Avoid unsafe canning gifts

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This is the time of year when home-canning ideas get passed around on the internet and a lot of these gift ideas are unsafe and should not be attempted at home. Be aware that everything you read is not necessarily safe.

The first unsafe popular gift is canned breads and cakes in glass jars. Don't attempt this gift. Someone has baked bread in an open glass jar and covered it with a canning lid. You might find this recipe in older cookbooks, magazines, and on the internet. However, canning jar manufacturers DO NOT endorse baking in their canning jars. So don't try it.

Canned breads and cakes can often be found for sale at fairs and craft shows. Commercial companies use additives, preservatives, and processing controls that are not available when home recipes are used. Canned breads and cakes cannot be duplicated at home. University specialists say that most cake and bread recipes contain very little acid so botulism can easily grow and cause fatal foodborne illness. Breads and cakes have added fruit, zucchini, pumpkin, and liquid which all contribute to the moisture for the growth of mold, yeast, and bacteria. Don't eat it if someone gives you this home canned product. A safer option is to freeze gift breads and cakes.

A second unsafe home canned gift idea to stay away from is home canned chocolate sauce. The recipe seems to be popular on the internet. However, the sauce is low-acid and is a risk for botulism food poisoning. Any chocolate recipe is at risk if using the boiling water bath canner or even the pressure canner. There are no science-based, tested recipes publicized by USDA. Instead of canning, freeze your favorite chocolate sauce recipe.

Finally, stay away from pumpkin preserves. Pumpkin is a low-acid vegetable and cannot be safely canned in a boiling water bath canner like all preserves are processed. A jam or sweetened preserve would have to have enough sugar or added acid to be treated safely without concerns about botulism. A certain acidity level is also required to cause the pectin to form a gel. The USDA does not have any tested recipes to recommend for safely canning pumpkin preserves which includes jams, jellies, conserves, or pumpkin butter. These products cannot be stored at room temperature. They must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and treated the same as fresh pumpkin.

So be safe not sorry this holiday season. Be careful when preserving gifts for the upcoming holidays. Make sure you are using up-to-date recipes which are USDA tested. For more information and to receive a free food preservation packet of recipes, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center. The Butler County office is located at 222 North Broadway, Poplar Bluff (686-8064).

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