What does canning do?
Canning is an important, safe method for preserving food if practiced properly. The canning process involves placing foods in jars or similar containers and heating them to a temperature that destroys micro-organisms that cause food to spoil. During this heating process air is driven out of the jar and as it cools a vacuum seal is formed. This vacuum seal prevents air from getting back into the product bringing with it contaminating micro-organisms.
Safe Canning Methods
There are two safe ways of processing food, the boiling water bath method and the pressure canner method:
The boiling water bath method is safe for tomatoes, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and other preserves. In this method, jars of food are heated completely covered with boiling water (212°F at sea level) and cooked for a specified amount of time
Pressure canning is the only safe method of preserving vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a special pressure cooker which is heated to a temperature of at least 240° F. This temperature can only be reached using the pressure method. A microorganism called Clostridium botulinum is the main reason why pressure processing is necessary. Though the bacterial cells are killed at boiling temperatures, they can form spores that can withstand these temperatures. The spores grow well in low acid foods, in the absence of air, such as in canned low acidic foods like meats and vegetables. When the spores begin to grow, they produce the deadly botulinum toxins(poisons).
The only way to destroy these spores is by pressure cooking the food at a temperature of 240°F, or above, for a specified amount of time depending on the type of food and altitude. Foods that are low acid have a pH of more than 4.6 and because of the danger of botulism, they must be prepared in a pressure canner.
The low acidic foods include:
High acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or less and contain enough acid so that the Clostridium botulinum spores can not grow and produce their deadly toxin. High acidic foods can be safely canned using the boiling water bath method.
The high acidic foods include:
properly pickled vegetables
Certain foods like, tomatoes and figs, that have a pH value close to 4.6 need to have acid added to them in order to use the water bath method. This is accomplished by adding lemon juice of citric acid.
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