Hot Fruity Vinegar

Canning, Baking, and all things Kitcheny

Processing is Important or Do I Really Have To?

Processing your canned goods in a very important step to keep your food safe and storable, yes I made up a word, for any length of time. If you don’t process your jars after filling you may end up with an incomplete seal and have spoiled food also you generally don’t get the food to a high enough temperature to kill all the bad stuff without processing.

Many recipes passed down through the years or found in older cookbooks do not include instructions for processing.  Why?  Because they didn’t know any better.

The foods are usually canned by the open kettle method, (I’ll cover this in a later FAQ) sealed and stored. Foods prepared in this manner present a serious health risk — particularly low acid foods.  Think about it.  Everything in the world has bacteria on it.  EVERYTHING.  Even your freshly washed hands that you used anti-bacterial soap on have bacteria on them.

When you process your canned goods you’re basically pasteurizing them at the same time that you’re expelling all the air out of the jar.  By dropping them in a hot water bath canner, or pressure canner for low acid foods, you raise the internal temperature of the food being canned to a level that the bacteria can’t handle and then they die.  This is good.  Because boiling your jam or your pickling brine on the stove doesn’t get it hot enough to do that.

Even if it did manage to get it hot enough before being put in the jars it’s still exposed to the air and the utensils you’re using to put it into the jars and your fingers.  And all kinds of other things that no matter how much you sterilize still has some bacteria on it.  Even 1 little bacteria cell is enough to kill you.  All it takes is one to make it in and then reproduce and make you sick, and or kill you.

I’m not writing all this to scare you away from making your own canned food but rather to impress upon you the importance of processing your canned foods.  To minimize the risk of food going bad, all high acid foods should be processed in a water bath canner or pressure canner and all low acid foods in a pressure canner.

So yes you have to.

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