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Finding credentials in published canning books

ellen_inmo
August 13, 2012

Does anyone else spend their entire day in the kitchen, cooking and canning, feeling that satisfactory feeling.....Only to end the day in doubt or fear of food safety or that "one little thing" going wrong?

Don't get me wrong, I am not doubting my abilities. But after reading all the old threads on here concerning published sources for canning recipes, I find myself with my blood running cold with doubt.

Where do you find the credentials in the books? I've looked through my Ball Blue Book as a guide for what a credential would read, searching for the words USDA, and I can't even find it in their book. I'm sure it's there, it's gotta be! How does a person know what they have if a standard of safety credentials isn't required to be listed?? Is there a standard or any requirements for safety before something can be published? And if not, then WHY not?

I'm miffed. I have a whole stack of books I've read like bibles for the past two years. All my books were published in the past three years. How does a new person know what to trust, not to trust?

The only credentials I read are publishing, and about the author's passions, illustrations, etc. nothing about safety....

Comments (22)

  • readinglady

    The BBB has been so long-regarded as one of the foundational sources, its reliability is a given. I guess they don't have to say anything one way or the other.

    However, beyond that, if you look online you discover several Extension agencies which list it as one of the reliable sources. I've appended a link to a Cornell document for Extension educators which lists recommended print and online resources, including the BBB.

    Some few authors can be verified via various online resources. Ellie Topp is one of those. Her degrees in food science, her research and work for the Canadian government and Bernardin (the same corporation as Ball) are well documented.

    Linda Ziedrich and Sherri Brooks Vinton both have attested in their books and on this forum to their adherence to USDA standards.

    Other authors and editors respond via emails, as indicated by Canadian Living's recent response regarding their new preserving book and posted on this site.

    I questioned Linda Amendt regarding her canned lemon curd and I give her credit for responding promptly and acknowledging that the recipe wasn't lab-tested and that she no longer canned curds herself.

    Basically it comes down to you and your willingness to investigate by whatever means available. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

    Unfortunately, canning has become a "fad" and canning books are reliable money-makers. There's a whole publicity machine devoted to marketing these books without regard to their safety or credentials. There are people writing and editing canning books who don't even know enough about canning to know what's safe and what isn't.

    In many cases you'll have books that are generally OK but, perhaps due to editing errors, have elements that aren't. I was reading one canning book and feeling very positive until I got to the section on canning tomatoes and Fruit Fresh was recommended for acidification, an egregious error.

    I find the same is true of newspapers and magazines. Our local newspaper just recommended the Fagor "canner" for low-acid foods. As I told my husband, that means you can either under-process (8psi) or over-process (15psi) because those are the only options available with a Fagor.

    Really, it's up to you. Good luck. It's a crap shoot and I certainly don't have an answer except due diligence and don't can anything you're doubtful of.

    Carol

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell Recommended Food Preservation Resources

  • digdirt2

    Great info from Carol above. All I can add is a couple of points that I use for evaluating books.

    The book focus. Is it a canning book or just a cook book with some canning recipes added? Stick with books that focus on canning and food preservation, not cooking.

    The publisher. Is it a reputable, known name or some off the cuff publishing house with no established reputation.

    The author's credentials. If an 'About me' section is given (usually in the front few pages) and the credentials include food science training, great. If no info on the author is included that is an immediate 'don't use' for me. If author info is given but there is nothing that indicates any specialty training or experience in food preservation then the book is of questionable value.

    Does it acknowledge and discuss canning safety concerns? In how much detail? EX: all Ball books devote many pages upfront to discussing safety and safe practices and principles. But there are many books on canning foods out there that don't even mention "bacteria", "contamination" or that food safety is any issue at all.

    Any book (or website or forum) that even implies that you may safely can just about anything you want to with no concerns should be tossed IMO.

    Dave

  • ellen_inmo

    Here's the list of my books:
    Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving 100th Anniversary edition (1909-2009)
    Mrs. Wages Home Canning Guide
    Canning and Preserving for Dummies
    Better Homes and Gardens "You Can Can" big book
    Better Hones and Gardens Canning magazine
    Taste of Home Canning and Preserving
    Knack Canning, Pickling and Preserving (author Kimberley Willis)
    Presto 23 quart Pressure Canning manual (just purchased this canner this year)
    I also refer to two websites only:
    NCFHG
    PickYourOwn. org

    Okay guys, let me have it! Your two cents, please. Which is worth millions for the sake of my family. THANK YOU.

  • digdirt2

    JMO

    pickyourown has some safe but also some unsafe. They tend to post "modified" recipes that have never been tested or approved. On a scale of 1-10 I give it a 6.

    canning manuals are never recommended as they are seldom updated and often out of date on the guidelines.

    I have some issues with the BH&G publications and you'll find other past discussions about them here as well. There is no blanket approval of them. Each recipe has to be evaluated on its own.

    The Knack book has no food science credentials. She is the country living and gardening writer for Detroit Examiner whose other book is about raising chickens. It's a trendy book to be used with care.

    Taste of Home uses untested reader submitted recipes.

    Carol has commented on the for Dummies book. I don't have it.

    In general, you have a lot of use-with-care books that duplicate each other and there are better books available. Search 'books' here for the recommended ones.

    Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

    Joy of Pickling

    Small Batch Preserving

    Putting Food By

    Dave

  • digdirt2

    Here you go.

    Here is a link that might be useful: recommended canning books discussions

  • ellen_inmo

    Wow. I'm stunned!! Part of me is saying "Ellen, how could you be so stupid?" and the other part is saying "My God, how many stupid people lIke me did the same thing?!". It's frightening!! I don't want ANY recipe that hasn't been tested!!
    In my mind, I've always thought the Ball book would have been the safest, especially for certain things that are repeatedly said not to can, such as zuchini and mushrooms, and for water bathing vs pressure canning. Thus far, majority of the canning I have done has been jams, jellies, preserves, and chutneys. I had purchased fruits in bulk, as I had purchased wholesale through a friend in the grocery business. I have only a few recipes that were done from a book other than Ball, only because the Ball recipes tend to not produce the number of jars the recipes claim to. Again, this is only jellies and such. I did make an Amaretto Peach Preserves from the Taste of Home magazine and it is fabulous. I made three batches of it and use it almost daily in my oatmeal. I also made the Peach and Pear Chili Sauce in the BH&G book. Again, it's fantastic, even the kids love it on chicken. Other than that, all other canned stuff I have done has been BBB only. Because I don't want to waste ANYTHING, I am mostly concentrating on preserving produce itself.
    I'm so frustrated at the notion of unsafe recipes! There should be restrictions and guidelines, regulations!!

  • ellen_inmo

    Making note of my mistake: should be Ncfhp, not NCFHG. For some reason my auto correct always uses this and if I don't go back and correct it, then my title is wrong. I guess my phone tries to think of gardening stuff for me!

  • readinglady

    In most cases you don't have to worry about preserves, so rest easy on the Amaretto Peach.

    If you post the Peach and Pear Chili Sauce we'll take a look at it and give our best estimate. I think generally BH&G recipes are OK but I have their canning magazine and saw a couple I questioned. I really think we need to contact their staff and get specific information about their testing procedures.

    In contrast, Sunset magazine has had wonderful canning recipes historically and their testing has been top-drawer for years. Unless something has changed recently they are very canning-savvy. However, they haven't published a canning book for years so you're limited to their online archives.

    Taste of Home I absolutely concur with Dave. It's like any website where readers submit recipes. You win some you lose some.

    Really the canning world online and the print world as well are akin to the wild wild west. It's every man (and woman) for himself.

    Sometimes I despair.

    Carol

  • digdirt2

    As Carol said there is no need to panic with jams, jellies, and most fruits because, with a few exceptions, the primary risk is molds, fungus, poor set, poor quality.

    Pickled products like chutneys are a bit more inclined to safety issues because they often contain mixed low-acid ingredients such as peppers, onions, and garlic so the amount of added acid is crucial.

    The primary concern, other than a few low-acid fruits, is any recipe that uses low-acid vegetables or meats.

    So book about doing nothing but jam and jelly or a recipe for a jam or jelly from an unvetted website will usually be ok safety-wise. Quality may be another issue.

    But any book or recipe or website that also includes low-acid vegetable and/or meat recipes or mixed fruit and vegetable recipes needs to be very carefully evaluated.

    It would be great if these authors would take a responsible approach but they are basically in it for the money so it is a reader beware world out there. :)

    Dave

  • digdirt2

    In my mind, I've always thought the Ball book would have been the safest, especially for certain things that are repeatedly said not to can, such as zuchini and mushrooms, and for water bathing vs pressure canning. Thus far, majority of the canning I have done has been jams, jellies, preserves, and chutneys.

    Not sure if I am reading this correctly but the Ball books ARE totally safe, for everything.

    I have only a few recipes that were done from a book other than Ball, only because the Ball recipes tend to not produce the number of jars the recipes claim to.

    +/- 1 jar is fine but more than that is usually technique issues, not the recipes themselves, and disappear with experience. Think of all the years many of those recipes have been around with little or no revisions or reported problems.

    Dave

  • ellen_inmo

    Thanks Carol. Gosh I appreciate you all so much. I'm in the greenhouse/flowered gardening business and am the only one who does this by profession in my town. Busy, busy as can be and sometimes get so burnt out (especially in this drought filled relentlessly hot year). Yet, when people ask me questions, I can't stop myself from overloading them with information. It's part of my mission to teach as I sell and people think I'm half nuts at my efforts. There are some people I cannot stand, yet find myself helping them as well. Sometimes I guess we are called to help others?? Maybe you and Dave and all the others on here feel the same way at times?

    Peach and Pear Chili Sauce (recipe via BH&G "You Can Can")
    41/2 pounds tomatoes
    4 med pears peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (4 cups)
    4 med peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (3 1/2 cups)
    2 1/2 cups chopped green sweet peppers
    2 cups chopped onions
    3/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
    1 or 2 red or green fresh Serrano chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
    3 cups sugar
    1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
    4 tsp salt
    2 tsp ground nutmeg
    1 tsp whole cloves
    6 inches stick cinnamon

    Wash, peel, stem and core tomatoes. Cut into chunks (should have 6 3/4 cups). In a 6 or 8 quart stainless steel, enamel or nonstick kettle combine tomatoes, pears, peaches, peppers, onions. Stir in sugar, vinegar, salt and nutmeg. For spice bag, place cloves and stuck cinnamon in cheesecloth. Add to vegetable mixture. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 2 hours till thick, stirring occasionally.
    Discard spice bag. Ladle into hot sterilized pint jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. (refrigerate extras and use within 3 days). Wipe jar rims, adjust lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.
    Makes 4 pints.

    I used a Dutch Oven to prepare this. The recipe does not say to remove air bubbles, but I did. The fat/calories/sodium/carbs/fiber information is given.

    What do you all think about it? How I marvel how you can just look at a recipe and know the things you know! God bless you for all your efforts.

  • ellen_inmo

    Thanks Dave. To elaborate on my thinking: if a recipe out there is entitled the same but different variations in books (as most are of course), the Ball book would be the most likely one to be safest of them all out there. I love your emphasis on how all Ball recipes are safe. That's like a big fat sigh of relief. Though, of course, a person could make it themselves in an unsafe manner by a million different mistakes. I think of how many times I've seen a recipe in a different book, yet couldn't find something similiar in the Ball book and wondered why. Or perhaps I don't have the entire collection of Ball recipes, since I've yet to get the Ball Complete book? What am I missing out on? Why are the ones chosen for this smaller book I have and others not? I cannot wait to get the Complete book. I'm beginning to think, as a beginner, it should be the only book I own.

  • malna

    The Ball Complete is a nice resource to have. It includes recipes from Bernardin (now part of Jardin, the parent company) as well, who I always thought was a bit more creative than stodgy old Ball :-)

  • digdirt2

    Ok I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. First the title/name of the recipe may be important in cooking, but when talking about canning recipes, it means very little.

    95% of canning 'recipes' are more like a set of instructions on how to can a specific food or mix of foods, not recipes in the usual sense. That is because canning is nothing like cooking. One is a science the other is just art.

    The primary goal and the focus of home canning isn't fancy recipes but basic food preservation; basic ingredients while they are in season for use in various ways during the off season. The plainer the canned food the more diverse and practical its uses during the off season.

    That has always been the Ball and NCHFP focus so those are what you will find in their publications. Plain tomatoes, fruits, vegetables, meats, peppers, basic pickles, jams, etc. not gourmet sauces or fancy condiments or unusual blends. Salsa is about as fancy as they get.

    Those sorts of things are found in the so-called niche or gourmet books, recipes for unusual blends of things, usually made in small batches, and that hold only marginal interest for most.

    I think of how many times I've seen a recipe in a different book, yet couldn't find something similiar in the Ball book and wondered why.

    One could have the entire collection of Ball books and there will still be thousands of other recipes out there. Some may be safe to can, some may not, many are things there just isn't enough interest in to warrant the expense of all the testing, some are just trendy/fad things, and some are the gourmet stuff. But few of them will be basic, practical canning recipes because all that is already covered by Ball so why would anyone re-invent the wjeel? But what they are called/named means little when it comes to canning. It is the ingredients that is the focus.

    The Ball Blue Book has been considered the bible of canning for over 100 years and is re-edited approx. every 4-5 years but with few changes. Each new edition may drop a couple to include a few new ones and to update any changes in the guidelines that have been made by NCHFP but the majority of the recipes in it today have been there for decades.

    The Ball Complete Book is relatively new, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and includes all the BBB stuff plus more recipes, expanded discussions on safety, the guidelines, tips and techniques, more on freezing, etc.

    Hope this helps clarify it all some.

    Dave

  • ellen_inmo

    Thanks Dave. Maybe this explains better:

    If I'm seeing a recipe for "Peach and Pear Chili Sauce" in every canning book I have, and online, but not finding it in the Ball book, it makes me wonder why. Does Ball not find it safe?
    (That was completely hypothetical. I only have one recipe for that, I used it merely for example.)

    I admire your communication skills; always patient and impeccable.

  • readinglady

    I'll have to come back and look and the Peach and Pear Chili Sauce more carefully later. I'm in the midst of applesauce and apple butter.

    However, basically that's a tomato-fruit salsa with a good amount of vinegar, so my instinct is it's OK. But as I said, I'll look more closely and find some recipes to compare with in a bit. Or Dave or Linda Lou or someone might feel inclined.

    The Ball Complete Book is a compilation of all the best from Ball (U.S. Division), Bernardin (Canadian Division) and Kerr (the "other" canning supply company which was subsumed by the bigger corporation). Bernardin Canada follows the same USDA standards as Ball but tends to focus less on the "standards" and offers more ethnic and "gourment" canning formulas.

    The Ball Complete (Bernardin Complete on the North side of the border) is dual metric and imperial measures. I like metric and find that handy.

    Keep in mind Ball's main interest is in making money via the jars and other canning supplies they sell. Publishing the Blue Book is a way to promote their product. They aren't trying to cover every possible recipe; it's not in their interest to expend huge sums of money for testing of a lot of esoteric recipes. So each edition gains a few and loses a few. (I don't know who Ball's recipe testers are, but a few of their offerings have been real stinkers taste-wise.)

    So that fact that a chutney or salsa or pickle or whatever isn't in the BBB doesn't mean there's no safe way to can it. It just means Ball isn't bothering with it.

    Keep in mind there are also reliable specialists out there. Linda Amendt's preserves are fun, though she's too fond of liquid pectin for my taste. Except for the curds, which I alluded to previously, she offers some great recipes and some very helpful tips and strategies.

    For sweet preserves there's also Linda Ziedrich (totally reliable) and Madelaine Bullwinkel is A+++ by me. The Jamlady cookbook is also reliable and like a textbook for the art of jams and jellies.

    Ziedrich's first book was on pickles and provides a wide range of pickling options from traditional fermented to quick pickles, canned, refrigerated and freezer. She has a peach-Pepper Relish to die for. I think it's still posted on some thread or other.

    Ellie Topp's Small Batch Preserving takes canning in new and interesting directions. Because she is a food scientist, she has the skills to devise recipes just a bit out of the mainstream.

    So those are some of the options. Gotta go.

    Carol

  • digdirt2

    If I'm seeing a recipe for "Peach and Pear Chili Sauce" in every canning book I have, and online, but not finding it in the Ball book, it makes me wonder why. Does Ball not find it safe?

    No. The 'why' is because it sure isn't a kitchen staple and their focus is basic kitchen staples like I said above. The Ball/NCHFP approach (and mine too although it doesn't even sound good to me) would be to can the tomatoes, can the peaches, can the pears, freeze the peppers, freeze the onions and then whip up the sauce for fresh eating when it is needed. See the difference?

    That particular recipe is one of those gourmet/niche recipes that has narrow appeal or interest so never tested and wouldn't be included in any of the standard canning books.

    A better example might be Spaghetti Sauce - every book has one, including Ball, but with a wild range of ingredients. Everybody eats it so it demands testing so while there may be 10,000 recipes for Spaghetti Sauce only a few are safe for canning.

    But as for your particular recipe. It is a little low on acid - 5 1/2 c of low acid ingredients plus approx. 6 c of borderline low-acid tomatoes to only 1 1/2 cups vinegar (they should have stipulated 5%). So they are obviously counting on the acidity of the 2 fruits to compensate for that low acidity. If the juice of those fruits was included it would be better but is still a guesstimate for pH.

    But as Carol said it is an undiluted vinegar so probably safe. If it contained water as a listed ingredient and so diluted the vinegar I wouldn't consider it safe.

    Dave

  • ellen_inmo

    Wow, I am so impressed with this knowledge you have. And thanks for the detailed explanation about Ball recipes and their goals and standards. It's sinking in now, the difference between them and what other writers goals are. The "other writers" are probably successful because of people like me. I wanted the niche, gourmet. But I wanted the standard canned produce as well. I wanted BOTH. Now, my interests are in
    SAFETY and that alone. Not that it never was hugely important. I guess, honestly, if something bad were to happen here, I would have blamed myself. That I messed up. Never dreamed it could have been a doomed recipe from the get go.

    Thank you for every second of your time to explain in great detail. Every book I have is now pushed aside. Except for that Ball book. Fortunately for me, my produce is running low in the garden. I have little to work with for trying new things. The penny pincher in me is concentrating on stocking the basics: canned whole tomatoes, plain juice, plain sauce, etc. Same with other veggies as well. I don't want to waste you alls time examining recipes for my behalf when I clearly need to master the basics first. My Gosh, you are all incredible people for what you do.

  • ellen_inmo

    The Peach and Pear sauce..... Dave, what if it had been pressure canned (which I would have gladly done if the instructions had said to), would that have changed your safety perspective? I'm very much drawn to recipes containing fruit. I did not make much of this, as peaches aren't exactly cheap in my neck of the woods. Plus, I want to be certain of quality and safety before doing a bunch of something. The Amaretto Peach Preserves, I did a lot of, because I loved it instantly. Has raisins, nuts in it. I did omit the Amaretto in half of it, just to have a basic peach flavored preserve as well.
    This confusion for me won't be happening again concerning these type recipes. Once I feel I've learned enough about the basics, I may then question you for certain recipes. I wanted to mention, also, that any canned goods I make are first consumed by me alone, then to my husband, then family. My digestive system is pretty reliable and I eat quite healthy. If anything were in question, I'd know immediately.

  • ellen_inmo

    The Peach and Pear sauce..... Dave, what if it had been pressure canned (which I would have gladly done if the instructions had said to), would that have changed your safety perspective? I'm very much drawn to recipes containing fruit. I did not make much of this, as peaches aren't exactly cheap in my neck of the woods. Plus, I want to be certain of quality and safety before doing a bunch of something. The Amaretto Peach Preserves, I did a lot of, because I loved it instantly. Has raisins, nuts in it. I did omit the Amaretto in half of it, just to have a basic peach flavored preserve as well.
    This confusion for me won't be happening again concerning these type recipes. Once I feel I've learned enough about the basics, I may then question you for certain recipes. I wanted to mention, also, that any canned goods I make are first consumed by me alone, then to my husband, then family. My digestive system is pretty reliable and I eat quite healthy. If anything were in question, I'd know immediately.

  • readinglady

    OK, I checked your recipe and I'm not concerned, but of course that's my opinion and others may differ.

    The Ball Blue Book has a Zesty Salsa with approximately the same amount of tomato product. (My sources say 10 cups can be anywhere from 4 pounds of tomaotes on up and these sources usually allow plenty of leeway in their testing.)

    The pears and peaches in the BH& G recipe are high-acid and irrelevant to the acidity issue.

    The Ball recipe has 12 cups of low-acid product to 1 1/4 cups of cider vinegar while your recipe has 5 1/2 cups of low-acid product to 1 1/2 cups of cider vinegar. So this recipe is well within safe margins.

    Ball and BH&G agree of processing times as well. Rest easy. It's fine.

    Carol

  • ellen_inmo

    Wow, thanks Carol! What a relief to hear that! The sauce is actually really good. Like a touch of BBQ with a touch of fruit. Can't wait to use it on
    some shrimp skewers. I've recently developed a love for sauces.

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