Since starting the Master Preserver Course, Clostridium botulinums has become part of my vocabulary. Nasty nasty botulism, as opposed to the fun kind of botox the Hollywood types have injected into their skin to smooth out wrinkles (who the HECK thought THAT was a good idea?!) is “an anaerobic, spore-forming rod that produces a potent neurotoxin.The spores are heat-resistant and can survive in foods that are incorrectly or minimally processed…..”. Yikes! And the capper? “Most of the 10 to 30 outbreaks [of foodborne botulism] that are reported annually in the United States are associated with inadequately processed, home-canned foods". (straight from the USDA’s Bad Bug Book). Ugh! I'm a bit of a rule-rebel but even I can see some rules are based in logic.
After just two class meetings, I have learned that the method of jam-making my mom taught me is “open kettle canning” and, “We don’t recommend it”. Well, crap! I haven’t killed anyone but I’ll have to reteach my kids the proper way, instead of Grandma's way. I have also learned that I really SHOULD be removing the canning jar rings when I store my canned product away. Why? Any schmutz left under the ring from the canning process could contaminate the ring and cause it to not seal the NEXT jar properly. Not only that but the ring will keep me from noticing a seeping jar which, if not sealed properly, could begin to nurture those nasty little Clostridium botulinums spores, all hidden behind a ring that APPEARS to be sitting pretty on the shelf.
Oh well, I hope to regale y’all of my adventures learning (and, in some cases, relearning) how to safely and properly “put foods by”. The course will keep me busy for a month of Monday nights and Saturdays, freezing, canning, pickling and dehydrating in order to save the season's harvests. After that, I will be expected to put in some volunteer time proselytizing in the name of safe food preservation, because the recipes and processes recommended by State Cooperative Extensions are vetted..scientifically tested to contain proper processing times and procedures. I will be available to entertain at a kitchen near you in order to put in my time. It looks to be a fun group I am learning with and learning from. Look out pickling cukes...I’m comin’ for ya!