always acid enough to be safe. Ripe tomatoes can easily be as high as 4.9pH and adding a bit of lemon juice to a pint or quart of tomatoes is no assurance of safety.

Carol


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RE: Newbie question about safety

That is true about needing to add enough bottled lemon juice, as Carol said.
Then, that WS book has some very unsafe recipes. I do not recommend that book personally for use. Not other than the jam recipes and high acid things. I saw some recipes that were really startling to me.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Thanks everyone for your replies. I won't be using the tomato sauce. Reading is what I need to do before the spring season starts with the strawberries, etc.

I may do more peach jam this season since peaches are still available, and seemingly, I didn't do anything that could make anyone sick with that recipe. Plus it tastes delicious! The lure of having a homemade gift on hand for holiday/of-the-moment giving is just too strong since I have the equipment, jars and peaches are still available.

Now that I know a teeney bit, and the jam was okay & I won't be trying anything above my pay grade. Nor will I rely on a source without checking out whether that source is reliable. I learned an important lesson without sickening anyone.

Really, who would think that Williams-Sonoma, a huge public company, could put out a book specifically on preserving food by canning with published recipes that are so unsafe to store, and there's no vet of the recipes therein? I have a real problem with that, since I shop there very often, and feel hoodwinked, and quite embarassed that I just thought so much of that company. Thankfully, bells were going off in my head even before I asked any questions. Some things just didn't feel right.

Thanks again! So glad to have found this forum.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

I really like the book Putting Food By because the author discusses the various options you have for different foods. It's updated all the time, and gives you more complete information that you will get at any website, including the NHFPC, which never seems to update or add useful new material.

Freeze that tomato sauce, and don't worry about a few early mistakes -- we all made them. Great job attending to details! Recently I made the mistake of watching a few canning videos and was horrified and how sloppy people can be with the basic rules of canning.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

planatus- thanks for your reply. Would you empty the "processed" jars and just freeze the contents? We canned the sauce on 8.30, so it has been 6 days of the sauce sitting in the jars at room temperature.

I will be sure to check out the Putting Food book. The attraction of the WS book was the interesting recipes published. Being interested in cooking as a hobby, I am constantly trying new recipes so that my family is well fed with a great variety of flavors, etc. I am looking to do things that aren't just a fruit or veggie canned just for the sake of having it on my shelf. Not doing my own growing, so I don't have a "harvest" of things that I want to preserve. Also, I have a huge dislike of wasting food of any type.

Can't imagine having the stomach at the moment for watching the videos, but once this shell-shocked feeling wears off, I would probably feel better since I am a freak when it comes to safe food preparation. There isn't the chance of cross contamination going on in my kitchen! When I put meat on the grill, even the utensils for turning the meat are washed every time they touch the raw meat during the process of cooking it, LOL.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Would you empty the "processed" jars and just freeze the contents?

Sorry but the food has already had ample time for any bacteria in it to grow toxic. That's why the re-boiling before freezing is required, to destroy those toxins. Sauce quality holds up quite well to re-processing.

If you elect to get Putting Food By be sure to get the latest (2010) edition. The book used to be considered quite reliable but it had not been updated since the 1992 edition - don't know why planatus considers it to be "updated all the time". Without any published updates since 1992 it had been considered outdated per the changing guidelines for a number of years.

Really, who would think that Williams-Sonoma, a huge public company, could put out a book specifically on preserving food by canning with published recipes that are so unsafe to store, and there's no vet of the recipes therein?

They are not alone in publishing canning books with unsafe recipes in them. There are many such niche' canning books like that on the market. W-S insists on treating home canning as some sort of exercise in creating art - thus the name of their book. That is fine for cooking as cooking is an art. Canning isn't.

Canning is science-based, not artsy-crafty and it requires a different attitude, a different mind-set, than cooking. Canning is directed toward preserving the basic foods so that cooking recipes may be created with them during the off-season.

Dave


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RE: Newbie question about safety

I would not freeze a canned sauce that has been sitting at room temp several days. 24 hours is the limit.

If you are comfortable with this option, decant the sauce, bring it to a boil and cook 10 minutes (as a safety precaution), chill quickly and then freeze.

To respond to planatus's comment about the NCHFP, in their defense they have lost their funding and been shut down, but have chosen to leave up the site for the edification of others. Putting Food By has its advantages, but it is profit-driven, and that puts it in a different category.

Carol


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RE: Newbie question about safety

NCHFP has been shut down??? How tragic! I mean, an organization devoted to safety gets shut down and yet any old Joe can print and publish a canning book or magazine and dummies like me can buy it??

WHY are there no laws/regulations???? I am still angered by all the materials I bought without knowing what I was buying.

I will be printing off every NCHFP recipe right now, and saving on the computer, before something happens to the website.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

I don't think anything's going to happen to the website, but you may want to order So Easy to Preserve, their print version, which is still available for purchase.

They also offer some instructional DVD's and remember they and other Extension sites (Pennsylvania is one) offer clickable links to the most recent USDA guide, which can be downloaded to your computer.

The NCHFP was de-funded in a recent round of budget cuts and is maintaining only a few skeletal functions, mainly through volunteer efforts. Until this situation changes, there will be no new research.

Other Extension agencies are also struggling and the Master Food Preserver program is only a small remnant of what it used to be. It is sad that given the resurgance of interest in home food preservation, our most reliable sources are not being supported. I know the current economic climate demands cuts, but it's hard to think of anything more important than the safety of the food we eat.

Ironically, other reliable commercial publications for years have depended upon the research and data of the USDA/NCHFP.

Carol


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RE: Newbie question about safety

".....it's hard to think of anything more important than the safety of the food we eat...."

Not to mention the fact that the quality of processed foods is more unhealthier and misleading than ever! And with so many families dining out more often than regularly, people are more unhealthy than ever before. How do people who dont come to Gardenweb learn properly? Are all Extension agencies suffering across the country? What can be done to keep their programs going? Are they notforprofit or government financed? I never really knew, or looked into it before. I just always assumed my extension office downtown would always be there.

I find all subjects concerning food to be vitally important and am angered by what is allowed to take place. What is it now? 80% of what is in a grocery store is not healthy? And what is the obesity rate in America? I see people in my small town sitting in drive thrus getting great big honking cups of cappucino something or another and then grab a 32 oz soda on their way to work. Then grab more drive thru for lunch, or buffet somewhere, then another 32 ouncer for the afternoon. Then go to work and grumble about the price of a gallon of milk......and being fat.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

80% of what is in a grocery store is not healthy?

Wow! Where is that statistic from? Certainly isn't the case in the grocery stores where I shop.

NCHFP and the county extension agencies are (or were) federally funded via USDA with some state funding on the side. Funding was cut to the bone last year so it isn't as if NCHFP is going to disappear, and they are making some seasonal changes on the website, but it won't be doing any further research if and until funding is restored.

Ultimately, the responsibility for healthy eating and being a well-informed consumer lies with each individual, not the government.

Dave


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Yes Sir. I read a lot, a whole lot, about the hidden crap in processed and packaged foods. And what I read says that when you walk into a grocery store, almost everything that IS healthy is located along the 3 walls. The fourth wall being the entrance/checkout area. The other three walls being the produce, refrigerated, and frozen sections. Everything else in the aisles is very limited on selections of healthy foods and/or foods with lesser amounts of corn syrup, sugars, artificial everything, sodium, preservatives, and fat. This includes all the packaged foods, canned foods, condiments, breads made of white flour, processed rices, non whole wheat pastas, very heavily sugared cereals, cookies, cakes, potato chips, candy, etc., energy drinks, and I could go on. Any person with a focus on healthy eating for weight loss/control knows exactly what percent of the grocery store is off limits to them.......


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Tea, flour (whole grain too), vegetable oil, beans, rice, other grains, honey, seaweed, dried mushrooms and plenty other "good stuf"" could be found in the middle sections.
And products with corn syrup and other artificial components are often can be found in the dairy goods, frozen and meat sections around perimeter of the shop. So I am not sure this generalization is working that well.
Olga


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RE: Newbie question about safety

Olga, the other 5 percent accounts for the percentage of high fat/sugar/sodium/preservative laden good that is embedded within the healthIER foods section. People are seriously misled about what is healthy and what isn't. Multigrain is confused for whole grain. "Natural" is confused with "preservative free". And so on and so on. When a person learns what is what, and what isn't, your choices are very very limited. It, of course, depends upon a persons needs and desires. I am formerly a "low fat/low calorie" dieter. I could eat anything for years, as long as it stayed within my calorie limit. But once my metabolism started getting sluggish, my calorie intake had to increase but fat was significantly reduced. People with specific health needs are limited. But it doesn't change the fact that, yes, 80% of what is there is not recommended for a healthy diet. Don't believe me? Research it. Better yet, read labels. It takes some time for all if it to really sink in.


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RE: Newbie question about safety

ellen, I don't think I need to do additional research. I am quite familiar with these topics :)I read all lables, my family has special needs and I certainly don't confuse whole grain with whole weat, etc.
I just don't agree with generalizations and don't believe in throwing numbers like this around.
Olga


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RE: Newbie question about safety

First, let me address the option of boiling the canned tomato sauce that is now sitting on the DR table at my SIL's where we put it to cool after BWB last week. I am not at all comfortable with doing anything with that sauce in an effort to save it. My jar contents are going into the trash. Sad, since I hate the waste of any food, but there's no way I am taking any chances. Unfortunately, I have seen the medical records of someone that contracted botulism (not in any way related to home canning), and it isn't pretty to put it mildly. Even the most remote possibility of that becoming a result from the ingestion of something I created by being a novice, and not having done my homework insofar as the safety precautions necessary with canning, makes me more than uncomfortable, seriously embarassed and feeling very fortunate that my intuition led me here to ask questions about some things done that didn't seem to be 100% okay with what we canned.

Thanks to the great advice I've received here, I've enlightened my partner in crime in this endeavor, and I believe she's on the fence about it being okay to eat. I can't make her discard it, but I sure wish I could. I've given the information gleaned here, and from what I can tell, she believes I am over-reacting or over-thinking the whole issue altogether. Don't misunderstand, she's not ignorant, she's a college educated, MBA, just not a chemist, lol.

I wanted to clarify something I posted above that I think might be interpreted in a way that I did not intend. The canning/preserving of foods in a plain manner is fabulous if done safely, and can be part and parcel of all sorts of fabulous recipes. My point about not preserving plain things was phrased poorly, and I sincerely apologize to all of you who preserve your harvest, feeding your families wholesome foods through the hard work associated with growing food and with canning.

Yes, the crafty part of cooking is one of my big hobbies. If I were fortunate enough to tend a huge garden that yielded me lots of healthy fruits and/or vegetables, I would certainly be more than thrilled to preserve all of what wasn't eaten throughout the growing season. That said, I've wanted to "can" for years, but had no idea of the amount of built-in safeguards when you are knowledgable about what you're doing rather than what I tried to do. Yes, "The Art of Preserving" by WS is a beautiful book to look at, has all sorts of delicious recipes, unfortunately, it isn't at all reliable for a novice, or anyone for that matter, to use as their only source of information on preserving foods safely.

Since I've now learned a hugely valuable lesson (~thank you to each and every person who took the time to respond to my post ~), that lesson being that I need to read and absorb as much as I can about the science of canning, why certain foods can be canned safely, following vetted recipes from reputable master canners in a strict manner, and basically learning as much as I can about this craft.

In speaking with a cousin who is an actual chemist about this whole issue, I now realize that playing it fast and loose, as someone on the HDF characterized the WS "The Art of Preserving", isn't an option. Education is foremost on my agenda prior to even filling my new BWB with water to process anything other than the Peach Jam recipe that has been pretty much ok'd by those in the know here on the Harvest forum.

I am saddened to read that the NCHFP isn't updating any longer. For a good portion of the past few days, I've been reading the loads of information provided there. The funding loss is a political issue, and not going to go there.

One of the reasons that I am a "cook", and don't do much baking, isn't only that I'm not really a sweets lover, but more that I really enjoy cooking which isn't an exact science. Baking is.

Canning makes baking look like child's play when you compare it to learning to can, and adhering to strict methods to produce not only great tasting food, but food that is for-sure safe to eat or gift. The difference being, I am very interested in learning to can, and learning to can safely.

Once again, many thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to my question!


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RE: Newbie question about safety

I understand Olga. This just happpens to be one subject I DO know a thing or two about. Many, many people ignore the issue. Many are in denial. Many do not want to change. Many want to change, but it just takes time for the information to "click". I see both a fitness instructor and a dietician and physician for my needs. I am not overweight, never have been and I dont ever want to be. Learning to truly eat healthy is extremely challenging, esecially when you learn there are things that the government allows to be misleading to us. Our food labels are NOT required to list all the facts, only a certain percentage of them.

Which brings back the issue of government regulated agencies that can promote education and resources to people being shut down is a travesty. I am shocked by what I hear from people who have been doing cannings since before I was born who do things in methods that I have read are definitly no longer recommended. I am only a beginner but even I know better. People refuse to change or accept advice on the changes. I know one particular produce grower who also sells canned jellies and salsas. This man processes his salsas in his oven. And then sells them to farmers markets...... And he is very successful. Ive seen illegal aliens working in American food factories and they spit in the food are unsanitary and a bunch of other things you dont want to know about.

Indeed, what could possibly more important than our food....


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RE: Newbie question about safety

work_in_progress - sorry we let this discussion get so far off base with all this other stuff. Soapboxes are fine when they are relevant to the original question but we too often forget they are just that - a soapbox.

So back to topic - I applaud your decision about the tomato sauce and want to encourage you to continue participating here and learning from other sources as well.

Hopefully, in time your friend will come around but compared to many of things some people routinely can, her tomato sauce is only a minimal issue if for no other reason then it will be cooked before use so don't be too worried.

The key I think to understanding many of the reasons behind all the guidelines is recognizing the vast difference between what happens to dangerous bacteria in an open-to-air environment where it cannot grow and reproduce and what happens to that same bacteria when trapped inside a jar in an anaerobic environment where it can thrive.

There are other issues of course. Acidity is another issue as acidity is our friend in canning. :) That sealed jar sitting on a shelf, properly prepared is good for years. But if not properly prepared, it can be a time bomb just biding its time.

As you mentioned, NCHFP, funding issues aside, is a wealth of information free for the absorbing. Check out the FAQs there and don't forget all their other online publications too. And be sure to read through the threads here on recommended books as well.

Good luck and enjoy your canning experiences. It is addicting.

Dave


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