Canning has changed a lot over the years. Guidelines for safety have continuously changed to ensure that no one dies from preserving food at home for their own use. While doing research and learning the process over the last few days, I’ve come across quite a few articles that give good information. I have also seen that they recommend ignoring any “old” recipes because the new information they acquire about canning or preserving foods would change the recipes. I really love my Priscilla Cook Books (from the early 1900s). I wish I could use them for canning. O’well.
(p.s., anyone who wishes to do me a great service for Christmas, I would love to acquire this book: The Ball Book of Canning. It is a recognized authority by several university extension offices for guidelines for safe and effective preservation and canning of foods)
I’ve found a few others but those are the important ones. They give the “recommendations” from the beings in power that have the money to test and ensure optimal results on all sides of canning. A good read through is a must for anyone who wants to attempt some canning. One of the biggest things I have learned and read is about the botulism involved in canning items that are low in acid. You have to pressure cook them and/or if you do (to avoid that) the product may taste awful.
Let’s take the cheese I canned today. I was curious what would happen.
I melted the cheese and threw it in my water-bath canner.
While the canned cheese looks great (the yellow jars on the right), my research this evening showed I made a few mistakes.
- Cheese is extremely low in acid. A great breeding ground for botulism. Adding lemon juice or vinegar would be suitable for killing off the potential for the bacteria. I ask you this, “How many of you want vinegar or lemon juice on your cheese?” Not I, that’s for sure! So, scratch that idea.
- You could pressure can it to preserve it longer as that would reach the appropriate internal temperature and then kill off the idea of sickness. The taste of the cheese would change dramatically and it’s not quite what we want when we want to preserve our excess cheese for long periods of time. Right?
My conclusion is this: no canning of cheese. I’ll be popping open those cans and re-melting the cheese so I can use it in the next few days. What I might do is cook it in something and then freeze the food – I’ll have a dinner on hand when I need it.
I’m pretty sure I will be (after reading as much as I did) safe in eating this melted cheese in the next week or two by keeping it in the fridge. Of course, I am going to be getting rid of it rather quickly and, everything I use it for requires being placed in an oven for an extended period of time as part of a recipe. While my oven can’t match anything close to what I’ve learned about “pressure canning,” I’m good on that score. My curiosity got the best of me, though. I wanted to see what would happen when I canned the cheese.
You can, however, freeze cheese. I recommend shredding it before. When you thaw frozen cheese, it crumbles easily. If you pre-shred it, it is easily used in recipes. Even cubed (I’ve tried) falls apart after being thawed. Unfortunately.
Those who have been watching what I’ve been doing know that I’ve also canned some Boston Baked Brown Bread. I don’t recommend it as a bread product has plenty of low-acid and air to create the dreaded Botulism. However, everyone who is getting this for Christmas knows that they shouldn’t let it sit. I expect it to be eaten within the next two weeks. If you try it this way as well, I recommend you eat it rather quickly.
OR – as I’ve since learned – take it out of the jars and wrap it up to freeze it. Freeze it in the little round shape that it is intended to be. Freezing kills the air and the moisture that creates the environment for botulism. If you get some brown bread from me for Christmas, take it out of the jar and wrap it in Saran Wrap and then aluminum foil and throw it in the freezer – if you don’t wish to eat it right away. I highly recommend eating it right away it is very delicious!
The next thing I did was attempt to can ground sausage. I hit a sale and wanted to save it for long-term. I found this link: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%205%20Home%20Can.pdf and decided to can my ground sausage in its own juices. What I can’t quite grasp is if the fat in the sausage (not a lot but some) will be sufficient or if it can carry and create botulism in the long run.
I used my pressure canner (At an average of 13lbs pressure for 70 minutes – it is very difficult to keep that little gauge to stay exactly where you need it. Once or twice, it hit 20lbs pressure and occasionally it dipped to 9lbs pressure) and it all looks great. Of course, as we’ve all learned from following the links of my readings, that doesn’t mean it is safe. I’m wondering if the juice (fat) I let stay in the jars is good or bad. I’m still figuring it out.
I did read a question/answer in a PDF file that I downloaded (I forgot where I go it from – the title is: PNW361 A Pacific Northwest Extension Publication Washington • Idaho • Oregon):
Q: Why is it necessary to remove as much fat from meat as possible before canning?
A: Fat left on meat will climb up the sides of a jar during processing and may prevent sealing.
Since it did not climb up the sides and it did seal “good,” I’m going to go with my canned sausage is good to go and ready to eat. That’ll save time in the mornings when cooking breakfast for the babies.
However, that publication says to cook it 75 minutes at 13 lbs pressure. I think I might be opening it and redoing it. Or, I can just throw it in the fridge and use it in the next week or so. Considering how often sausage for breakfast is decided on, it won’t last long.
Another thing I found that was quite informative and should be remembered is how to testing the seals of cans after canning.
“Testing Jar Seals
After cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the screw bands and test seals in one of the following ways:
- Press the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed.
- Tap the lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. If it makes a dull sound, the lid is not sealed. If food is in contact with the underside of the lid, it also will cause a dull sound. If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a ringing, high-pitched sound.
- Hold the jar at eye level and look across the lid. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If the center of the lid either is flat or bulging, it may not be sealed.”
I acquired that from this link. It is required to remove the bands from your jars before you store them to limit the risk of rust. If you get rust on the lid, it can work itself in under the seal and, once it does that, you can have air insert itself and then botulism can start accumulating, killing off your entire family. Yeah. Take the bands from your jars – k?
The question remains: is canning worth it? I’ve been having fun testing and playing with the idea the past few days/week or so. I’m learning as I go (instead of trying to pay for a class – which we all know I can not afford!) and keeping the research and links open to see what I can find out as I go. I do wish I had read up on the cheese thing before using it in the can. It’s alright, though. It’s a learning process and, because it hasn’t been a day or more, I can salvage the cheese from that experiment. The sausage can be recooked and tested again, if need be. Not a huge issue there.
When I perfect this new craft, it will be worth it and I’ll be able to set aside things when I have the funds and not stress food when money gets stretched super tight!
Did you know that you can become a “Master Food Preservation Specialist” at one of your local university extension offices? I’m quite sure I’ll be researching this for my own town. So far, I’ve only found the University of Utah has it near me.
I’ve uploaded the files that I’ve managed to accumulate – including the USDA Home Preservation and Canning Guide so y’all can download and read it. I’ll be looking at it quite closely over the next little bit, trying and failing (and sometimes succeeding) at learning how to can safely to feed my family next time a “November” happens.
I recommend everyone take a look-see and pay attention to the details. All of these documents could, at any time, be updated. Try to research and find the newest ones available. These are presented as a basis for you and yours.
I’ve received a few concerned comments from others in regards to playing with my learning about canning. Thank you for your attentiveness to my family’s safety! Any and all input is more than welcome. Feel free to pop over for a visit and impart your special knowledge as well, if you’ve the time!
Those are my exploits for today. Catch y’all on the flip side.