There’s a lot of talk today about the safety of canning food at home – something I am sure our ancestors did not fret over. Why? Because the art of canning was handed down from generation to generation making it possible for one to understand the art of canning on a much higher level than what many do today.
Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects when it comes to food safety. Anyone who has ever taken a home economics class can tell you that. In addition to clean pans, clean lids, clean caps and clean jars, the food must be cleaned too. Pesticides and other chemicals cling to the skins of fruits and vegetables. These must be washed off for safety’s sake. In addition to making sure all of your utensils are clean, the caps, lids and jars need to be sterilized. Do not skip over this step, even if you wash everything in a dishwasher. It only takes a second to dip the caps, lids and jars into the boiling water to sterilize them – and best of all, it means you do not need to heat the jars up because the sterilization process gives you “hot jars” to put “hot food” into.
Another important step is proper inspection of the jars. A tiny chip on the jars rim – one that might not be obvious to the naked eye – is enough to keep the jar from properly sealing. The best way to take care of these kinds of problems is to carefully run your finger over the top of the clean jar before filling it with food. If you feel something that doesn’t feel right, do a further inspection to make sure it is not missed food particles or rubber from a previous jar lid that was not removed when the jar was washed. If it is indeed a crack or chip, dispose of the jar. There are many recycling centers that accept clean glass jars.
Finally, do not reuse the lids. The lids are the flat parts that seal the jar and contain a rubber ring. The reason for this is that the lids were manufactured to be used once and once only. Although the jar may seem ok at first if you use these lids again, later on the seal can break and that will cause your food to spoil. It is ok to use the caps, which screw down over the top of the jar over and over until they become too rusty to continue to use.
By following these simple safety tips when canning at home, you are sure to have a good experience both during the canning process and for months afterwards as you eat up the bounty you preserved.
More resources and inspiration can be found at culinary arts degree.org.