I have been so focused on the chickens lately that I haven’t really done a lot of the other things that I am typically doing this time of year. Well and it’s still early. That’s a factor also. Tonight, however I am canning some chicken broth that we needed out of the freezer and after I almost made a huge mistake it got me to thinking about how I need to make sure that I am refreshing my brain on canning rules before I accidentally ruin a nice batch of broth or green beans. There’s more at stake than just the food that would have to be thrown out of course; if we ate contaminated food I canned at home, we could potentially die. Botulism is no joke, and even though people inject their faces with it to look younger, make no mistake, it is deadly in the most microscopic amounts. But my near miss made me think that there are some canning tips and safety rules to follow that probably need to be mentioned again. Maybe every year, like a refresher course. Keeping in mind that I am a home canner that only preserves food for my family to eat, here are some quick safety reminders for your canning experience.
• First, I know that in the past people have done some kind of upside-down canning technique, but the food in the jars really never needs to come into contact with the lids. The head space is to ensure that the air can escape and make the seal. It’s just not safe.
• The step I forgot tonight could be dangerous as well. I got through my third jar when the lightbulb went on above my head and I had to take those jars back out of the canner. I forgot to wipe my rims clean. When you are canning anything, water bath or pressure, after you fill your jar, you need to take a clean, damp cloth and wipe all debris and extra bits off the rims. This helps to ensure a good seal.
• While we are discussing lids and rims, make sure that part of your prep is heating your lids in near boiling water. You want the rubber part underneath that seals to the rim to be warm and springy.
• One other thing you should remember about lids and the jars sealing is to hand tighten the bands. If you twist them too tight, the air can’t escape from the jars, disrupting a good seal. Basically your bands are there to just hold the lids in place while the sealing is occurring. Additionally, after your jars have cooled and are ready to go on the shelves, remove the bands. The bands can rust and potentially disturb the seal, making that food a hazard.
As I sit here writing this, I realized how big of a topic canning is, so I decided that I should probably break it down into sections. Just remember, if you have a question while canning, there are numerous books and web sources out there to help. Before you do anything you’re not sure about, look it up. Be safe, and happy canning!
P.S. This is my favorite part about summer!