Home canned goods are safe if properly processed. One thing I have noticed lately is that there is some very bad advice being given over the internet that would lead to potentially very unsafe food. So I thought I would give my little tips on how I ensure, to the best of my ability, the safety of my homecanned food.
Tip #1- Select the best quality food and wash well before beginning to process. Even organic food has potential bacteria all over it. The key to safety is to remove as much of that bacteria as possible.
Tip #2- Always double check what anyone tells you with the USDA manuals and don't rely on outdated canning guides. Canning guidelines have changed over the years and old canning directions/manuals are just that....old. Just because someone's grandmother canned something a certain way and never got sick doesn't mean that was safe to do. I saw someone give the advice of water bathing green beans which is a huge NO NO. The current USDA canning manuals (with recipes) are available free online. They are always my #1 source for guidelines and I always double check other advice with these guidelines. I even double check myself at each canning session with these guidelines.
Tip #3- Store your home canned good with the rings off. Don't leave the rings on your jars when you put them in storage. If you have a seal that breaks because of spoilage often times the ring can hold the lid tight so that it appears sealed. If you take the rings off then the lid with pop off if the seal breaks. Also, the rings can hold moisture and rust over time which can cause a broken seal. It is best to take those rings off before storing.
Tip#4- It is best to boil any low acid food for at least 5 minutes after opening a jar. This will help to kill any botulism spores that might have survived pressure canning. This would be for things like meat, vegetables, potatoes, etc. Jams, jellies, pickles, and fruit are typically canned in a high acid environment and so that is why they are safe with a water bath method and can be eaten from the jar with no additional cooking.
Those are my 4 most important tips for canning safety. Botulism is what worries me and so I take as many precautions as possible to ensure that I don't kill my family. Yes, I said kill because that is what botulism does. Most other food borne illness simply makes you very sick and feel like you are dying, but botulism will kill you. Botulism spores are everywhere and they can survive in anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. In fact they can thrive without oxygen. Botulism is odorless and tasteless so there is no way of telling whether the food is bad or not. However, gases produced by botulism will break a seal (hence taking off the rings). Botulism is also killed by high heat (hence pressure canning not water bathing) and an acidic environment.
Follow these tips and stay safe this canning season. Blessings, Kat