7 Canning Myths: Inventing Canning Recipes and Other Bad Ideas
Learn How to Can Food Safely by Avoiding These Food Preservation Myths
There’s a lot of advice floating around the internet about canning, including the idea that you can make up your own canning recipes. Although it’s tempting to follow this advice while preserving your harvest, you might be taking a chance on your health.
One common response to debunked canning myths usually is something like, “Well, my grandmother did it and nobody died, so it must be okay.”
While cases of poisonings from home canned goods are relatively rare, it’s still a good idea to follow the canning recipes outlined by research institutes such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This center has studied home food preservation methods to determine which canning recipes and practices are safe for you to do at home.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation has also researched canning recipes and methods that are not safe, including common canning myths you might see on the internet. Let’s look at some common canning advice out there, and reasons why following these tips might not be such a good idea.
Myth #1: Oven Canning is Safe
Oven canning, which involves placing filled jars in a hot oven then allowing the heat to seal the jars, is one common canning tip that’s a safety don’t. The simple reason is the contents of your jars may not get hot enough to actually kill all the bacteria and mold spores in your food.
The oven canning method involves dry heat, while water bath and pressure canning rely on water to conduct heat to kill bacteria, mold, etc. that might otherwise inhabit your jar of food. Dry heat does not conduct heat as well as water, so even if your oven is the right temperature, there’s no telling what the temperature inside the jar has reached.
Even if you leave your jars in the oven for the same time you would if you were water bath canning, the heat would not penetrate your food the same way during the given time frame. If you decide to leave your jars in the oven longer to make up for that fact, then you’re taking your chances, since there’s no proven way to know if those canning recipes work.
Myth #2: Flipping a Hot Jar Upside Down Seals it Well Enough
Some advice out there suggests that after filling a hot jar, it’s acceptable to flip it upside down to get a seal. While your lid might seal, it’s likely too weak to stick. Your food also likely did not reach a high enough temperature to accurately kill the bacteria that lurks in it.
One of the main reasons water bath canning (and pressure canning) are considered safe is because they raise the internal temperature of the food to a high enough degree that a majority of the bacteria and mold spores are killed off. If you rely on flipping the jar to create a seal, you’re skipping an important step.
Additionally, the seal tends to be weaker when you just flip the jar, and you might find that months down the road, your jars are no longer sealed at all.
Myth #3: Paraffin Wax is an Excellent Sealer
This method involves placing thin layers of wax over your jar until there’s about a half inch of wax that seals the opening. At one time, sealing jars with paraffin wax was a recommended practice, but it’s not anymore because research has proven that bacteria and spores that invade canning recipes aren’t sufficiently destroyed.
There’s also no way to determine whether the jar is actually sealed well enough, leading to issues with mold growth.
Myth #4: Inventing your own Recipes is okay
As much as I wish it were otherwise, inventing your own canning recipes is not advised. The canning recipes you see in the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving and on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website have been rigorously tested for safety.
If you use your own recipe, the pH might off (a pH of 4.6 or lower is advised) or the temperature while canning might not be high enough to adequately destroy bacteria and mold spores present. If you want to make up your own canning recipes, you can always freeze it.
If you’re worried about canning green beans safely, then consult your Ball Blue Book or the National Center For Home Food Preservation website.
Myth #5: If it’s Canned at the Store, then it’s Okay to Can at Home
Commercial manufacturers spend a lot of time and money researching their canning recipes to ensure their safety. This means that although they have the data to prove their methods are safe, we do not. Commercial manufacturers are also able to heat their canning recipes to a higher temperature than we’re able to using our own equipment. So, just because you see something safely canned at the grocery store doesn’t mean you’ll be able to successfully repeat it at home.
Myth #6: It’s Not Necessary to Boil Lids Before Canning
On the contrary, it’s very important to simmer your lids prior to placing them on your hot jars. While sometimes you’ll read that the lids will get sterilized during canning anyway, simmering the lids is meant to heat the rubbery part to ensure a proper seal.
Canning recipes without heating the lids might lead to a poor or faulty seal, potentially destroying your hard work.
Myth #7: Canning Butter is Safe
Some canning recipes call for pouring hot, melted butter into heated jars, then sealing the product by flipping it with a secured top in place. This practice is not recommended by food preservation authorities, however.
There are no safe canning recipes to preserve butter out there. Butter is a low-acid product, meaning botulism spores have a better environment to grow. Fats like butter can also protect bacteria from heat during canning, so for now, preserve your butter at home by freezing it.
Kept at room temperature, your canned butter will quickly spoil.
While it’s tempting to make up our own canning recipes, you’re better off following the advice of researchers to safely preserve your harvest. If you’re interested in a tutorial of all the equipment you need including the best canning jars, you can learn about the basics of canning on my site.
Do you use canning recipes from reputable canning companies? If so, what are your favorites?