Yep, it’s true…. Fortunately, I was not successful!
A few weeks ago we celebrated our daughter’s confirmation. I made soup and sandwiches for our guests. Italian Sausage and Ham and Potato. I am not one to hold tight to a guest list so I never really know how many people I’ll have when we host an event. Because of this, I like to be sure we won’t be short on food and always be sure to have extra on hand.
Once the guests left and the kitchen was cleaned up, I had several quarts of soup remaining. Even though I knew we would finish it off within the next week, I thought that I would pressure can it. How nice would it be to go to the pantry and have home-cooked soup ready to go, especially with winter on its way!
I prepped my jars, lids, and canner. Heated the soup to boiling, filled the jars, wiped the tops of the jars, placed the lids and bands and settled in to count jiggles for the next 90 minutes. I was feeling rather satisfied and patting myself on the back for pulling off a nice event with good food, had a clean kitchen and was doing a bit of preserving as well.
I decided to hop on the computer.
Double check my processing times and, well, maybe even write about it.
There it was.
Do not pressure can food thickened with flour.
Do not pressure can thickened foods period.
Do not pressure can food items that do not have specific, individual pressure canning instructions.
Ham & Potato Soup: Thickened
No specific instructions for: Spinach, zucchini, cured ham
My husband popped into the kitchen about this time. He decided that this was my attempt to take him out 😉 Ha! So I really did have something to write about after all!
Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria that is found in many places in our environment. It is rarely harmful in its natural state. Under poor conditions, the bacteria produce spores, a protective coating that allow the bacteria to survive in conditions that would otherwise kill it. The bacteria can survive for years in this state. The spores do not cause problems by themselves and can even be ingested without problems. When the bacteria are active, they can produce neurotoxins in certain environments. These neurotoxins can kill with microscopic amounts and are the cause of Botulism.
Environments that allow the bacteria to flourish are:
- Low acid
- Low oxygen or no oxygen (anaerobic)
- Low salt
- Low sugar
These environments can often be found in canned or fermented foods.
The neurotoxins cause muscle paralysis and respiratory failure. The neurotoxins bind to nerve endings, interrupting signals to muscles and result in paralysis. Symptoms of botulism look similar to symptoms of stroke, except that deficits will not be limited to one side of the body.
- A thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech
- Blurred or double vision and drooping eyelids
- Muscle weakness
The symptoms can occur as soon as six hours after ingesting the food or up to 10 days later but usually within 18-36 hours after consuming contaminated food. If untreated, the symptoms will progress and cause paralysis in the skeletal muscles. This will result in respiratory failure as those muscles are affected by the neurotoxin.
Fortunately, Botulism rarely occurs. In 2015, there were 15 cases of laboratory-confirmed foodborne botulism that were reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Botulism can be prevented by:
- Following the USDA recommendations for canning. Select the proper method of canning (pressure or water bath) based on the food you are canning. Do not modify ingredients as this can alter the level of acidity. Ensure you follow the pounds of pressure recommended, as well as the length of time for processing. Be aware that the altitude at which you are doing your canning will impact the length of time food should be processed.
- Double bag and discard any canned goods that appear swollen, gassy or bubbly, or spoiled. Place outside the home and keep it out of reach of pets or people.
- Boil home-canned foods for 10 minutes prior to eating. Boiling kills the toxin.
- Be sure to refrigerate foods within 2 hours of cooking. If the air temperature is above 90 degrees, the food should be refrigerated within one hour.
- Select appropriate canning techniques for food. All low-acid foods must be pressure canned. Clostridium bacteria spores cannot survive the temperatures reached in a pressure canner. Be sure to review the USDA recommendations when evaluating recipes that you find on the internet or are handed-down to you to verify the correct canning technique.
In summary, home canning is a great way to preserve foods without the use of refrigeration or freezing. It is very low risk and helps you to save foods that might otherwise perish and allow you to enjoy them year round. Following recommended guidelines will help you and your family remain safe. Please consult your local extension office for additional information.
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“Botulism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct. 2017, http://www.cdc.gov/botulism/index.html.
“Botulism.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs270/en/.
“Clostridium Botulinum (Botulism).” Clostridium Botulinum (Botulism) Food Poisoning, http://www.foodborneillness.com/botulism_food_poisoning/.
“Clostridium Botulinum.” Clostridium Botulinum, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/clostridium-botulinum/ct_index.
LaMotte, Sandee. “What Is Botulism, and How Does It Kill?” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 June 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/25/health/what-is-botulism/index.html.