With the long history of preserving Food in jars, it was inevitable that many of the methods and practices would change over the years as new knowledge came to light and better supplies became available. But, with the trend of returning to the old ways that many homesteaders and preppers have adopted, unfortunately some of the gains in safety made in recent times have been rolled back.
I don't want you to get me wrong. I am all for getting back to the lost ways of the past when life was simpler and people were more self reliant. But, when it comes to Canning safety and avoiding food borne illness, the old ways are not always the best ways.
Take for instance the return to the practice of inversion canning to seal jars. I addressed this in detail in another post, here and the reasons why this is not a safe practice no matter what your Grandma said.
Another old practice I have seen some new canning enthusiasts make reference to is using flour or cornstarch to thicken a recipe before canning. Examples of foods they were talking about were stews and pie fillings. But this is a dangerous practice and here is why.
Thickening agents like these can slow the ability of heat to penetrate throughout the contents of the jar during the processing making them prone to spoilage. The heat needs to be distributed evenly and at a high enough temperature in order to destroy the molds, yeast and bacteria in the food.
So save the thickening step for after canning. It really only takes a few minutes to add a thickener while you are warming it up to put on the table or in the pie pan. Trust me, the peace of mind you get from knowing your stew or pie filling is safe for you and your family to eat is worth the extra few minutes.
Another myth I want to bust today is the idea that if you see a food canned in the store it can be canned at home. This is just not the case. Things like rice and noodles are never safe to can at home.
The reason that commercial canning is safe for these foods is that they have the equipment to process the food at much higher temperatures and pressures than we do with our home canning equipment and rice and noodles have the same problem I just outlined with thickening agents in preventing the even heating required to kill the nasties. So if you want noodle soup, it is best practice to add the noodles after canning.
Here is one that I will mention although I can't imagine it is still practiced. They used to say if you found mold on the top of your jelly, just scrape it off and eat the rest. I guess back in the depression when foods were scarce and especially sweets like fruit jelly, that might have been my plan too, but thankfully, times are not that hard just yet.
Actually, if there is mold on top then that means the spores are all through it and while this may not make a healthy person sick, if your immune system is weakened it can cause a fungal infection in your lungs which is tough to kick.
While I love jelly as much as anyone, maybe more, it is not worth the risk to me. I will follow the old school rule that says, "when in doubt, throw it out". When I think about it, the unsafe practice of inversion canning mentioned above may have been the reason they saw mold in their jelly jars.
The final myth I want to bust today is the myth that canning food at home is not safe. This is false! If you follow best safety practices, use quality equipment and fresh foods, home canning is absolutely safe and the food is healthier than the highly processed, pre-packaged foods you buy at the grocery store. No chemicals, less sugar and/or salt and more nutrition when properly stored and used in a timely manner.
I read where someone said "home canning is no place to be a rebel". That is a good rule to live by in the home canning kitchen! So I created a kitchen art poster you can buy and hang on the wall as a reminder. See it and many other cool custom canning supplies at my shop The Jelly Jar.
Get your poster HERE