This is a guest post from Donna S. She graciously offered to share some of her info from her master canner’s course. I should have posted this long ago (thank you for your patience). I have changed my stance on several things about canning. I no longer can either butter or cheese as they are both low acid foods. I’m glad to have that opinion reiterated as I want us all to live to ripe old age. So here is Donna’s post. Might I just add that I cut and pasted this all by myself. WooHoo.!!!
As I mentioned, the class isn’t over yet, but I didn’t want to leave you in the dark! The first class we had was mostly food safety and freezing. I learned amazing things about botulism (which really does KILL) and other types of bacteria that the USDA has warned us about.
The most dangerous thing about canning and/or preserving food is making someone sick. I was very cavalier about canning when I started – I mean, after all, people have been doing this for hundreds of years. How hard could it be?? After sitting in the first class for 2 hours, I was ready to admit that I knew nothing and was surprised that I had been so lucky so far! Botulism is the worst culprit – mostly because it can live without oxygen and heat doesn’t kill it! So, all those tomatoes I was sooooo proud of – they might not have been acid enough to kill this bacteria! A pH of 4.6 is the thin line between pressure canning and boiling water bath canning and tomatoes can range anywhere from 4.0 to 4.8. Did I test the tomatoes I canned for my mother???? NO! She is over 80 years old and has the immune system of an 80 year old….I could have, at the very least, made her so sick she dehydrated, and the very worst, killed her!
So, the old-timers who have been canning for the past 50 years and the newcomers who are getting ready to buy their first case of ball jars, here’s my advise: get the USDA book and read it very, very carefully! Sure, no one has gotten sick yet from that garlic you put in olive oil and sit on your shelf – but the key word here is YET! It is not worth anyone’s life – especially my grandchildren – to take a chance and preserve some bacteria for them to eat! Follow the USDA guidelines. Don’t use a recipe that hasn’t been tested – especially tomatoes and low acid veggies!
Now that I have preached that particular message – class is GREAT! A lot of the stuff, I already know, because I have been canning/freezing/dehydrating a while and, believe it or not, I started with the USDA website! I didn’t have the luxury of my grandma to teach me and the only thing I can remember my mom trying to can was grape juice that fermented and exploded in storage! Initially, I just wanted to get the certificate to hang on the wall of my summer kitchen to advertise that the state of Indiana says I know what I am doing – but now, I am thankful that we have the class here and available! So far, we have done freezing, boiling water bath canning and pressure canning. next week is dehydrating, although we can’t really do any labs because of the time it takes to run something through the dehydrator. I will probably take my Excaliber so the others can see how they work.
Keep checking with Purdue University – they are trying to get a long weekend class set up (right now it is 5 8-hour days) and I believe they would take out of state applicants. It might not be until next year or longer, though. It is really tough to get people to volunteer to teach that many hours with a condensed curriculum.