7 Controversial Canning Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Health

7 Controversial Canning Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Health

There’s common canning mistakes…and then there’s canning mistakes that can cost you your health.

Every year, I see the same articles floating around the internet and getting shared on Facebook. And I worry for the unsuspecting people who will follow this bad advice, and make all sorts of canning mistakes that might lead them to a hospital visit (and a big ol’ bill).

Canning vegetables should be a fun and easy process, and it is, when you follow established directions that are safe and have been studied.

In this article, we’ll debunk a lot of the canning myths I see floating around on the internet so you can feel confident canning your harvest.

Umm…actually….

One common response to debunked canning mistakes usually is something like “well, my grandmother did it and nobody died, so it must be okay.”

Yes, reported cases of poisonings from home canned goods are relatively rare. But that’s because a majority of people follow canning recipes outlined by research institutes such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

This center has studied many food preservation methods, which have helped to establish which home canning recipes and practices are safe – and which are just canning mistakes you want to avoid.

Here’s 7 canning mistakes you might see on Facebook. You should avoid these myths so you don’t get sick.

Mistake #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 totally 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, which then have a likelihood of growing inside your jars.

While both water bath and pressure canning rely on water to conduct heat to kill bacteria, mold, etc. that might spoil food, the oven canning method involves only dry heat. Because dry heat does not raise temperatures as consistently as water, there’s no telling what the temperature inside the jar has reached.

Even if you leave your food in the oven for the same amount of time you would if you were water bath canning, the inside of your canning jar might not get as hot as it needs to be to properly kill all the bacteria crawling inside. It’s one of the most common mistakes we see!

Mistake #2: Flipping a hot jar upside down seals it well enough, and waterbath or pressure canning isn’t necessary.

A few articles on the internet offer the advice that that after filling a hot canning jar, it’s perfectly safe to flip it upside down to get the lid to seal. While your lid might seal, it’s potentially too weak to make a really sticky seal, and you might find in a few months that your jars are no longer sealed at all (and have a big green moldy mess).

Additionally, one of the most common mistakes with this method is that your food, which you just ladled into the jar, also probably didn’t reach a high enough temperature to kill off any nasties lurking around to spoil your food.

According to science, the biggest reason that water bath and pressure canning are safe is because they raise the internal temperature of the food to a high enough degree that a most of the bacteria and mold spores are killed.

If you rely on flipping the jar to create a seal, you’re making more than just a few mistakes by skipping an important step.

Mistake #3: Paraffin wax is an excellent sealer

Using paraffin to seal food is another common mistakes we see when it comes to canning. Using paraffin in canning to preserve food involves placing thin layers of wax over your jar until there’s about a half inch of wax that seals the opening.

Back in the day, canning with paraffin wax was considered safe, but the research shows that the bacteria and spores just aren’t sufficiently destroyed. There’s also no way to determine whether the jar is actually sealed well enough.  Stick with new mason jar tops!

Mistake #4: Inventing your own recipes is okay

While I’m always tempted to create my own salsa recipes, the truth is that inventing your own canning recipes isn’t a good idea, and so it’s 4th on our list of common canning mistakes. 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 create your own canning recipe, the amount of acid needed to safely preserve food might be off (a pH of 4.6 or lower is advised), or the temperature might not get 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.

Mistake #5: If it’s canned at the store, then it’s ok to can it at home

This is one of the biggest common canning mistakes I see. Here’s why: Commercial manufacturers spend a lot of money researching canning and safe storage techniques. They also can heat their canning recipes to a higher temperature than we’re able to using our own equipment. While they have methods and data to safely preserve certain foods, we do not, and we can’t repeat these techniques at home.

Mistake #6 It’s not necessary to boil lids before canning

On the contrary, it’s very important to boil mason jar lids before using them to preserve fruits and veggies. 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. The last thing you want is to make mistakes that cause a poor or faulty seal to destroy all your hard work.

Mistake #7: Canning butter is safe

I frequently see recipes and articles that recommend preserving butter by pouring hot, melted butter into heated jars, then sealing the product by flipping it. In fact, it’s one of the most common mistakes I see shared on Facebook, and a hotly debated topic.

While it seems logical that dairy can be preserved in jars, at this time, 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.

Canning and preserving fruit & vegetables is safe....unless you make one of these common canning mistakes. Here's how to avoid them & stay healthy!

Can You Freeze Eggs?

Can You Freeze Eggs?

Thinking about freezing chicken eggs because you’re getting so many? Read on for my best tips!

 

Eggs are incredibly valuable: within them lie the blueprints of life. But they’re also sustenance. The vast amount of cultures that raise chickens across the world has made their eggs one of – if not the – most important egg on the planet. 

 

While most of us want to eat eggs as soon as possible, often, we’re left with WAY too many of them!

 

While you have many options for preserving eggs, freezing is the easiest and one of the safest ways to make sure you have “butt nuggets” on hand whenever you want them. (This goes for chicken eggs and duck eggs).

 

Then, when it is time to use them, they can be thawed for any and all of our culinary dreams. This is truly a wonderful fact that can add some versatility to this egg-cellent ingredient. 

 

However, if we are going to freeze eggs, there are some key details to consider first.

can you freeze eggs in shells

How quickly should you freeze eggs?

If you are going to freeze your eggs, it is better to do so sooner than later. A few days at room temperature or in the fridge is about the maximum length of time you should wait before freezing them (learn how to tell if eggs are fresh here). That way, you are using only the freshest eggs you can put into your freezer. As eggs should only be frozen for about a year before they are used, dating your storage containers is recommended. 

 

No Shells Allowed!

As anyone who accidentally leaves eggs in their coop during a snowstorm can attest, eggs expand as they freeze, which can (and probably will) result in enough pressure on their shells to break them. As a result, eggs should never be frozen in shells. Cracking them into a container also ensures that you’re not using valuable space to store any eggs that might have problems: veins, lash eggs (yuck!), partially-incubated chickens (yes, it can happen), or other egg abnormalities. You’ll also want to wash your eggs first – you don’t want flecks of dirt, bacteria, or manure to get into your whites or yolk prior to freezing.

 

Should you separate yolks and egg whites?

When people ask “can you freeze eggs,” they next ask whether they should freeze the WHOLE egg, or  separate whites and yolk. 

 

It’s a good question, because the yolk and albumen are very difficult to separate once they have already been frozen. If you only plan using eggs for dinner – in stir-fry, breakfast cooking styles, salads, or in meat recipes – then cracking them straight into your storage receptacle is ideal.

 

If you plan to bake or do any cooking that requires just yolk or egg white, then separating white from yolk would be the better option. (Here’s a ton of recipes that use eggs!)

 

Either way is fine, but if you plan to store your eggs whole, then consider beating them just past the blending point. Doing this prevents the yolks from taking on a gelatinous consistency, which can be very difficult to cook with.

 

How to store just egg whites

Whites are relatively easy to store. Break the egg, and separate out the yolk, being careful to avoid getting any yolk in them. Then pour the whites into your receptacle of choice, and freeze. The best containers for whites are ice cube trays or in large freezer bags. Label them with the date of storage and quantity of eggs.

 

How to freeze the yolk

Yolks are trickier, because the freezing process causes them to thicken or gel. Once gelled, their usage diminishes significantly, and while it might be possible to find a use for them, the uses of gelled yolks are quite few and far between.

 

For every 4 yolks, you should beat in either 1/8 teaspoon salt or 1.5 teaspoons sugar. Be sure to label the bag with when they were frozen and whether they have been beaten with sugar or salt. Pulling out sweetened yolks for a main dish, or salted yolks for a dessert isn’t the best idea!

 

Ready, Set, Cook!

When you are ready to use your frozen eggs, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or under running cool or cold water. Then, as soon as they are thawed, put them to use.

 

So, can you freeze eggs? The answer is YES! Go for it!

Dry Tomatoes Like A Boss With This Tutorial

Dry Tomatoes Like A Boss With This Tutorial

Dried tomatoes add an amazing burst of flavor to any recipe and that’s why it is a must-have in my kitchen here at the farm.

 

It gives delicious depth to my meals and it is fully packed with nutrients that our body will enjoy. There’s nothing better than something that’s good for your body and your taste buds!

 

With the high cost (a whopping $20 per pound) of dried tomatoes in the store,  how do you enjoy these heavenly tomatoes without hurting your budget?

 

Simple. Dehydrate your own tomatoes! And it doesn’t have to be in the sun. There are easy ways on how to dry tomatoes. Check out these tips and tricks to drying them in your home.

 

Warning: Dried Tomatoes Can Still Spoil

I know how much people enjoy eating and using dried-tomatoes in salsas, pizzas, sauce, etc. And you can’t wait to learn how to produce a bunch on your own without buying from the market.

 

However, before we go to the methods of drying out tomatoes, we need to keep the following things in mind:

 

  • Dehydrated food can be stored and consumed for long periods of time but it can still spoil when it is kept for longer than usual.
  • Drying tomatoes correctly and storing them in the proper conditions can give you about 7 months of shelf-life.
  • When you dry and store the tomatoes, make sure you keep them away from moisture (especially inside the containers when already stored) to avoid the growth of bacteria.
  • Dried tomatoes with oil, garlic, and herbs will need to be refrigerated after opening.
  • Watch out for signs of rot. Never eat food that has already started producing molds!

Sun-Drying Tomatoes in Summer

From the Aztecs to the tomato-loving country of Italy, drying raw food has been a reliable method of storing food for a long time. We can dry tomatoes the old fashioned way using the sun (and who doesn’t love a bit of Tuscany in their own backyard??).

 

When you dry tomatoes the old-fashioned way, it has to be in the summer when the sun is high and the air is warm, and dry.  Find out how to dry tomatoes in the sun from this action guide.

 

What You Need Instructions
• Screen for drying the tomatoes
• Cheesecloth
• 10 tomatoes of standard size (for 1 ounce of finished product)
1. Slice the tomatoes in proportional sizes, scoop out the seeds, and lay them on the screen.
2. When drying both ends, place them skin down so it dries well.
3. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set out to dry.
4. Place the screen with the tomatoes in a good location that receives full sun and is free from predators.
5. Cover with a raised cheesecloth to keep off insects and provide good ventilation.
6. Bring the tomatoes in at night to avoid the dew.

 

This method can take up to two weeks of bringing the tomatoes in and out the sun to dry. It is time-consuming,  but you don’t need to invest in any equipment.

Drying Tomatoes All-Year Round

If you live in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of sun throughout the year, we have 2 other options for you to dry your tomatoes.

 

First, you can use your oven.  Because sun-drying tomatoes can take up too much time and effort, you can use an oven to dry them faster.

 

This method is pretty simple – set the oven to the lowest heat setting possible and bake the tomatoes until dried. This method takes anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.

 

 

But who needs an oven during the summer? Or who wants to waste that much electricity if you know how to dry tomatoes in a dehydrator, right?

 

As an organic farmer, the best alternative to sun-drying raw food is using a dehydrator. This tool has many advantages compared to the oven method.

 

  • A dehydrator uses low temperatures that can preserve enzymes which keeps your tomatoes good for you and not just a seasoning for your food.
  • It uses a fan that allows proper circulation of warm air making it more efficient.
  • It comes in different sizes which means you can dry more foods at once.
  • Lastly… a fan VS an oven? It’s a no-brainer. I would go for the smaller carbon footprint

 

Here is a quick action guide on how to dry tomatoes in a dehydrator with an amazing recipe!

3 main ingredients:

  • Tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

 

Directions:

  1. Slice tomatoes in uniform thickness and size.
  2. Place the cut tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with some salt and olive oil. Mix well and let the tomatoes dry partially. *Note that these two seasonings are optional. This recipe, for me, creates wonderful tasting dried tomatoes that you can eat right out of the bag.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes on the dehydrator tray and dry until all moisture is out.
  4. Store in an airtight container (a bag or a jar) and place in the fridge for long-term storage.

Finally, you can enjoy that summery sun-kissed taste of dried tomatoes all-year round! Do you have a unique way of how to dry tomatoes? Share it with us!

 

Dried Tomatoes

  • Garden-Fresh Tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  1. Slice tomatoes in uniform thickness and size.

  2. Place the cut tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with some salt and olive oil. Mix well and let the tomatoes dry partially. *Note that these two seasonings are optional. 

  3. Arrange the tomatoes on the dehydrator tray

  4. Dry until all moisture is out (consult your dehydrator instructions).

  5. Store in an airtight container (a bag or a jar) and place in the fridge for long-term storage.

How To Store Garlic Long Term

How To Store Garlic Long Term

Did you plant cloves of spicy-smelling garlic and now you’re wondering how to store garlic long term?

 

Garlic is a wonderful addition to any garden, and it’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction harvest it – especially after you cure it and realize you won’t be needing to buy garlic from the grocery store anymore!

 

The first year we planted garlic, we weren’t sure when to harvest it – it can be different for every zone and even ever microclimate.

 

So we waited months – and came up with a GREAT harvest.

 

But then came the next step – how to store garlic long term without ruining it or losing it to bugs, dust, and other pests like mice.

 

Should you remove the papery skins? What about bulbs that seem ok except for 1 or 2 spots? Could we store those, or did we need to use them right away? What happens if they’re rained on while curing them straight from the garden?

 

You might have these same questions.

 

Luckily, a lot of our worries were unfounded – we were able to cure and store garlic long term with very few issues (and it took us quite a while to work through all that garlic!)

 

If you want to store garlic long term, it’s fairly straight forward as long as you follow some simple rules.

 

how to store garlic long term #garlic

 

Selecting Garlic For Long Term Storage

After you pull up all your garlic, you’ll want to let them cure for an hour or two in the sun – be sure to do this on a sunny day. This initial cure helps them dry, prepares them, and is how to store garlic from the garden without ruining your hard-earned harvest.

 

Next, you’ll want to examine the bulbs – take note of their condition. If any garlic bulbs have damage or seem soft, use them right away. They’re not good candidates to store long term.

 

Once you’ve selected your garlic, you will want to cure them for an additional 2 weeks in a relatively cool environment – no warmer than 65 degrees. Higher temperatures can trigger mold or prompt your garlic to sprout.

 

Humidity is another consideration when trying to store garlic long term – too high and it might cause your garlic to mold or rot, and too high will cause garlic cloves to shrivel and become useless.

 

You will notice a lot of the dirt will fall away – this is a good thing. You can also brush the garlic very gently, although I’ve noticed this can damage them. If there’s excessive amounts of dirt, then you can try gently brushing it off, but if there’s just a little dirt, chances are it will fall off on its own.

 

Don’t remove any of the papery skins – this will also damage the garlic, making it unsuitable to store long term.

 

After the 2 weeks are up, you can then transfer them to mesh bags like these or braid them if they’re a soft-neck variety (hard necked garlic can’t be braided easily – keep these in a mesh bag).

 

Air circulation is very important, which is why braiding or mesh bags are ideal garlic storage containers – they allow you to store a lot of garlic in a small space without reducing the garlic’s change to “breathe.”

 

As you store your garlic, don’t let the temperature rise – this WILL prompt your garlic to sprout since it’s no longer chilled (it thinks winter is over and it needs to grow!)

 

how to store garlic long term #garlic

 

Drying to Store Garlic Long Term

If braiding or storing in mesh bags isn’t your thing or you’re lacking the space, then you can dry your garlic. This process is simple and great because it produces a shelf-stable product that won’t sprout.

 

Start by slicing peeled garlic into thin strips and then dehydrate them either in a commercial food dehydrator or by placing them on a cookie sheet and drying them in your oven at around 120 degrees for a few hours. Leave the door slightly open to allow for air circulation.

 

Once dry, store garlic long term in an airtight container and use as needed.

 

Preserve Garlic In Honey

This hack has the added benefit of being great for colds. So if you have some spare cloves or just want to try something different, then preserve and store garlic long term in honey.

 

Honey has antimicrobial properties and stored correctly, it’s nearly impossible for bacteria to grow.

 

To preserve garlic in honey, peel the cloves, then drop them into a mason jar filled with honey. As long as the cloves remain submerged, they will keep for a long time.

 

Pull them as needed, or drink the honey in tea whenever you’re sick – as the garlic stores, it will steep it’s immune boosting properties into the honey. Yum!

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage!

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage!

It’s the end of the growing season for tubers – and you’re probably wondering how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage.

 

Curing potatoes is a simple process….and it is very necessary if you want your potatoes to stay edible into the winter.

 

By now, if you haven’t harvested your tubers, the green stems are likely drooping, and you’re itching to get your hands dirty and pull up those treasures you’ve waited all year to harvest.

 

And you should be excited – you’ve worked hard & should enjoy your haul!

 

Nothing is worse than working so hard – only to have the tubers rot because you didn’t properly cure and store potatoes for long term storage in the right conditions.

 

In this article, I will show you how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage so you can enjoy them in stews and combined with cheese and bacon all season. We’ll also cover how to prepare potatoes for storage after they’ve gone through the cure process.

 

This is a time tested process for how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage that our ancestors used!

 

How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

 

How To Cure and Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

After you’ve carefully dug up your potatoes, leave them outdoors in the sun (and away from hungry critters) for an hour or so to dry.

 

Don’t wash them – just let them dry. Washing them could result in dampness or mold.

 

If they’re still excessively dirty after they’ve dried, use a soft brush and gently sweep off clumps of dirt. Only do this if you must – any sort of brushing runs the risk of damaging your potatoes and they won’t last in long term storage.

 

At this point, you should examine your tubers – if any show signs of damage, such as a tear in the outer skin or holes, eat them right away.

 

The potatoes will heal some damage as they cure, but ones with excessive damage might not store well, so it’s simplest to just consume them ASAP.


Want to know more about growing herbs? Click here to learn more about my book, Herbs In Your Backyard.


How To Cure And Store Potatoes For Long Term Storage

 

How to Cure and Store Potatoes for Long Term Storage Tip: Keep Out Of The Light

To cure and store potatoes for long term storage (up to 7 months), the next step is to allow them to dry for a longer period, 1 – 2 weeks, this time out of the light.

 

Have you ever seen potatoes with green skin?  These are potatoes that have been allowed to cure too long in the sun. After enough time, the skins are no longer edible.

 

Sunlight causes potatoes to produce solanine, which turns potatoes bitter and is poisonous. So, it’s critical to store them out of the light once they’ve completed the first cure.

 

Allow the potatoes to cure in a dark place where temperatures are about 55 degrees. For the first 2 weeks, the humidity should be close to 85 percent.

 

To ensure the temperature and humidity are adequate while you cure potatoes, use a thermometer like this one. It has both a humidity and temperature gauge, and it’s cheap enough – it’s a sound investment.

 

I’ve found it’s best to lay the potatoes out during this phase – you want the air to circulate around them so they finish drying. It’s important they form a thick skin, which stands up to the storage process better.

 

During this time, the potatoes are also “healing” wounds that occurred earlier in the the cure process. This, also, allows them to withstand the long time in storage and remain fresh.

 

After this phase of the curing potatoes process is complete, move the potatoes to a dark storage area where temps are cooler – no more than 40 degrees F. A cellar in your home – or a root cellar if you’re so lucky – is a perfect spot.

 

The consistent temperature is important; if temps are higher, your potatoes might sprout eyes or even start to shrivel.

 

To store potatoes for long term storage, once they’re dry, 6-inch bins with slatted sides like these are a good option. The air can still circulate, and saves space. Just be sure critters can’t get into the bins.

 

Another option that’s recommended is to use perforated plastic or paper bags. These allow the potatoes to “breathe” while you store them. 

 

If any of your potatoes sprout eyes while they’re in your store room, double check the temperatures and light. If you spot mold or notice shriveling, check the humidity as well. If you cure and store potatoes for long term storage in just the right conditions, your potatoes should store for quite a long time – up to 7 months.

 

Now you know how to cure and store potatoes for long term storage!


In my book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, I show you how to build cold frames and raised beds so you can start growing your own food. You can get it on Amazon here. If you buy directly from me, you save 20% off the Amazon price and get the digital version for free.)


More Organic Gardening Tips: