HOW LONG CAN HOME CANNED (PRESERVED) FRUITS AND VEGETABLES BE STORED?

Many types of people find canning an enjoyable and useful hobby. It preserves food that protects the hard work of gardeners so they can enjoy the fruit (and vegetables) of their labor all year round. It is also a useful skill for emergency preparedness, as properly preserved food can be eaten years later without the risk of bacteria, as long as it is not spoiled. Below, you’ll find a guide to food safety of your canned fruit and vegetables, including storage advice and how to inspect food for signs of spoilage before eating it.

Proper Storage for Preserved Foods

The average amount of time canned goods should be stored is between 12 and 18 months. However, there are many factors that affect freshness. Here’s a look at them:

Creating a Proper Seal

One of the most important things for canned good storage is creating a proper seal on the jar. While you can use cleaned jars, experts typically recommend that you buy new seal lids every time that you use a jar for canning. Metal breaks down over time and can create rust, which disrupts the pH balance of canned foods.

Storing in a Cool, Dark Environment

If you let your canned goods sit out in the sun or expose them to heat, it is going to change the composition of the jar. The materials may break down more and speed up the decay process. While this does not always mean that it will grow bacteria, it does mean that the food loses its freshness faster.

Before you store the goods, you should always label them clearly. Use a marker that is not going to wipe off easily. Write the name of the food, the date it was prepared, and the date it should be eaten by. Then, store the foods in a cool area with a temperature around 72-degrees Fahrenheit. Dark pantries or cellars are best for home canned goods.

Preparing the Fruit and Vegetables

To prepare your produce items, you should start by canning them when they are fresh. The heating process involved in canning causes fruit and vegetables to soften. If they are already over ripened, this can cause them to become unpleasantly mushy. Older vegetables are also less likely to be healthy.

Once you have picked the produce at peak ripeness, they should be properly cleaned and cut for canning. Wash foods using a solution of vinegar and water. Let them dry and any remaining odor from the vinegar wash will dissipate. Then, trim off any bad spots, roots, or other inedible parts. If you do not properly clean and trim the fruit and vegetables, it is more likely that the food will spoil because of an increased microbial load.

Another part of proper preparation is preparing a solution for canning. It is not uncommon for vegetables to be stored in salt water and fruit to be stored in simple syrup. There are different recipes for light, medium, and heavy syrup. There is also an option of adding other spices or mixing certain fruits or vegetables. However, you should always be sure the liquid and seasonings you use do not affect the pH balance too much.

Proper Processing of Home Canned Goods

Proper processing is also important. You cannot check the temperature or pH balance once the jars have been sealed. To prevent the spread of bacteria, you must have enough ‘headspace’ between the top of the jar and the level of the food. The headspace is different depending on what you are canning. It is also important to process the canned goods for the recommended amount of time—it is the high heat generated during the canning process that kills botulism bacteria. 

Using recipe guides from reputable sources is a good way to learn more about the specifics of canning. You’ll learn how to adjust headspace depending on what you are canning and how to process the ingredients. There are two common methods—the hot water bath method and the pressure canning method. The method you use depends on what you are canning. You also have to prepare different solutions, since some foods are naturally more acidic foods. Foods with low acidity are more likely to be infected with botulism.

If you ever have questions about a recipe, look at the USDA website. The United States Department of Agriculture provides guidelines on canning. This includes a list of various fruit, vegetables and other preparations of home canned goods that describes the process that can be used for safe canning.

Something else that people sometimes forget to consider is the contents of the jar. If you overload a jar with fruit or vegetables, it will be harder for it to reach the proper temperature. Pack produce loosely to ensure all the ingredients become warm enough to kill botulism and other bacteria.

What Type of Canning Should I Use?

The two safe canning processes are hot water bath canning and pressure canning. Hot water bath canning involves placing the jars in a hot water bath. It is bets for high acid foods, including pie fillings, sauces, tomatoes, salsa, jellies and jams, relishes and pickles, vinegars, fruits, condiments, and fruit juices. Pressure canning is best for low-acid foods that are more susceptible to botulism, including certain salsas, chili, poultry, meats, vegetables, and seafood.

Testing the pH levels of canning liquid is the easiest way to know if you should use the hot water bath method or pressure canning. High-acid foods are those with a pH level of 4.6 or less. Anything with a pH greater than 4.6 should be processed using a pressure canner.

How Long Can I Store Home Canned Fruit and Vegetables?

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends all canned fruit and vegetables be consumed within one year after processing. This is the safest timeframe for avoiding bacteria, especially for low acidity food. Of course, foods have different shelf lives, depending on the acidity. Some guidelines recommend eating within 18 months. By properly preparing and storing foods, they will last longer.

Why Are Improperly Stored or Expired Canned Goods Unsafe?

When a canned good is exposed to air or becomes compromised, it can result in the foodborne illness botulism. Botulism thrives in conditions where there is no oxygen, low levels of acidity, and temperatures between 40 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the reason that canned goods are exposed to temperatures above 250 degrees when they are sealed in the jars. Any food and air inside are trapped once the jar is sterilized. As long as the seal remains intact, the food remains free from bacteria.

Botulism is incredibly dangerous. The symptoms begin between 12 and 36 hours after eating the bacteria, though the onset depends on how much of the toxin was eaten. The most common symptoms of botulism include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Facial weakness on both sides of the face
  • Paralysis

If you experience these symptoms, it is important to seek medical intervention immediately. An antitoxin is generally injected to counteract the effects of the botulism bacteria on the nervous system. Without this toxin being deactivated, it can cause respiratory failure. Fortunately, the survival rate is very high in developed countries.

How Do I Know if Canned Goods are Spoiled?

Canning is meant as a type of preserving. It slows the rate that fruit and vegetables decay. The best way to know if a home canned item is spoiled is to inspect the jar. Since you cannot see, smell, or taste botulism, your best defense is inspecting the jar it is in. You should let the jar sit out for 12-24 hours before storing it in the pantry or cupboard. Then, press down on the center of the lid—it should not pop up or indent inward.

To be sure the canned goods are good when you take them out, you can also press down on the center of the lid. If there are any cracks or leaks, or if it looks like the lid is bulging, you should not eat the food inside the jar. There may also be obvious signs that the food is bad, including foam on the top of the food, spurting liquid when you open the jar, a bad odor, or the appearance of mold or discoloration. You should also avoid eating food that appears mushier or less fresh than when you canned it. If you are ever unsure, it is better to throw the food out than risk getting sick.

Canning fruit and vegetables at home has many benefits. However, to avoid exposure to dangerous botulism bacteria, it is important canned goods are stored safely. You should always be sure to label your canned goods clearly and eat them within 12-18 months of preserving. Being aware of the signs of damaged or contaminated food can also help you avoid eating dangerous bacteria.

Related References

Cooking Tip – Freeze Slightly Before Slicing meat, poultry, fish, or soft cheese

Cutting Thin Slices Of Lean  Raw Meat
Cutting Thin Slices Of Lean Raw Meat

If you ever needed or wanted to get small, thin, fine cuts from a stack of bacon slices, then you likely know what I’m talking about.  Basically, even with a properly sharpened knife, it will want to slide around and not bake nice even clean cuts.  However, this is easily remedied.

The Tip

  • Chill, but do not freeze, meat, poultry, fish, or soft cheese in the freezer.

The Chilling Process

Yes, I did say freezer.  To use this tip:

  • Wrap the meat or cheese in a protective wrap (plastic wrap or freezer paper)
  • Put it in the freeze for about 20 minutes (just long enough to stiffen up the edges)
  • Set a timer (this is strongly recommended), because you really do not want the meat or cheese to freeze, only firm up enough to be easily cut without damaging you blade or being a safety risk to your fingers and hands.
  • Remove the meat and cheese from the freezer
  • Immediately, Remove the protective wrapping and place the meat or cheese on a cutting board and cut to you desired shape and size.

If your meat or child begins to soften before you finish simply repeat the process on the remainder.

Avoid green skinned potatoes for cooking

Potato With Green Skin
Potato With Green Skin

For food and cooking purposes potatoes with green skins should be avoided as they can contain glycoalkaloids. Glycoalkaloids are considered toxic.

However, they are perfectly fine for use in the garden as seed potatoes.

How Hot Is Your Chili Pepper?

Poblano Chili (Chili Ancho) - Almost Ripe, How Hot Is Your Chili Pepper
Poblano Chili (Chili Ancho) – Almost Ripe

With spring nearly upon us, it is time to consider, which peppers are going to grow this year and why.  I usually grow the Poblano (Chili Ancho) and sometimes if you sweet peppers for color. However, we typically eat the Poblano pepper in our meals, because we like the flavor.  Knowing how hot the chili is can help you choose the right Chili for your purposes. Some people want to grow then hot because they can, others just like the hotter pepper, such as the jalapeno or Chili Piquin.  For whatever reason your choosing to go peppers this year, here’s a quick guide, which may give you a feel for how hot the chili you are choosing to grow may be.

Table of   Heat Units

Scoville Heat Units

Chili Pepper

2,480,000

Dragon’s
Breath

1,569,300
– 2,200,000

Carolina
Reaper Pepper

1,463,700

Trinidad
Scorpion Butch T

1,382,118

Naga
Viper pepper  

1,041,427

Naga
bhut jolokia pepper

923,000

Dorset
Naga

855,000
(reported)

The
Naga Jolokia pepper

350,000
– 577,000

Red
Savina habanero  

100,000
– 350,000

Habanero

100,000
– 325,000

Scotch
bonnet  

100,000
– 225,000

Birds
Eye pepper

100,000
– 200,000

Jamaican
Hot pepper

100,000
– 125,000

Carolina
Cayenne pepper

95,000
– 110,000

Bahamian
pepper

85,000
– 115,000

Tabiche
pepper

75,000
– 80,000

Red
Amazon Pepper

50,000
– 100,000

Thai
pepper

50,000
– 100,000

Chiltepin
pepper

40,000
– 58,000

Piquin
pepper

40,000
– 50,000

Super
Chile pepper

40,000
– 50,000

Santaka
pepper

30,000
– 50,000

Cayenne
pepper  

30,000
– 50,000

Tabasco
pepper  

15,000
– 30,000

de
Arbol pepper

12,000
– 30,000

Manzano
pepper

6,000
– 23,000

Serrano
pepper

5,000
– 10,000

Hot
Wax pepper

2,500
– 8,000

Santaka
pepper

2,500
– 5,000

Jalapeño

2,500
– 5,000

Guajilla
pepper

1,500
– 2,500

Rocotilla
pepper

1,000
– 2,000

pasilla
pepper

1,000
– 2,000

Ancho
pepper

1,000
– 2,000

Poblano
pepper

700
– 1,000

Coronado
pepper

500
– 2,500

Anaheim
pepper

500
– 1,000

New
Mexico pepper

400
– 700

Santa
Fe Grande pepper

100
– 1000

Cubanelle
Pepper  

100
– 500

Pepperoncini,
Tuscan pepper, sweet Italian peppers, and golden Greek peppers.

100
– 500

Pimento

0

Sweet
Bell pepper

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Related References

Yogurt Making – Do You Need To Boil The Milk To Make Yogurt?

Homemade Bottle Of Yogurt
Homemade Bottle Of Yogurt

Should you boil your milk to make your yogurt?

The correct answer to this question is, it depends. There are a couple of things that should be considered, which are the texture of your yogurt and the milk you’re using to make your yogurt. Also, it’s easy to get distracted and scorch your milk, which does not improve the flavor.

The texture of your yogurt

Boiling and cooling your milk before making yogurt does in some people’s opinion improve the feel of your homegrown yogurt. However, I have not found this to be true even though I’ve seen much literature about it. I think it’s the quality of the milk product and the yogurt culture to use to make your yogurt which has the most significant impact on the texture of your yogurt. Using milk with plenty of solids will reduce the amount of waste liquid produced by the yogurt culture and, therefore, the overall bitterness of the yogurt product. Much the same thing for the yogurt culture, not all yogurt cultures are equal. So, find a good culture which you like and stick with it. Choosing the best yogurt culture for you may require some experimentation with different cultures before you settle on your final choice.

The milk you use to create your yogurt

These days there are several milk products and milk substitute products to choose from to make your yogurt, but when working with real milk, it breaks down into two categories: pasteurize and raw.

pasteurized Mild

Pasteurized milk has already been heat treated, so there is no real need to boil the milk to start your yogurt. Using thick milk, such as fat-free half-and-half to enrich your milk can add significantly to the density and creaminess of your final yogurt. To make yogurt from pasteurized milk, just, bring it to room temperature, add your culture, and give it a little time to bloom, then you can add it to your yogurt warmer or wherever you keep your temperature constant to allow your yogurt culture to mature.

Raw milk

Raw milk must be boiled or home pasteurized for food safety reasons. There are many potential hazards when working with raw milk, which is why when its distributed for commercial use it is pasteurized. Some of those health hazards, such as E. coli can be fatal. So, whenever you work with raw milk, you should bring it to a slow boil for about five minutes; then let it cool. Once cool, add your culture, and give it a little time to bloom, then you can add it to your yogurt warmer or wherever you keep your temperature constant to allow your yogurt culture to mature.

Home pasteurization

Home pasteurization involves using a lower temperature than boiling, but it does take longer, and attention must be paid to maintaining the appropriate temperature throughout the pasteurization.  For best results, raw milk must be heated slowly during pasteurization. Use a double-boiler. To do this:

Stovetop method

  • Phil the bottom of the double-boiler with water and bring it a boil.
  • Pour the raw milk into the top half of the double-boiler. Heat it over the boiling water, stirring thoroughly and consistently throughout the heating process.
  • Use a probe or thermometer to determine when the temperature reaches 165° F. and keep it at 165° F for 15 seconds or more.
  • Set the top half of the double- boiler containing the hot milk in a container of cold water and. Keep the water cold by adding ice as necessary.
  • Continuing to stir slowly and consistently, until the milk is cold, then use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Microwave method

Raw milk can be pasteurized in a microwave oven by heating the milk to 165°F. Your milk heating temperature should be verified with a probe or thermometer. Stir the milk periodically during the heating period to equalize the temperature. Once hundred 65°F is achieved, the same 15 seconds or more rule must be applied. Throughout. Cool as directed. Pour the hot milk into a pan or dish which is in a container of cold water and keep the water cold by adding ice. Continue to stir until the milk is cold, then use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

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Cooking Tip – Break Eggs Into a Separate Bowl First

Egg Cracked Into Checking Bowl before Use
Egg Cracked Into Checking Bowl before Use

To prevent mishaps and damage to more than the egg you’re currently working with, it is strongly advised break each egg one at a time into a separate bowl or a breaking bowl, if you will. This allows you to work with each egg and ensure it’s of the quality you want before combining it with other eggs or other ingredients and regretting an unpleasant surprise.

Things like a piece of eggshell falling in can be more easily retrieved from a single egg than several eggs. Worse yet, if for some reason you should come across the bad egg, you can simply dispose of the egg wash the dish and move on the next egg without having lost anything but the egg that was bad. This minimizes risk before transferring the egg it to your mixing bowl.

This using a separate bowl, also, applies to separating eggs; always do them one at a time to prevent one broken yolk from spoiling a bowl full of whites.

Related References

Tips for Handling Hot Chili Peppers

Gloved hand holding a red chili pepper
Gloved hand holding a red chili pepper

In our home, the Poblano, Serrano, and Jalapeno hot peppers are our mainstays chilies.  Especially, the Poblano which we prefer over the normal sweet peppers for its flavor. However, chili Peppers contain Capsaicin, which can be a serious irritant, if care is not taken to protect oneself.

Wearing protective gloves (latex, plastic or rubber) while working (e.g. cutting, slicing, chopping, and/or dicing) hot peppers.  If you or someone else should happen to handle the cut hot peppers with bare hands, their hands should be washed thoroughly with warm soapy water two or three times.  Be sure to wash the tips of the fingers and under the fingernails; a nail brush can helpful.

Caution:  keep small children away from chili peppers at all times while being prepared, lest they handle some and rub an eye or something.