Canning Safety Tips

| 10/8/2010 9:20:09 AM

Tags: canning, safety,

I’ve heard conflicting information about the dangers of pressure canning food. How can I be sure the foods I’ve canned are safe to eat? 

Learning to can foods can be intimidating, and it’s certainly important to do it properly. After all, sometimes there are no colors, odors or other handy indicators to betray potentially hazardous canned foods that could make you sick. But canning foods safely isn’t as difficult as you may have heard. 

There are three main things that cause concern: equipment reliability, foodborne illness and altitude adjustments. Let’s get the first one out of the way, because it’s a snap. 

Modern pressure canners are safe. You may have heard about pressure canners of yore exploding when pressurized. Rest assured, the canners available today are much more reliable than they used to be. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, home pressure canners were extensively redesigned beginning in the 1970s. Today they all have an automatic vent/ cover lock, a steam vent and a safety fuse. However, it’s still important to carefully follow guidelines that come with your pressure canner, both for safety and to be sure you’re canning at the correct temperature and pressure. (Keep reading.) 

Avoiding foodborne illness is simple. The purpose of canning is to heat the food to a high enough temperature to arrest enzymatic activity and kill yeasts, molds and bacteria. Most of these nasties are knocked out by the acidity of foods or by heat. There are a few pathogens, however — most notably the one that can cause botulism poisoning — that thrive in low-acid foods and can survive temperatures up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a potential problem because the temperature of water boiling in an open pan (or in this case, in a water bath-style canner) never reaches much above the boiling point of water — 212 degrees. 

Pressure canners, on the other hand, can reach higher temperatures. Here’s why: These canners trap the steam that escapes from boiling water, thereby increasing the pressure on the liquid. When the pressure is increased, it takes more energy for the liquid molecules to escape the surface, so the temperature at which the water will boil becomes higher. The boiling point in a pressure canner is approximately 250 degrees. 

2/20/2016 12:46:32 PM

I bought myself a pressure canner and I am scared to use it. I need to know how long should it take for my kneedle to go up after it has steamed for 10 mins and that I put the weight on. Should I see the kneedle go up right away or should it take a few minutes. Thanks

8/17/2011 8:45:40 AM

I'm following a recipe for tomato sauce which specifies removing seeds and skins. Is it safe to leave them in, or do they have a higher pH than the tomatoes themselves and thus raise the pH of the finished sauce?

10/26/2010 6:56:10 PM

Important tip: Vegetables used for canning and pickling must be organically grown. Pesticides inhibit the fermentation process.

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