The Jam and Jelly Lady

  (Lebanon, Ohio)
Yes You Can!
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Canning Tip #9 - Canning Tomatoes with Flavor!

Many folks love to can their own tomatoes for use in the winter months when they can't find a tomato in the grocer to their liking.  I personally put up only 50 jars or so.  I know some folks do a hundred or more.

But I like to vary the spice and dried herbs in my canned tomatoes.  The fun thing about spices is that you can add them to tomatoes without increasing the processing times for the water bath or the pressure canner, whichever you like to use.

For Italian tomatoes, I add basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and salt to my tomato base.  In the winter, this combination makes wonderful base for a spaghetti sauce.

Rotel is one of the most recognized names in manufactured canned tomatoes.  You can make your tomatoes sing with flavor like Rotel's, too.  Simply add spices to your tomatoes when you are heating them to can.

For Mexican tomatoes, try chili powder, cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper, onion flakes, and coriander.  You can even add some diced small chilis.  If it's easier, open a can of chopped chilis and add them to your tomatoes.  It won't change the processing time of your canner.  I use Mexican tomatoes to make chili, enchiladas, and tacos in the winter - yummmm!



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My grandmother canned for 75 years and took out the water bath using the oven.

Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse and return to a sink of hot water. Turn your oven onto 175 degrees and place your jars on one rack, lids, covers on another.

Because your sauce or tomatoes are boiling for 20 minutes in the pan, hot stock goes into hot jars. Ladel in, wipe the top, return to the oven for a lid and top, take a warm wet cloth, tighten you lid. Wipe down the jar, and again tighten the lid, then return it to the oven, and repeat. After you are finished, let jars sit in the oven for 10 minutes and take out with a pot holder, place on dry towel and let cool. You'll hear lids pop after a while. If a lid doesn't pop down, return it to the oven or push it down with your finger, it usually sticks.

Can chicken soup, chilli with meat, the same way. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and don't become a slave to your fruits!

Posted by Robbin on July 29, 2010 at 04:18 PM EDT #

I tried posting this response a few days ago, but it's so big I'm going to have to post in several installments.

Robbin, while I'm so happy to have you participate in this forum, I would be putting you in danger if I did not warn you about the type of canning you describe.

I've canned for about 40 years, have taught professionally for 15, and am an FDA-certified Processing Authority. I often hear students say "my grandma canned this way and we all lived!" But after I thoroughly describe the hardfast rules of food preservation and explain the consequences of poor canning practices, there's not a student in the room willing to return to "Russian roulette canning" such as yours!

Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria that produces a deadly toxins. Some strains of C. botulinum don't have a scent. If you are lucky, a jar of botulism-infected food will form mold and explode before you make the mistake of eating it!

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 05, 2010 at 10:27 PM EDT #

To kill botulinum spores, low-acid foods MUST be processed at 240 degrees F. That means your chicken soup is being canned at 65 degrees less than the lowest acceptable levels for killing anaerobic bacteria!

And as far as your lids "sticking" - 2-part lids with safety buttons are designed to allow oxygen to "vent" (exit) from jars. After venting, a true vacuum is created (and the button pops), killing aerobic bacteria. But in your process, when the lid pops down it is only because your food has cooled and contracted, causing a little pull on the lid. By no means are you creating a sufficient vacuum that will prevent further bacterial growth. Your jars have plenty of oxygen left in them for quite a bacteria party!

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 05, 2010 at 10:29 PM EDT #

Your practice completely ignores food safety rules. These rules aren't difficult- they are as practical as not leaving meat out on the counter to spoil; or washing your hands after handling meat. Most folks agree those two rules are necessary. So are safe canning guidelines. They aren't tough guidelines, and certainly don't make someone "a slave to your fruits" as you say. I can over 10,000 jars a year, and I process EVERY ONE of them! I'm not a slave - but the health and safety of our family and customers requires a little time and effort from me.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 05, 2010 at 10:33 PM EDT #

Here's how easy canning is: pick up a Ball Blue Book. Spend an hour or two one afternoon reading about canning basics. Then process your jars in either a water bath or pressure canner, whichever meets the needs of the food you're canning. I can ladle and process around 75 jars in just a few hours. It's really not hard once you find your groove! And if reading isn't your favorite pastime, then register for a canning course. Check with your extension office for offerings in your area.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 05, 2010 at 10:34 PM EDT #

Take care, Robbin. Please, please don't be offended by this reply. It is certainly not my intention to preach or belittle anyone - but I am obligated to my readers to take food safety very seriously. And I take your safety seriously, too.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 05, 2010 at 10:34 PM EDT #

If the sauce is boiling and the jars are hitting 200 degrees in the oven, then it is no different then you boiling the jars in a water bath. The seal on the jars is very tight and the added process of putting the jars back into the oven is an extra measure to be sure that the seals are secured. There is air in canned jars no matter which process you use, so how is the water bath process changing that?

Posted by Robbin on August 06, 2010 at 08:59 AM EDT #

Part of my original comment was left off. I start the oven at 200 and turn it down to handle and then back up. If what you're saying is true, then simply turning the oven up to 250 should be sure to do the trick. The temp in the jars will be even higher than that as they sit in the oven for the additional 15 -20 mins. Many of us can this way and none of us has ever had a problem, so I don't think it's luck. The problem is to be sure jars don't get too hot and explode, so letting them cool back down and making sure the towel is warm is important. It seems that the temp is hitting the mark through the process to preserve properly. I do appreciate your comments however.

Posted by Robbin on August 06, 2010 at 09:34 AM EDT #

In a nutshell, oven canning is dangerous because 1) canning jars aren't not manufactured for intense dry heat and can explode - deadly if that happens when you are peeking in the oven, and 2) the food temp in the jar never exceeds the boiling point. When you ladle boiling food from a pot, it instantly becomes non-sterile. When you pick a jar from a boiling pot of water, it, too, is immediately non-sterile. And the air between the lid and the food is non-sterile. The only way to cleanse the food, jar, and eliminate the air is to apply heat. Dry oven air is non conductive enough to heat the food product. In addition, the oven temp fluctuates a lot as it cycles - this is very hard on the jars, and it means that the temp cannot heat the food all the way through the jar for the proper amount of time.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 06, 2010 at 11:24 PM EDT #

Continuing... Because oven canning cannot assure uniform heat penetration, it fails to destroy many bacteria. Water and steam, on the other hand, give uniform heat penetration throughout the jar of food.

"There is air is canned jars no matter which process you use." Not true at all. Water baths and pressure canners "vent" the oxygen from the jars, leaving a true vacuum that aerobic bacteria can't survive in. There is space in the jars, but no "air" or oxygen.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 06, 2010 at 11:39 PM EDT #

It may be true that no one in your family has died from canned food. There are occasionally smokers who live to 100 or children who play in the street and don't get hit by a car, but these activities are best avoided. Tempting botulism food poisoning is really taking a huge chance.

Any canning recipe older than 1990 is rarely safe to use. The USDA changed and updated the approved canning methods in over 20 years ago. Since then dozens of universities have printed research online to back up the USDA claims that water bath and pressure canning are the best methods for ensuring the safest canned foods.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 06, 2010 at 11:39 PM EDT #

I hot pack my spaghetti sauce all of the time. I do sterilize my jars by boiling them in a water bath. While it is simmering, I put the clean jars into the oven at 200 degrees to keep the jars hot. After about two hours I place the simmering sauce into the hot jars, and then they seel themselves. I have been know at times to push down the lids to make them seal sometimes when I can regular tomatos if they don't seal themselves. I have never had to do this with the spaghetti sauce, they have always sealed by themselves. Are either of these things dangerous? 1. Canning the spaghetti sauce the way I do? and 2. Pushing on the lids when I can tomatos?

Posted by kp on August 20, 2010 at 01:41 AM EDT #

A "pop" vs. a hermetic seal is the issue here. To be hermetically sealed (which is ONE of the two purposes behind "processing" - either using water bath or pressure techniques) one must actually apply enough heat to create a vacuum. You are not applying NEAR enough heat to kill the occasional deadly bacteria.

You really need to be processing spag sauce. Use a Ball Blue Book or other recently written USDA-approved guide.

Pushing on the lid is causing nothing, because since you are not processing them, you really don't have a seal anyway. You just have hot air that eventually cooled, and when the molecules cool, they contract, causing the faux "seal." A "canning seal" is caused by processing, whereby high heat kills aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 24, 2010 at 03:59 PM EDT #

If you have hot sterized jars and you have cooked the sauce for about 2-hours, and after filling the hot jars return them to the oven at 240 degrees for about 30 minutes, wouldn't that be safe canning? The heat would kill the potential bacteria and also provide a "true" seal. To ensure safe practices, I would allow the hot jars to cool down in the oven so there would be no danger of exploding jars.

Posted by Robbin on August 24, 2010 at 04:19 PM EDT #

Hi Robbin! Please refer to technical information I wrote in the first few comments.

Everyone knows to wear a seat belt. If you don't wear one, then I guess you pray that the other drivers are excellent. Because if it is your car that is hit, you will be thrown from your car, possibly killing yourself and everyone else in it.

In a nutshell, this is the difference between processing and not processing. Oven methods are not processing. Bypassing HWB or pressure processing for an easier method like ovens is like not wearing a seat belt, because it is easier, too. As I explained before (and this is actual physics, not just my opinion) dry heat is not able to accomplish the same results as boiling water or steam heat.

Short of doing the physics experiments myself, I can only say to you: Look it up. Read the data provided by many universities. You can Google it all!

But if you insist that your methods are better, than I cannot convince you.

Posted by Sonya - The Jam and Jelly Lady on August 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM EDT #

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