In light of recent news of a jam being responsible for the food poisoning episode last week at Toronto’s annual CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), it shows that even a commercial maker of jam’s and jellies can slip up when making their product.
Home cooks must follow a very strict and rigid set of rules when canning/preserving food for their families to avoid serious illness contracted from bacteria as a result of improper food handling.
I preserve a lot of food for my family, most of it being different types of jams, jellies and tomato products. I have always taken every precaution in order to ensure food safety for my family. There are guidelines to follow for canning and preserving food and I would like to remind everyone that preserves their own food, that these quidelines were created for our own safety and well being.
Rules of Canning and Preserving
1. Always start with the freshest ingredients, if it is produce, ensure it is washed and inspected for bad spots or mould. Toss any and all damaged product.
2. Ensure your work space, utensils and yourself (hands especially) are spic n’ span clean prior to beginning.
3. Sterilize all canning jars, lids and screw bands as per manufacturers instructions. This cannot be stressed enough.
4. Follow recipes to the letter, do not be tempted to omit an item (especially an acid called for in a recipe) because you either forgot to buy it or ran out. Canning recipes are tested until perfect with ingredients being listed that way for a reason. Ensure the product is cooked to the exact specifications called for.
5. Fill jars with prepared product to the required headspace, wipe rims with a clean cloth before placing on the lids. Screw bands down until fingertip tight.
6. Process jars in a water canning bath for the exact time called for in the recipe, same with pressure cookers, do not be tempted to shorten the time because you are running out of time.
7. Ensure all jars are properly sealed before storing. Any jars that have not sealed, either re-process or store in the fridge and use within a week.
There are several Home Canning books available from the maker’s of the glass canning jars (Ball and Bernardin), so do yourself a favour and head to your local bookstore to obtain one, better safe than sorry is my motto!
We live in a highly civilized country with the technology and know-how to ensure we do not eat contaminated food. The 150 or so people that fell ill at the CNE deserved to be served food that was safe and it is disappointing to see things like this still happen in our country.
Following these tried and true rules will ensure your family is safe from food borne illnesses and not become another statistic.
Ok, the lecture is over. You may continue on with your day.