Is Canning Safe?

Okay, so I want to start out by saying I am NOT the “canning patrol”.  I will not be coming to your home and going through your home canned goods and deciding what is safe and not safe and throwing things out.  I am merely giving my opinion. I just wanted to get that out in the open first.
It seems I’ve been fielding a lot of canning questions and concerns lately from friends and thought I should share some thoughts here.

First off, yes, I do can.
Second, I am a stickler for rules when it comes to canning safety.
Third, you should be too.  (all though, as long as you don’t ask me to eat what you canned, that’s really your business).

I have heard sooo many times the declaration “I’ve done it this way for years, and I’ve never gotten sick from it!  So it must be safe!”
Let me explain why I think that’s a foolish thought.
My grandmother, as most country women of her time, canned pretty much anything and everything.  My mom recalls many an evening before dinner when her mom would open a jar of home canned food, scoop off the top layer of  “stuff” and then take a spoon of the contents and hand it to my grandfather saying “Here Johnny, try this.  See if it’s still good.”   If he was still alive by dinnertime, everyone had to eat it.
Did he survive? Yes. Does it sound like a good idea though? (Please tell me you’re saying no!)
None of us knows when we are going to be lucky or unlucky when it comes to eating something questionable.   And when it comes to your and your families health, isn’t taking a few extra precautions worth it?
Just because someone doesn’t get “sick”, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  And we certainly don’t know when we’re going to be “unlucky”, or if we are causing harm to our body even though we haven’t gotten “sick”.

So how can we know we are canning safely?  I don’t think you know what to avoid doing unless you know what there is to be afraid of.
How can you do that?  Well, many extension offices have classes you can take (locally you take one through WSU Extension office from a Master Food Preserver).  You can research all the information and directions available from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  And their book, So Easy to Preserve, is invaluable with more recipes than you’ll ever need.
Use SAFE equipment.  And just because it is sold in stores does NOT make it safe.  For instance, steam canners are still sold.  Are steam canners safe?
I certainly don’t think so.  Not just because they have been scientifically proven INEFFECTIVE at killing bacteria, but because common sense tells me it’s a bad idea.  Let me present you with 2 scenarios.

Scenario #1:
Bring a shallow pot of water to a boil.  Now hold your hand in the steam for 10 to 15 minutes.

Scenario #2:
Bring a very large pot of boiling water to boil.  Now COMPLETELY submerge your hand in water and keep it there for 10 to 15 minutes.

Which Scenario would you pick?  Probably #1, right? Why? Because as hot as the steam might get, it certainly wouldn’t be as painful as #2.   While steam may be hot, it will never penetrate the jars, heating through to the middle of the contents to kill harmful bacteria.  It just isn’t possible.

So when it comes to canning, use a little common sense.  Just because you warm the glue compound on the canning lid enough to seal does NOT make it properly processed.  And just like anytime you cook, if you don’t take proper precautions, you can get people sick.  You can even kill someone.

You’re probably wondering if I still can?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Since I have young children I choose not to can meats and such that take more time.  But I am glad that I know how to do it.  And when I do can,  I am careful, and remember to follow safe CURRENT guidelines.   I hope you will too.

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