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 Post subject: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:35 pm 
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Location: Virginia
Last summer was the first time I've attempted canning (we've just had a garden for a couple of years). I made bread and butter pickles from the Kirby cucumbers, and salsa with the tomatoes and peppers. Both of the recipes were specifically for water bath canning (which is the method I used), and turned out delicious (if I do say so myself :lol: ). However, I was at a website the other day and saw a post that said a pressure canner is necessary for salsa to eliminate the possibility of botulism. I hadn't seen that at any other sites or in the canning cookbooks I perused, but it's making me wonder if it's safe to eat (or give away!) the beautiful salsa in all of those lovely jars. So I'd love an opinion from any of you experienced canners.

Thanks!

Emilie


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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:18 pm 
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Emilie,

It's mainly low acid foods that you have to worry about. Tomato based items tend to be ok because they contain enough acid. It's the other stuff like chicken stock and non-acidic veggies that you need to pressure can.

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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:20 pm 
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Salsa is one of those borderline things that seems like it should have enough acid to be safely canned w/o pressure, but the problem is that you may get some chunks of something that the acid didn't penetrate, such as chilis or onions. And the acid is nowhere near as high as when pickling - sometimes tomatoes do not have enough acid on their own (I often see warnings about "low acid" tomatoes in seed catalogs, that are unsuited for canning, and we have no idea what we have, unless we grow them). The only salsas that could safely be water bath canned are the finely ground ones, and even with these you will need something to test the pH, to be totally safe. Some salsas have a bunch of vinegar (or citric or other acids) added to make them safe, but they aren't the real Mexican varieties.

This is why I don't can salsas. If I want to make a bunch, I freeze it. Of course, a frozen container of salsa would not be a very good gift.

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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:26 pm 
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Emilie,

I used to jar salsa on a regular basis. You do not need a pressure canner for it, provided that you are adding vinegar and/or lime juice to the salsa to make it more acidic. On the advice of Putting Food By I added a teaspoon of white vinegar to the top of every jar of salsa. I then cooked them for 7 minutes in a water bath at 190F (for 1/2 pint jars). I didn't have any go bad, or kill anyone, out of at least a half-dozen large (24 jars) batches over the years.

And as said above, some tomatoes require pressure canning because they are not acidic enough. Make sure you know what kind you have before canning them.

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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Thanks so much for the replies. The recipe calls for vinegar -- 1/2 cup for 14 cups tomatoes and a 1/2 cup tomato sauce. I used red wine vinegar instead of white vinegar, though. I wonder if that makes a difference as far as the ph. And I did chop the vegetables quite finely. We prefer that to the chunky style.

Does botulism develop over time, or if it happens, is it right away? My family loves the salsa and if I let them, they'd eat a jar of it in just a few days. So I guess I could let them go through it in a short amount of time, although to have it all be gone that soon would be quite painful for me!


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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 9:33 pm 
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Emilie wrote:
Thanks so much for the replies. The recipe calls for vinegar -- 1/2 cup for 14 cups tomatoes and a 1/2 cup tomato sauce. I used red wine vinegar instead of white vinegar, though. I wonder if that makes a difference as far as the ph. And I did chop the vegetables quite finely. We prefer that to the chunky style.


I'm not sure. My salsas are generally just chopped vegetables and/or fruits mixed with vineger, lime juice and seasonings, so the acidity of the liquid is very high. It doesn't matter what kind of vinegar you use, as long as it's 6% acidity, although I would think that red wine vinegar would taste kind of odd.

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Does botulism develop over time, or if it happens, is it right away?


It depends on how many spores, if any, make it into your food.

Do note that botulism is actually very rare; about 20 people per year in the US get it, so you're still better off doing unsafe home canning than crossing the street. It's just that the consequences are so severe (5% fatality rate, and 50% long-term hospitalization rate) that people are freaked out by it. In the early 70's, there was a home canning revival among many suburbanites who made a lot of mistakes, and got many forms of contamination as well as botulism. So our Heath Authorities are still kind of extreme when pushing canning saftety. Although more people died in the 70's from bad commercially canned foods than home-canned ones.

Plus, there was that episode of Quincy.

CDC page: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfb ... /botulism/

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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:04 pm 
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Location: Near Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I used to can salsa, but not in at least 13 years (ask me how old my oldest child is ;) ) I always used a regular water canner.

I want a pressure canner for stocks. I love the idea of being able to pour stock from a mason jar instead of defrosting. And canning things like taco meat.


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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:23 pm 
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Location: Northern California
I'm figuring that something like applesauce would require pressure cooking. Would it taste less fresh if canned?
Thanks,
Nancy


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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:47 pm 
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Two other times I remember that caused spikes in botulism: one was when they started marketing minced garlic (now they add some acid to it - never did really taste good!), and another was from the sun dried tomatoes in oil. And another, less common problem, is putting fresh herbs in oil, since it can quickly become anaerobic.

As for the applesauce, everything I've seen says they're safe to can in a water bath. Maybe they are acidic enough? All the recipes I've seen (though I've never done it...just saw them looking for pickle recipes) said the sugar was 'to taste', so it was not the sugar that was the preservative.

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 Post subject: Re: Do I need a pressure canner?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:53 pm 
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I'm glad to know the applesauce can be water bath canned -- that was definitely on my list of next year. And Fuzzy, as far as the red wine vinegar, I never would have thought of it -- but when I read the recipe review comments, several people mentioned using that instead of white vinegar. So I decided to give it a try and it really is delicious. It also has cumin in it, which I didn't see in any other recipes, so maybe that has something to do with why it works together so well.

Dave, your comment about putting fresh herbs in oil causing botulism interested me. In the past when I've done shrimp or vegetables for the grill and am in a hurry, I toss them in a storebought olive dipping oil with fresh (looking) herbs and garlic in it. I've thought on several occasions how easy it would be to make that myself and have it ready whenever I need it. But actually that's something that can't be done? (I'm clueless on food science so have no idea what "anaerobic" means other than in terms of exercise:)

Thanks!

Emilie


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