Home canning is BIG once again. Many of us, in an effort to have more control over our food, are making our own jams and pickles, salsa and jerky. We fondly remember our Grandmothers’ recipes – but are they safe?
There are lots of canning recipes out there. Some have been around for decades. But we do know more about food safety today than we knew in the 1940’s, and that old family recipe may no longer be safe. Growing conditions have changed over the years, causing our fruits and vegetables to change too. For example, today’s tomatoes are less acidic than they used to be. Acidity is a home canning safety issue. Just because you find a recipe on the internet, doesn’t mean it is safe.
So where does one get a SAFE recipe? Stick to these sources and you’ll be all set to start canning today.
Master Food Preservers/County Extension Offices
The Master Food Preserver program is offered through many county extension offices nationwide. (Disclosure: I am a graduate of the Benton County WA program.) Master Food Preservers are trained to educate about food safety, home canning and preserving. Master Food Preservers can help you find safe recipes for anything you want to preserve – provided it can be safely preserved at home. If a product can’t be safely preserved at home, like canned sun-dried tomatoes in oil, they will let you know that too! Read more about Master Food Preservers in this post from last year.
Home Economists/Family and Consumer Scientists
Home Economists are another good source for food safety in general and home canning in particular. While not every Home Economist specializes in foods, every Home Economist does know when to question a safe food product.
The national center, housed at the University of Georgia, is a nationwide clearing house for all things home canning and preserving. Here you will find tutorials, recipes, articles, information, and more – all devoted to safe home food preservation. I personally find their site a bit difficult to maneuver, but if you are willing to spend some time here searching, you will find an answer to almost any preserving question you may have.
Larger Companies (Ball/Kerr, Better Homes and Gardens, Heinz)
Anyone can put up a site and post canning recipes. The problem is, we often don’t know if those recipes have been tested for safety or not. But, we can probably be pretty sure that large companies such as those above who sell canning supplies, magazines, and booklets have fully tested every recipe before it is published. So you can be satisfied that recipes are safe. Just check the copyright date on older print material. Recipes published before 1994 may not be considered safe. Find a more recent version of the recipe by checking out the company website.
Cookbooks by Qualified Authors
As I mentioned, home canning is BIG. There are lots of new canning cookbooks out there. Some are wonderfully creative. Others are questionably creative. How do you tell the difference? Learn about the author. Is the author a Master Food Preserver or a Home Economist? If so, the recipes most likely have been tested for safety. If not, check the publisher. Is the publisher a large company? If so, they most likely have had the recipes tested for safety. If the author doesn’t seem to have any “official” qualifications, and the book is self-published or published by a smaller company, the recipes may still all be safe. Or they may not be. It’s hard to tell. My advice would be to pass on the book, or email the publisher/author asking if the recipes are verified safe for home canning.
Naturally I can’t guarantee that every recipes found from the above sources will be perfectly safe. There are too many variables for that. But I can guarantee that you are much more likely to find a safe home canning recipe from the above sources than you would just surfing the net. Home canning can be a wonderful pastime, a great way to learn more about your food in general, a satisfying and nutritious way to prepare high quality food for your family, and the best way perhaps to eliminate potentially harmful additives and preservatives from your diet. But we do want it to be safe. And the best way to prepare a safe product is to find a safe, up-to-date recipe and follow it.
Bonus – This Site
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Seed to Pantry. My goal (as both a Master Food Preserver and a Home Economist) is to help supply you with safe canning and preserving recipes and information. Is there anything in particular you are searching for? Let me know!