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June 30, 2009 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Canning makes a comeback. Is it just another foodie trend? Or is canning back for good?

Eating locally has been the trend for a while now, but in-home food preservation is starting to make a comeback. And with more people gardening, it's time to learn how to preserve those delicious delights of summer. Everyone's saying it's yet another indicator of a more frugal America.

How to get started? Well, here are some neat blogs: Food in Jars, Doris and Jilly, Bumblebee Blog

And lots of references: National Center for Home Food Preservation, Ball Book of Home Preserving, Canning USA

This year Ball has everything you need to get started, but really all you need are some jars and some other stuff you may already own.
posted by sararah (106 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just in time for the New Depression!

I could use a few new recipes on boiling the kitchen cupboards to get all the nutrients out. My last attempt turned out a bit starchy.
posted by rokusan at 1:55 PM on June 30, 2009


Wait, I've been canning things for about two years now. Woo-hoo! I'm actually ahead of a trend!

....But seriously -- the biggest reason I started canning my own stuff was because I live near a farmer's market and always got very, very carried away whenever I went there, buying up tons of fruit and vegetables, because fresh and local grown stuff just plain tastes better. Except I cannot eat an entire quart of strawberries fast enough before they all go bad, so it became a way to solve the "crap, I bought too much again" problem.

Then last year I discovered one of the stalls at the market has a "home canners' special" at the height of tomato season, where they sell you a whole half-bushel basket of tomatoes for only ten bucks. I got 20 cans out of that -- a can at the supermarket, last I checked, was about $1.50-$1.75, and 20 would have cost nearly $35. So I saved $25 and had better tomatoes.

Yeah, you need to buy the jars if you're starting out, but you can reuse the jars year after year (just buy new lids) and if you get sick of canning ever, you can reuse the jars for something else instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


//rushes to invest in botulism treatment drugs//
posted by resurrexit at 1:56 PM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Whoa, I was worried it was "caning," as in lashing the the back-sides of unruly children. Instead, I am hungry for canned pears.

Interesting associated note: a local chain is carrying their own canned goods, in glass bottles with their own labels. I have a jar at home, waiting to join some ice cream.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2009


EmpressCallipygos - Do you just can the tomatoes straight up or make a sauce first? I am interested in this for later this summer. I just canned my first jars of jelly last night so I am newly obsessed :)
posted by sararah at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2009


D'oh, hit post too soon -- another good book if anyone's intersted is something that just came out: Well Preserved, by Eugenia Bone. She is writing more for the person who's new to canning and home preserving -- and the person who wants to make small batches of things because they don't have a lot of space. Rather than making 20 cans of tomatoes, she walks you through making just six. Instead of eight pots of jam, she shows you how to make just two.

She also gets into pickling, freezing, and even home curing and smoking some things. Best yet -- she only has a few recipes for the actual canned or pickled or preserved product (for instance, a apricot jam with amaretto), but then she follows that up with a handful of recipes that USE that preserved product ("okay -- now that you have that apricot jam on your shelf, here's a cookie recipe that uses it, and here's a way to use it to glaze ham, here's a way to use it in a cake, etc.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait, I've been canning things for about two years now. Woo-hoo! I'm actually ahead of a trend!

Meh. CANNIN FOR LIFE!

I actually just like eating jam so it's also fun to make it. But I've been doing it since forever. I AM SO AWESOME LOOK AT ME

Also, I now have a plum tree in my yard with what looks like a metric ton of ripe fruit on it so what the heck else am I going to do? Throw out hundreds of dollars of organic, local plums? What a crime that would be.

I don't know why more people don't can. It's a fun hobby and no stranger than making cabinets and whatnot.
posted by GuyZero at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2009


EmpressCallipygos - Do you just can the tomatoes straight up or make a sauce first?

I just canned them whole, following the instructions on the USDA site (I figured they'd be the most conservative when it came to how long to process things to prevent botulism, etc.). I figure that the less I monkey with the actual tomato when I can it, the better it'll taste when I finally open it; plus if I am going to cook it AFTER I open the jar anyway, then even if I did get something nasty in there it'd kill it off.

Although, this year I may go with crushed tomatoes rather than whole, just because trying to pack whole tomatoes in those jars was a little annoying. And messy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2009


I think canning would make a big comeback if you could buy little test strips that you could stick to the inside of the jars that would turn blue in the presence of botulinum toxin, all seven versions of it.
posted by adipocere at 2:14 PM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hey, neat! I've just started doing this, too. Namely because we were going through a lot of jars around here, and were saving them up for recycling but instead they just kinda piled up. So I learned how to make pickles. It all snowballed from there.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2009


Tomatoes are a picky thing- you can't hot-water can them if they're in a sauce, you'd need a pressure canner for that. That's pretty substantial investment if you're not seriously all about canning stuff- and I've read that you can't just use a standard pressure COOKER, it needs to be one specific to canning so it reaches the proper safe temperature.

And even then you have to generally follow the established recipes, or have an electronic ph reader, you can't just make up a batch of grandma's famous spaghetti sauce. (plus, a lot of sauces are meat-based, and canned meat is usually pretty gross.)
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:18 PM on June 30, 2009


//rushes to invest in botulism treatment drugs//

Yeah, I know you were joking, but actually there aren't really any drugs for botulism. Treatment basically consists of spending days to months paralyzed, on a ventilator, being fed through a tube. Most US deaths from botulism are a result of improper home canning. This is not to say that canning is particularly dangerous, just that one should be very mindful of proper sanitation procedures and follow the instructions carefully.
posted by jedicus at 2:19 PM on June 30, 2009


I should point out that there are antitoxins but they aren't normally used except in pediatric cases.
posted by jedicus at 2:21 PM on June 30, 2009


I think canning would make a big comeback if you could buy little test strips that you could stick to the inside of the jars that would turn blue in the presence of botulinum toxin, all seven versions of it.

I think commercially prepared ground meat products and peanut butter would really take off if they came up with test strips that turn blue in the presence of e coli.
posted by GuyZero at 2:22 PM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Food preservation will continue to grow as people who have never considered it discover the possibility. But what I think will really take off is larger-scale local and regional canning of local produce.
posted by parudox at 2:27 PM on June 30, 2009


I like that idea, too, although it's harder to test for. You'd have to test for generated toxins rather than live bacteria, whose genomes are ... flexible. It's also a harder sell in that on a case by case basis, I think botulism (at least, when you're not jabbing it into your face) is a little more fatal and scary.
posted by adipocere at 2:27 PM on June 30, 2009


You're missing the point: produce preserved at home is safer than the industrial food supply.
posted by parudox at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And to think that Stonewall Kitchens started modestly selling home-canned jams and vinegars at farmers markets.

Even the 'big boys' face issues with botulism: FDA Issues More Details on Stonewall Kitchen Recall.
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on June 30, 2009


Yes we can!
posted by anthill at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


From 1982 to 2002, a total of 350 outbreaks were reported from 49 states, accounting for 8,598 cases of E. coli O157 infection.

From 1990 to 2000, 160 foodborne botulism events affected 263 people in the United States.

Statistically you're much more likely to get sick from ground beef which accounts for about a third of E. coli infections.

Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States
- I quote CDC numbers because they're very easy to find. Botulism is pretty rare although it is the third-deadliest food-borne illness based on the CDC case-fatality rate.

In terms of total deaths though, it's nowhere near the top:
Listeria monocytogenes     499
Salmonella, nontyphoidal   553
Yersinia enterocolitica  1,297
Escherichia coli O157:H7    52
Botulism, foodborne          4
Those #s are for deaths from food-born transmission. This is estimated annual deaths.
posted by GuyZero at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


For me the most appreciated gifts I received at holiday time are home-canned preserved foods. The time, thought and love that goes into such a gift is appreciated throughout the cold New England winter.
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2009


askme canning
posted by cjorgensen at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2009


Also: home canning helps avoid bisphenol-A.
posted by anthill at 2:37 PM on June 30, 2009


:P To all the botulism jokes.


For anyone who is interested in canning I highly recommend getting a pair of heat resistant gloves such as welders gloves for moving your freshly processed jars, as well as any hot canning pots and removing pressure-cooker lids. Bonus points if you find a pair that are steam proof.

Also: during grill season you can handle hot chimneys of charcoal with impunity and do crazy grill-fu that will amaze and impress your friends!
posted by Severian at 2:37 PM on June 30, 2009


*I receive*
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on June 30, 2009


I used to can with my grandmother when I was younger. They lived on a 75-acre orchard so there was always plenty of fruit that we needed to use up before it spoiled. I agree with many of the posts here - the tomatoes were always the biggest pain in the neck. One time the pressure cooker exploded and we had tomato sauce all over the ceiling and cabinets. That took about 3 days to get all cleaned up. Ah, memories! :-)
posted by garnetgirl at 2:39 PM on June 30, 2009


just that one should be very mindful of proper sanitation procedures and follow the instructions carefully.

Also - hells yes. Wash everything five ways to Sunday, never vary the approved recipes (or pH test your results) and boil it for the prescribed time.
posted by GuyZero at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2009


Most US deaths from botulism are a result of improper home canning.

Yeah, but as long as you stick with acidic stuff (fruits, jams, tomatoes) you're good there as long as you follow the proper sterilization and sealing procedures. If it's not acidic, it's not a problem, you just need the high-powered gear to be sure you kill all that stuff.

You also need to store your jars with the rings off and inspect the food before you eat it or cook with it.

/gayforaltonbrown
posted by middleclasstool at 2:45 PM on June 30, 2009


I am so sorry to have contributed to a bacterial derail on your great post. Canning is easily made safe (most of us eat junk preserved by other people all the time and trust that we won't die from it, surely some of us can do at least as decent of a job). I hope more people at least learn how to can at home.

And it's a great inter-generational bonding tool if you can get a grandma or aunt or someone to show you. My wife just dill-pickled cucumbers with her mom and aunt a while back and had a great time doing it. (I cannot wait to open them up this Fourth!)
posted by resurrexit at 2:47 PM on June 30, 2009


Yes we can!

No, we canned.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2009


My grandma is suddenly trendy.

But you don't need to be trendy when your jam is that good.
posted by JauntyFedora at 2:49 PM on June 30, 2009


Canning is a hell of a lot of fun, and pretty easy to do. I strongly recommend getting yourself one of those "canning kit in a box" sets from Amazon that comes with the Ball Blue Book, and reading the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website.

My three observations: even the low-sugar jam recipes use a truly astonishing amount of sugar, you will use more jars than you think, and Safeway stocks its canning supplies in weird, out-of-the-way places like on top of the dairy case.
posted by scrump at 2:49 PM on June 30, 2009


One of my best memories of childhood is helping my grandmother can the produce of my grandpa's garden. I spent summers with them in Kansas, and then they always drove out to Arizona to spend a few weeks with us in January or February, bringing with them a few cases of the jars of green beans, tomatoes, pickles and jams I'd helped put up the previous summer.

I started canning because of that. It was (and is) fun to garden, fun enough that you can't help but grow more than you can conceivably eat before it goes bad. It's fun to eat that food right away, and it's fun to prepare it for eating later. I've been doing it for a long time and I still get the biggest, dorkiest kick out of pointing out to the family all the elements of a meal that we personally coaxed out of the dirt. Canning (and freezing, and dehydrating) means I get to do that all year round, with more variety than if I just grew or bought exactly what was in local season.

Plus, it's the only way to fly if you use a CSA. Get the biggest share they offer, and spend a couple hours every week putting together your vegetable intake for winter. You save a fortune and you eat like a king.

Nothing tastes better than just-picked produce in season. But that same produce, properly hand-preserved and eaten a season later is pretty close.
posted by padraigin at 2:49 PM on June 30, 2009


And now I have an image of a T-shirt with a Ball canning jar filled with the head of Barak Obama and the caption:

"Yes! I can!"


subcaption: arrrooooooo.
posted by Severian at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, I now have a plum tree in my yard with what looks like a metric ton of ripe fruit on it so what the heck else am I going to do? Throw out hundreds of dollars of organic, local plums? What a crime that would be.
No, you're going to give them to me! If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area. And if you don't, you should send me a cutting.
posted by scrump at 2:51 PM on June 30, 2009


I'd never thought that the old European chestnut about Americans worrying about food safety to the detriment of everything else was quite true, but it appears it is. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe people everywhere makes jams, pickles, chutneys etc (although it's only called canning if it involves metal cans). They even sell them at places like school fetes. I've never once heard anyone mention botulism let alone catch it.

Although I have just been watching a revolting documentary on Smithfield and the US pork industry. So maybe there's a reason that having food processed into utter sterility is the norm.
posted by rhymer at 2:52 PM on June 30, 2009


Get off my canning, rig, you whippersnappers! I've been canning for several years now and know that what you grow and preserve yourself is some of the most satisfying food you can eat. Canning isn't difficult, just fussy.

My favorite thing to can is pizza sauce. Here's a primer on how to make and can some of the best homemade tomato sauce you can put on dough. Mmmmm, pizza.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2009


I actually was thinking about making some preserves or jam recently, so this is timely. I've never done it before, and you can get supplies super cheap. My only problems are (1) it's about 95F in the shade around here right now, so big boiling pots and steaming-hot jars of food napalm don't sound that attractive, and (2) my wife will divorce me if I spend any more money on food gear right now.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2009


It was gone?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


middleclasstool, freezer jam may be exactly what you're looking for. You can do it in small batches and store it in freezer weight baggies or plastic containers. No big outlay involved and it's a fun starter project.

You can do the cooking part in a crock pot, which makes the bubbling cauldron effect a little less of an issue in the heat.

I've done very small batches of water-bathed jarred jam, too. Nobody would really divorce a person who makes jam!
posted by padraigin at 2:58 PM on June 30, 2009


/gayforaltonbrown

Urban Preservation: Jam Session Video - 1, 2.
posted by ericb at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


middleclasstool you might try freezing some of that bounty.
My husband bought some strawberries, hulled them (I hope) and froze them while I was away one day. He learned by watching me, but fruit is pretty simple. The hard part is not eating it.
posted by Cranberry at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2009


Also, I now have a plum tree in my yard with what looks like a metric ton of ripe fruit on it so what the heck else am I going to do?

This!
posted by exogenous at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2009


Amen to what padraigin mentioned earlier about CSAs.

If you want to find one, Local Harvest is an excellent resource. If you live between San Francisco and San Jose, I will use my space here to unreservedly plug Live Earth Farm (disclaimer: we're a site host for them and a longtime subscriber) for veggies and fruit, and Morris Grassfed Beef for, uh, grass fed beef.

A CSA plus a basic canning rig gives you the best veggies and fruit you'll ever taste (outside your own garden) all year 'round.
posted by scrump at 3:03 PM on June 30, 2009


This!

I just eat the overripe mushy ones off the ground and woo-boy does that make my head spin.

Maybe I shouldn't let them drop on my peyote plants.
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd never thought that the old European chestnut about Americans worrying about food safety to the detriment of everything else was quite true, but it appears it is.

It's not generally, but we're a little paranoid about canning, I guess. Salmonella too, but if your chicken was trucked in from 1000 miles away you might be too. As for botulism, well, however small the risk, the idea of at best being paralyzed for a solid month is not one I'd like to entertain.

middleclasstool, freezer jam may be exactly what you're looking for.

middleclasstool you might try freezing some of that bounty.


Well, dang, there goes my last excuse. Have to load up on blueberries this Saturday at the market.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2009


Canning left? My family has canned every year since, uhm, ... longer than I've been alive.
posted by Malice at 3:12 PM on June 30, 2009


So what's the downside to starting with a pressure canner? They're not THAT expensive (60-90 dollars)

Does that offer more flexibility in what I can can?

Any pointers to recipes?
posted by Lord_Pall at 3:13 PM on June 30, 2009


Blueberries are the easiest! Just spread 'em out on a cookie sheet, slide that into the freezer, then come back later and scoop the little frozen berries into bags. That way, when you go to use them later, they're not a solid block, they stay relatively individual. Good luck actually getting them thawed and into your pancakes or muffins and not just munching them all up like tiny little popsicles though.
posted by padraigin at 3:13 PM on June 30, 2009


I guess what I'm getting at is that I know e. coli is out there, and, should I get it, my chance of dying from it is smaller than my chance of dying from any given case of botulism. Given a choice between the two (and who says we have to choose?), I'd prefer to know about botulism, especially in cases where my own stupidity in canning is involved.

It's terrible, I know, but at some point I worry that I am more likely to poison myself seriously than a faceless corporation who doesn't give a damn about my wellbeing is. I think I suddenly realized I'd prefer to die at the hands of peanut butter than risk my own entry into the Darwin Awards. Part of it, I'm sure, is the inordinate amount of terror instilled into us about botulism. It's like the rabies of food poisoning.
posted by adipocere at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am not a food poisonologist, but I think you're more likely to get poisoned by agribusiness than in a home canning mishap.
posted by Lord_Pall at 3:16 PM on June 30, 2009


As for botulism, well, however small the risk, the idea of at best being paralyzed for a solid month is not one I'd like to entertain.

In the US, the risk is about one in ten million anually. Worry about winning the lottery instead.
posted by rhymer at 3:19 PM on June 30, 2009


So what's the downside to starting with a pressure canner? They're not THAT expensive (60-90 dollars)

Does that offer more flexibility in what I can can?

Any pointers to recipes?


No downside that I can think of. You can definitely do more with it--only high-acid fruits can be canned with a simple water bath. Everything can be preserved with a pressure canner.

There are a few books mentioned in this thread, and this is a great online resource:

National Center For Home Food Preservation, from the University of Georgia. And it's good for more than just canning food, too--freezing, drying, smoking, fermenting--go nuts!
posted by padraigin at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2009


Part of it, I'm sure, is the inordinate amount of terror instilled into us about botulism.

Botulism causes 0.2% of deaths that can be attributed to food-borne illness. The CDC expects in every year 58 people will get botulism but only 4 people will die from it.

it's true that if you tried hard you could probably give yourself a case pretty easily (mix one cup dirt, one cup green beans, top with water, put in a jar and eat it several months later) but statistically speaking, it's really unlikely to happen.
posted by GuyZero at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2009


Is it just another foodie trend?

I know Metafilter hates hipsters, so please pay no attention to my "Bacon Canning 2.0" class and web blog.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:24 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember reading a journal article about 10 years ago reporting the chemical analysis of a tin of beef and vegetables from a can that had been salvaged from the Civil War. The can was generally umblemished and in good nick. The gist of the results found that the contents of the can were about 97% pure. In other words, only 3% of the food had broken down into peptide fragments and simple sugars etc from their original state. I thought that was a remarkable testament to the quality of canning as a preservation technology.

GuyZero's CDC Food Related and Death link:
"In the United States, foodborne diseases have been estimated to cause 6 million to 81 million illnesses and up to 9,000 deaths each year"
That goes to show how incredibly unreliable - in general - food borne illness statistics are/can be. The vast majority (by stratospheric proportions) of food borne illnesses are of course never reported and of those that are, only a small fraction are analysed to determine the causative organism. But stats for the more serious cases - including Botulism - are, I guess, much closer to the mark because the majority of victims need to seek medical treatment.
posted by peacay at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2009


"My only problems are (1) it's about 95F in the shade around here right now, so big boiling pots and steaming-hot jars of food napalm don't sound that attractive"

In the dead of summer when it's pushing 40 for weeks at a time we run our canners outside using a propane burner. I'm putting in a natural gas port for our BBQ and then we'll be able to use gas for the canner too. Doesn't every household in the US have one of those already for turkeys?

"So what's the downside to starting with a pressure canner? They're not THAT expensive (60-90 dollars)"

Getting your pressure right can take a little practise and you can't see what is happening in your jars. Plus it can be slower because you need to let your canner cool down between batches. And the stuff you need to pressure can is more sensitive to variables where as anyone can make jam.

PS: you don't need to add all the sugar listed in recipes for jam, much of it is there to make the jam gel.
posted by Mitheral at 3:33 PM on June 30, 2009


Most US deaths from botulism are a result of improper home canning.

Not true according to the CDC! In 1990-2000 there were 263 confirmed cases of botulism in the US. The biggest number of cases were from traditionally fermented seafoods made by native Alaskans (103 cases or 39%). Home canning accounted for 70 cases or 27%, while commercial preparations and noncanned homemade foods made up the rest.

Pity the poor folks who made up the 1 case in the "other" category and got botulism from peyote tea!
posted by TungstenChef at 3:36 PM on June 30, 2009


it never left. It's called confit and it's been a staple of fine dining for a good long time.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:39 PM on June 30, 2009


From 1990 to 2000, 160 foodborne botulism events affected 263 people in the United States.

I think the concern is that if home-canning takes off from its current minimal level, this stat would surely grow:
In the lower 49 states, a noncommercial food item was implicated in 70 (91%) events, most commonly home-canned vegetables (44%).
posted by smackfu at 3:39 PM on June 30, 2009


It is interesting that Alaska screws up the stats though.
posted by smackfu at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2009


I got the canning bug really bad last summer when I was unemployed and lucked into a few quarts of fresh organic raspberries. I'd made freezer jam with my grandma when I was a kid but had never actually canned anything, and everything I read on the internet was scaring the piss out of me with the "D00D YOU ARE GOING TO DIE FROM TEH BOTULIZM ZOMG LOL". But when you are unemployed and bored, and your only distraction from crushing boredom is the spotty wifi access you get from the neighboring hospital, you figure, screw it, the hospital is right there. Botulism be damned, it's jam-making time. So I made jam, and then I canned the jam, and it was awesome. After that I tried putting up some tomatoes (crushed, as jamming a whole hot tomato into an equally hot jar is not a good time), and look ma, no botulism. And I'm an idiot, honestly, so if I can manage to not give myself botulism with my own canned goods, I'm pretty sure most MeFites would be just as lucky. Just make sure your produce is good (i.e. not already spoiled) and make sure your jars seal. Internet, I'll tell you this for free, that *thwock* sound the jars make as the vacuum seal kicks in? Most satisfying sound evaaarrrrr.

My grandmother's been trying to dissuade me from doing any other kind of canning at all by telling me stories about the last time she canned, which was the summer of 1953, when she put up the entire crop from her own smallish garden as well as the entire crop from her parents' two-acre garden. Singlehandedly. While she was hugely pregnant. In the dog days of August. Uphill both ways, barefoot, et cetera. I almost hate to tell her it didn't work, but why use words when I can just load her down with jams and pickles and chutneys and crap?
posted by palomar at 3:43 PM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Traditional Alaska Native foods, especially fermented foods like fish and fish eggs, seal, beaver, and whale, also pose a risk and account for the high incidence of botulism in Alaska (9). These foods, prepared by allowing the products to ferment at ambient temperatures, are often eaten without cooking

Woah, I missed that the first time through. Eating room-temperature fermented whale? Native Alaskans, you are bad-ass.
posted by GuyZero at 3:49 PM on June 30, 2009


I think the concern is that if home-canning takes off from its current minimal level, this stat would surely grow:

True, safe canning knowledge is VERY important since the consequences can be so severe.

The Alaskan seafoods that skew the stats are pretty gnarly, they aren't preserved in any normal sense of the word since they omit salt, drying, smoking, pickling, etc.

In addition to inadvertent spoilage, many traditional methods of food preparation lend themselves to botulism toxin formation. Traditional "stink" foods such as fermented salmon eggs (stink eggs) or salmon heads (stink heads) are prepared by burial in moss-lined pits or barrels in the ground. Nelson (1971) described the process he observed during a visit to the coastal villages of northwest Alaska in 1878-1881: "In the district between the Yukon and Kuskokwim, the heads of king salmon, taken in the summer, are placed in small pits in the ground surrounded by straw and covered with turf. They are kept there during the summer and in the autumn have decayed until even the bones have become the same consistency as the general mass. They are taken out and kneaded in a wooden tray until they form a pasty compound and are eaten as a favorite dish by some of the people."
posted by TungstenChef at 3:54 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not the rate of getting it, it's the consequences once you've got it that bother me. Once you have e. coli poisoning, the death rate is about 0.5%, according to the CDC. Now, I take your numbers and conclude that, once I have botulism, I have a death rate of about 7%. (I honestly thought this was only about 2%). And that's just the death rate, versus the "extensive medical care" rate, which I am sure is not too fun, either.

I know I am going to get about one cold per year. But it's a cold, I am unhappy for a day, and then it is over. I'm resigned to it. I'm much less likely to get the flu, but damned if the experience is not a miserable thing I greatly wish to avoid. And, well, having done it to yourself is just embarrassing, with eulogies that might well read "Amateur Canner, Who Was Also Kinda Cheap and Probably Not Real Clean, Either, Bottles a Batch of Death for Himself." I just don't trust myself.

I'll say it again: Botulism is the rabies of food poisoning. Not very common to begin with. Once pretty bad news in the last century, in terms of mortality rates, with awful treatments to follow. Heard more about it than we saw it with our own two eyes. Big scare factor. Both the mortality and the treatments got better in the past couple of decades. I'm not sure what that makes Hep. A (an outbreak of which did not deter the attendance at a local Taco Bell for more than about two weeks), maybe a summer cold?

On preview: fermented whale? Ugh. That's just asking for trouble, along with a steaming helping of "why would you do that, anyway, now?"
posted by adipocere at 3:56 PM on June 30, 2009


They are kept there during the summer and in the autumn have decayed until even the bones have become the same consistency as the general mass. They are taken out and kneaded in a wooden tray until they form a pasty compound and are eaten as a favorite dish by some of the people.

wugh

fuck man here is a dollar go get you a big mac
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have my grandparents commercial grade Squeezo. I would spend my late summers helping with the vast canning enterprise at their home - typically around 1500 quarts (maybe half of that when they were too old to garden as much). I was paid with a quarter-bushel of garlic, a few rhubarb pies, and as much raspberries, sugar peas, and parsley as I could eat. But that Squeezo is something to behold.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2009


Freezing tomatoes is super easy. You wash, cut out the stem, put them in ziplock bags, and put in the freezer.

When you take them out, run each tomato under warm water, and you can peel them by just rubbing the melted skin off the still frozen tomatoes.

(I miss my mother's 3'x5' freezer.)
posted by jb at 4:35 PM on June 30, 2009


Who wants a recipe? (Or, I should probably say, 'recipe.')

I've already canned a dozen pints of pickles this season, and no end is in sight. To make things more interesting, I tried a couple batches of differently-spiced refrigerator pickles. The one that stands out as a real winner, and that I'll can next time around, were the Indian-spiced pickles. You can make one jar of these easily -- just pack everything into a jar, pour the boiling brine over the cukes and spices, tighten on a lid, and store overnight at room temp. In the morning, pop into the fridge and store them there.

You'll need:

Pickling cucumbers, sliced, packed in to jar(s)

And for each jar:

3-4 cloves of garlic
1/8 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1/4 - 1/2 tsp fenugreek leaves
1 2-inch piece of ginger
1 - 2 hot chilis, sliced

In a pot, heat approximately 1 cup of vinegar (white or cider, 5% acidity) per jar, along with 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of vinegar. Bring to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and spices. Place lids on jars. Let sit overnight, then put in fridge. Or, if you're doing a lot, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, following the usual procedure.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:38 PM on June 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


My mother canned tomatoes one year, and one year only. She stored them in the shelving under the basement stairs. I remember the fun we had listening to one jar after another explode. Kids are so cruel.
I shall eat the tomatoes my husband is growing in salads if they give me acid reflux. I shall NEVER try to can veggies.
posted by Cranberry at 4:57 PM on June 30, 2009


It's not the rate of getting it, it's the consequences once you've got it that bother me. Once you have e. coli poisoning, the death rate is about 0.5%, according to the CDC. Now, I take your numbers and conclude that, once I have botulism, I have a death rate of about 7%. (I honestly thought this was only about 2%). And that's just the death rate, versus the "extensive medical care" rate, which I am sure is not too fun, either.

This is indeed cause for concern. However, the steps you would need to take to prevent catching it are simple enough that you should let the dangers encourage you to stick TO them, rather than letting it dissuade you FROM canning in the first place. To wit:

1. You can sterilize your jars by first cleaning the hell out of them, then sticking them in a big pot of water, bringing it to a boil, and letting it boil while you're getting the food together. Don't turn off the pot of boiling water until you're about to put the food into the jars.

2. Every recipe for how to can a specific food item has specific instructions for a) whether you need to add any acid, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or ascorbic acid; b) how long you should process the sealed jars in a water bath; or c) whether you should skip the water bath and go with a pressure canner instead. Follow both these points in your recipe to the absolute letter.

3. If you have processed your cans properly, while they are cooling, you should hear a little "pop" on each jar as the contents cool and the lid gets sucked down to form a seal. If there is any one of your jars which has NOT been properly sealed, either put it in the refrigerator or throw it out.

4. If you open a jar of something you canned and something just seems...off about it for any reason (anything from it is obviously weird-colored or smells awful, or it just smells mildly weird), throw it out -- don't even bother.

Generally, when in doubt, I go to the USDA guidelines for canning and processing advice, because they're the most conservative and you can be most certain they're safest.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:57 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If canned food was at all edible, I'd be all over this. And I say this as the son of parents who canned applesauce and corn, two of the most cannable items there are, when I was a kid. But seriously, the main veggies I use are tomatoes and peppers. *Terrible* from cans, especially for salsa.
posted by DU at 6:05 PM on June 30, 2009


I'm not sure I've ever not had home-canned foods sitting in my pantry. I guess if one's stuck in a big city, one might never encounter home-canned foods, though that seems a real shame.

DU, why don't you can the salsa? MeMail if you want to give it a shot; I'll hunt up the recipes my wife uses. I think it's fantastic stuff.

Jars hint: check out your local Value Village, Salvation Army, etceteras. I don't browse those places often, but when I have, I've always seen jars there. My guess is that there are enough old people kicking the bucket to keep them supplied., and few enough people canning, that they've always got a supply.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on June 30, 2009


(I don't think I'd purchase a used pressure cooker, though; those things are literally a bomb if they fail to release pressure.)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:18 PM on June 30, 2009


Oh, and FWIW, the book my wife is using for canning is titled Put a Lid on it! by Topp & Howard. She says it's an excellent book with small batch recipes (ie. just a few jars of any one thing.)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:20 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a number of things that can be easily frozen. Blueberries, sweet cherries with the pit in, strawberries, raspberries. Peaches can be sliced and frozen, but are really only suitable for crisps and cobblers after that (not that those are unacceptable uses, good god, no!). Pears don't freeze well.

There are a lot of herbs that can be purchased very cheaply in bulk, and dried and stored in the freezer. (Or, for that matter, grow 'em yourself. Basil is particularly easy, grows like a weed, and is infinitely cheaper this way.)

I had a friend that canned chicken and fish. It looks horrible, like props out of some terrible horror movie. Shudder.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on June 30, 2009


This time it is the post and the discussion. Fantastic thread, thanks.

We bought the Ball book a few weeks ago, and we've been trying to psyche ourselves up for the big push to buy a pressure caner, since, as far as I can tell, it does everything the other kind can, plus a whole lot more.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:54 PM on June 30, 2009


Ooh, and since this is turning into the tips thread:

Jars hint: check out your local Value Village, Salvation Army, etceteras. I don't browse those places often, but when I have, I've always seen jars there.

For the safest results, though, be sure that you get the jars with the lids that come in two separate parts (the flat bit that goes on top of the mouth, and the ring that screws on). That kind of lid is specificaly designed for canning, because the processing...process forces air out through the two bits so that when the can cools down, it creates a vacuum that seals the jar air-tight. The other kind of lid, the traditional one-piece lid, will not do that.

The jars with one-piece lids will work, however, if you're going to keep stuff in the fridge instead. Which is a great option for people who are still a little unsteady about canning -- try making something from scratch and just keep it in the fridge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 PM on June 30, 2009


I've comment on this before but I can both chicken and fish. Salmon just looks like any commercial canned salmon. Chicken is pretty yucky looking but it tastes fine.
posted by Mitheral at 8:35 PM on June 30, 2009


The other kind of lid, the traditional one-piece lid, will not do that.

Also, storing with the rings off allows the lids to pop off the jars if something goes horribly wrong. This has the double benefit of letting you know immediately that the jar is bad and should not be eaten while simultaneously not allowing the whole jar to explode.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:58 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never seen a one-piece lid except on commercial products, ie. Classico pasta sauce jars (which come in a standard Mason jar). I don't think you can purchase new one-piece lids, and of course you should never re-use a lid because it might not seal correctly.

If one is shopping the junk stores and garage sales for jars, it's probably best to take some rings with you to test for size/thread compatibility. It'd be a shame to scoop up a good deal on jars, only to find that you can't use standard sealers.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 PM on June 30, 2009


There's a question I have about canning, especially for those who approach it from the 'self-sufficiency" angle.

Modern canning is based on the Mason Jar, where you have to buy new lids each time you want to can something. Sure, you might be able to re-use one if you are careful opening, but I'm sure it's not recommended.

Is there a safe/modern method currently available, where all components are reusable by design?

When my mom and grandma make pickles, they use the old zinc/rubber lids, but those are no longer available (for safety reasons, I believe).
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:38 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


We've been canning for years (tomatoes, dilly beans, various jams), but only recently have we begun drying things. Two years ago we started drying plums. The are so damn delicious. I'd eat them even if they didn't have so much fiber! We had about a gallon and a half of dried plus which lasted us maybe 9 months.

This year, we over-picked strawberries, so we dried some of them too in my husband's new solar food dryer (semi-self link) in addition to canning nearly 35 pints of jam. (We don't really eat this much jam, we give much of it away as gifts.)

If you want fruit tasting jam rather than sugary jam, the pomona's pectin is awesome.

five fresh fish, we specifically buy the Classico pasta sauce for use as canning (and general storage jars) Although I prefer small 1 cup jars for jam.
posted by vespabelle at 9:47 PM on June 30, 2009


You can use vintage glass lids with food safe silicone o-rings in place of the rubber rings. Still, you'd need to replace them after a few years to a decade of use. And the metal in lids are recyclable. And in the past people have used recyclable paraffin wax to seal jars, at least on jam, but it's no longer generally considered to be safe.

Pro-tip: buy lids at the end of the season when they go on sale and always have 2-3 year's worth on hand because occasionally their will be a shortage and that can be a real problem. I still remember the year we used my grandmother's Ball style jars because we couldn't get wide mouth lids in quantity. Especially considering the massive upswing in gardens and canning over the last couple years. I don't know how close to capacity the lid plants were last year but it would be interesting to find out.
posted by Mitheral at 9:57 PM on June 30, 2009


ArgentCorvid, I have a feeling that the reason that it's not recommended you re-use the lids isn't because of how careful or not careful you are re-opening the jar -- I THINK it's because the lid is a little bit weaker because it got sucked into a vacuum seal when you used it first time around, and so it may not seal as tightly if you re-use it.

I whole-heartedly agree with vespabelle's recommendation for Pomona's Pectin. Ball also makes a low-sugar pectin which works the same way as Pomona's -- instead of reacting with a crapton of sugar, the way traditional pectin does, it reacts to a solution of calcium powder and water. You can put in as much or as little sugar as you like. I tried both kinds of pectin the first time I tried making jam -- they both tasted fine, but the kind that used sugar had a sort of..."flat" taste, was the best way I can describe it, kind of faintly like Jell-o. The low-sugar pectin tasted very fresh and fruity.

I also liked the fact that the low-sugar pectin had insructions telling you how to figure out how much of each of the ingredients you needed if you were only going to make one cup of jam -- which was sometimes all I was making. So rather than having to buy six whole other pints of raspberries, I could get away with just saying "Hmmm, I got two pints of berries, but I think I'll only get through one...hey, I can just turn that second pint into a single jar of jam."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 PM on June 30, 2009


Is there a safe/modern method currently available, where all components are reusable by design?

To my knowledge there has never been a system that was both designed by a food scientist and a system that is fully reusable. The modern Ball/Bernardin system is safety first, as it should be.

The rings are fully reusable - I have a billion of them it seems like.

Also: paraffin wax is totally unsafe. It shocks me that they still sell it next to canning supplies.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 PM on June 30, 2009


My parents make jam and chutney every summer, but we just use wax paper discs and then cellophane lids held on with rubber bands. No lids at all.

We haven't died yet... I never even knew there was a botulism risk. You soak the cellophane in water and it dries taut, perhaps that's enough of a seal?
posted by Tapioca at 4:32 AM on July 1, 2009


Also: paraffin wax is totally unsafe. It shocks me that they still sell it next to canning supplies.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 PM on June 30


Any stats on that, GuyZero? My mom's been putting up rhubarb preserves with those quilted Ball jars and paraffin wax for as long as I've been alive, and I've never encountered a jar that had a problem, even 4-5 years later. And this is the most reusable way of preserving I know of--she's always washed and re-melted the wax, and I'm still alive. (On preview: Not meant to be a snarky question--I'd be interested to see if there's hard proof of this.)

I do huge amounts of fruit canning where I live now, as the fruit is all local and cheap when in season (just put up a couple jars of raspberry-rosewater-pink peppercorn preserves this morning), and I do it the local way: wash out leftover zacuscă jars with the pressure button lids, boil the jars on the stovetop (some also put them in a low-heat oven for about 15 minutes), dunk the lids in the boiled water for a while, and spoon in your preserves when the inside of the jar is dry. (I'll generally also flip the jars over after closing, to let the heat of the preserves help to kill any bacteria that might be on the lid.) I also cut the sugar quantities significantly--usually to about 1 part sugar to 3-4 parts fruit, depending on the fruit. Neither I nor any of the many people I've given preserves to have died, or even gotten sick.

(Some food preservation techniques I see are a bit too much for me, though: "sealing" jars of grape jam with plastic wrap and string, or leaving cooked meat stews out in summer room temperatures for days because the substantial layer of congealed grease on the top is supposed to be enough to keep it edible.)
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 5:00 AM on July 1, 2009


Is there a safe/modern method currently available, where all components are reusable by design?

You only have to replace the flat part of the lid, not the rings or jars. The sealing compound is a one-time thing, no do-overs.

You soak the cellophane in water and it dries taut, perhaps that's enough of a seal?

The point of the lids/boiling is not just sealing, but vacuum sealing. You're getting all the air out of that jar -- that's the "preservation" part of it. No air means no bugs means food lasts longer. With your method, I personally wouldn't eat something that had been canned for a solid year.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:17 AM on July 1, 2009


DU, why don't you can the salsa? MeMail if you want to give it a shot; I'll hunt up the recipes my wife uses. I think it's fantastic stuff.

Thanks for the offer, but my "salsa" is really more of a pico de gallo. That said, I've been wondering what to do with all my tomatoes and peppers this year (assuming I get any...) so maybe I'll be forced to can anyway.
posted by DU at 6:23 AM on July 1, 2009


My mom's been putting up rhubarb preserves with those quilted Ball jars and paraffin wax for as long as I've been alive, and I've never encountered a jar that had a problem, even 4-5 years later. And this is the most reusable way of preserving I know of--she's always washed and re-melted the wax, and I'm still alive. (On preview: Not meant to be a snarky question--I'd be interested to see if there's hard proof of this.)

According to this site, which appears to be run by the North Carolina State U. agriculture department (if I read it correctly), the danger is that over time, the paraffin wax starts to contract ever so slightly, which causes tiny gaps around the circumference -- maybe too small for the eye to see, but still plenty big enough for molds or yeasts or bacteria to get in. You may probably have been eating all the rhubarb preserves before it got to that point, and that's why you're still fine, but that seems to be the matter right there.

(I'll generally also flip the jars over after closing, to let the heat of the preserves help to kill any bacteria that might be on the lid.)

For some recipes, this acutally does also work to create the vacuum seal on the jars the jars rather than the water-bath processing ("water bath processing" = boiling the sealed jars for a given quantity of time to create the vacuum seal). Usually the recipe will tell you whether it's okay to get away with doing it this way or not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on July 1, 2009


I am planning on putting up milled tomato sauce (roasted roma, garlic, onions, thyme, salt & pepper). I am used to making fruit preserves and chutneys so the requirements for adding acidity for tomatoes, seems to not have a lot of fans in the flavor department. Any comments, tips or techniques to make sure the sauce is acidic enough but still flavorful after water canning?
posted by jadepearl at 8:53 AM on July 1, 2009


Apparently there are microscopic holes in the wax that can let in enough oxygen to cause spoilage. I can't find a reference now but that's what I've read. Also with wax you don't get the vacuum seal like you do with a snap lid. Again, wax works, but it wasn't designed by a food scientist. It was the best they could come up with back in the day.
posted by GuyZero at 9:21 AM on July 1, 2009


I've seen food under wax go bad exactly once, to my recollection. That's out of I don't know how many jars, hundreds certainly, but still not a good success rate.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:56 AM on July 1, 2009


Any comments, tips or techniques to make sure the sauce is acidic enough but still flavorful after water canning?

Tomatoes are pretty high acid foods. I'd definitely check canning and preservation sites to be sure, but I can't imagine you'd have to do much if anything at all to increase the acidity. Flavoring the sauce with vinegar or red wine?
posted by middleclasstool at 11:02 AM on July 1, 2009


I've been canning for awhile. The big thing to remember is to use a reliable recipe (I use the Ball book) and to not deviate from the recipes or instructions. I use a recipe that uses citric acid in my canned tomatoes because the vinegar makes them taste gross.

The worst thing about canning is how hot, messy and steamy it is. Oh, to have a summer or outdoor kitchen set up for this type of operation.
posted by pluckysparrow at 11:03 AM on July 1, 2009


The destiny of all cottage industries: to be someday appropriated by hipsters.
posted by ...possums at 11:05 AM on July 1, 2009


Requested by MeMail, and shared to all:

Peppy Salsa (variation of a recipe from Canadian Living's Best Barbecue):

1/2 doz. jalapeños
9 chilies
2 dried chipotle chilies
8c coarsely chopped peeled tomatoes
3c chopped seeded Cubanelle, Anaheim, or sweet banana peppers
2c chopped onions
2c cider vinegar
1c each chopped red and yellow peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 5.5oz can tomato paste
2T sugar
1T salt
2t paprika
1t dried oregano
1t cumin
juice & rind of 2 limes
1/4c chopped fresh coriander

Do the expected chopping and de-seeding. Wear gloves when dealing with the hot stuff!

In non-aluminum pan, bring it all (except coriander; keep it out to the end) to a boil. Reduce heat, stir and simmer until thick. Add coriander ~5m before you take it off the stove. Remove the chipotles! Can it and enjoy in the winter; or keep in fridge unsealed for up to ~3wks. Makes ~11c.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:55 PM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Note: 20m canning process.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:56 PM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am planning on putting up milled tomato sauce (roasted roma, garlic, onions, thyme, salt & pepper). I am used to making fruit preserves and chutneys so the requirements for adding acidity for tomatoes, seems to not have a lot of fans in the flavor department. Any comments, tips or techniques to make sure the sauce is acidic enough but still flavorful after water canning?

I've canned a lot of tomatoes. The thing which is making the sauce you're making a little dicey when it comes to the acid level are the other ingredients -- the garlic and onions.

But honestly, the amount of acid you'd need is probably so small as to make little difference in the flavor. I follow the USDA recommendations for canning tomatoes --- they have good guidelines for canning not just tomatoes but also all tomato products, from sauce to catsup to salsa. For canning raw tomatoes, they recommend no more than a tablespoon of lemon juice per jar -- and if you're talking one tablespoon out of a pint jar, that's very faint.

But that's for tomatoes. For sauces, the USDA actually recommends pressure canners rather than the water-bath processing, because the garlic and onions and cooking of the tomatoes change the chemistry a little. You actually may be better off just canning the tomatoes raw, and then using them in new batches of the sauce as you need it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:30 PM on July 1, 2009


Hopefully this isn't too late to ask, but do you use a pressure cooker for those tomatoes, EmpressCallipygos? I noticed the USDA recommendations said something like 35-40 minutes processing for whole tomatoes with the hot water bath, and included a warning that it would not be as good as in a pressure cooker. I'm not ready to buy a pressure cooker (I may never be), but I really like the idea of canning local tomatoes in season. Do the tomatoes taste overly cooked to you? Any more so than decent commercial canned tomatoes?
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:51 PM on July 2, 2009


I don't use a pressure cooker. I just use the water bath. Pressure cookers are indeed the most certain way to know that you've got a tight enough seal, but provided you follow the proper steps in terms of length of processing in the water bath -- and in terms of whether to acidulate what you've got, and whether you should can that particular food in a water bath in the first place -- you'll be fine with the water bath.

The tomatoes themselves do taste a little "cooked," now that you mention it, but no more so than commercially canned tomatoes -- and there still is more of a depth of flavor there, and a much better aroma, than you get with the commercially canned stuff. It's not like picking something right off a vine and slicing it, but it's still definitely better than Hunts' or Contadina from the supermarket.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 AM on July 3, 2009


Pressure cooking isn't about making a "tight enough seal," afaik: it's about raising the boiling point of water to a higher temperature, so as to achieve better sterilization or shorter canning times.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2009


Went back home to visit parents this weekend. Asked my mom if I could borrow her canning equipment so I could try some jam. She bought me a full set of gear this morning. Woo to the goddamn hoo.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:44 AM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've got six jars of this on the cooling rack right now and am sterilizing more hardware to put up six jars of this.

Holy crap, the peach stuff is good.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:45 AM on July 7, 2009


I made two jars of "Hoisin-style Plum Sauce" which turned out almost exactly like ketchup. It was both amazing and kind of depressing that I had reinvented such a basic condiment. Mine was more astringent though due to the plum skins I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on July 7, 2009


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