A few weeks ago, one of my neighbors brought over the most beautiful jar of home-canned green beans. The beans were packed all uniformly, the color was a perfect green and the lid was securely sealed on the jar. However, I was worried she may not have processed them in a pressure canner. After all, just last week she told me about her fear of using a pressure canner. So, of course, I had to ask her about her processing method with the green beans. She confessed she water-bath canned them, even though she knew vegetables and other low-acid foods should be pressure canned. Home-canned foods can be dangerous - even deadly - if not processed correctly. I often wonder how many times well-meaning friends and family give home-canned goods as gifts that could potentially be deadly. If you get a home-canned gift, be cautious. Botulism, which can be fatal, can be present in home-canned foods, if the food is not processed correctly. Low-acid foods, such as meats, vegetables, fish and poultry, can be especially susceptible to botulism. If you receive a home-canned gift without a processing label, ask the giver for the recipe and processing instructions. If none is provided don't eat the food. It's better to be safe than sorry.If you are giving a gift of home-canned food, make sure you are using an up-to-date canning recipe from a reliable source, such as your county extension office. Jams, jellies, pickles, and fruits should be processed in a boiling water bath canner. Meats, vegetables, fish and poultry should be pressure canned. Including a complete canning label on your product can assure the recipient the food was processed correctly. Labels should include all ingredients in the product, recipe source, date the product was processed, and methods used to process the product including altitude adjustments.Many myths about home-canned foods exist. One of the biggest is if a jar is sealed, the food inside is safe to eat. This is absolutely not true. A sealed jar is only safe if a tested recipe and adequate processing methods were used. Many bacteria, including botulism, grow in sealed jars. Another canning myth is that foods that are not safe to eat will show signs of spoilage. This is not true. While some foods may show signs of spoilage, foods containing botulism will show no signs of spoilage. While none of us like to throw food away, keeping our families safe is more important than a jar of green beans. A great rule of thumb to follow when receiving home-canned gifts is: When in doubt, throw it out.Colorado State University Extension will host a Gifts from the Home workshop on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Indoor Garden Supply, 51027 U.S. Highway 6&24, in Glenwood Springs. The cost is $20. For more information on canning, preservation or to register for the workshop, call the Garfield County Extension Office at 625-3969. Carla Farrand and Deb Martin are master food safety advisors for CSU Extension, Garfield County.
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