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Home Canning- Recipes Necessary?

Question for all you home canners...I was reading up about this on the internet, and the site said that you really have to use a tested recipe if your going to can (jar) something yourself. This would kindof defeat the purpose for me, since I was interested in preserving some homemade chutneys, sauces and barbecue sauces that I make. Is there any way around this? Can I test the acidity myself?

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  1. No, there really isn't, not without experience and/or at least somewhat expensive equipment (figure $60 minimum for a tolerably accurate pH tester, if you make an allowance for the tester's stated accuracy; a lot more than $60 if you want to be able to cut it close.)

    With experience, or at least extensive and careful reading, you could eyeball-compare your recipes to proven ones, but that could be risky for a beginner.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MikeG

      Well said. It's not worth taking a chance when the toxins in question can be odorless and colorless.

      Meanwhile, I fully appreciate mellycook's frustration. I've been trying to find a way to certify that my ratatouille would be safe in the cold months when tomatoes are so awful, but until I get absolute assurance, we'll eat it all summer and look forward to it all winter.

      Mellycooks, have you gone to a site with preserving recipes and looked for a recipe that's similar to what you have in mind?

      1. re: rainey

        I haven't really searched too much yet...I'm so attached to some of my recipes that I might be let down. I'd almost rather find totally different recipes that apeal to me.

    2. Or, you could just pressure can anything that seems at all questionable and not worry about the details. For most of the sort of thing you mention, the additional heat probably isn't going to make much of a difference since they're heavily cooked to begin with.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MikeG

        Pressure canning would make it safe regardless? Is that a big equipment purchase?

      2. I'm no expert but based on the items you've mentioned, I'd just go ahead and process them and put them up.
        From what I understand, the general rule is, you can do it as long as it hasn't got any meat protien in it. If it does, it's a different process.
        I've done home made bbq sauce without even thinking about it.
        A high sugar content will help with the preservation as well.

        I'm sure someone will shoot me down though.


        1. NO! (wish I could use bigger type!)

          I can't think of a single "vegetable" that is safe to can in boiling water. Fruit, yes. They are "high acid." Vegetables, no, they are "low acid" and provide a great breeding ground for the botulism bacteria that is rife on agricultural producs. (The spores don't hurt us at all, you would never notice them.)

          The BBQ sauce might be OK if there isn't too much stuff like onion and there's a fair amount of vinegar. But the ratatouille is definitely out unless you have a specific, safe recipe (and I'm not at all sure that's possible.) Unspecified "sauces" is an open question.

          In this case, fruits and vegs have their usual culinary, not botanical, meaning.

          1. I make a lot of chutneys, mostly fruit-based with a fair amount of vinegar and sugar. I have hot-processed these and eaten them months after they were first made. I'm quite sure the vinegar and sugar make them safe.

            1. Fruit chutneys with relatively little onion or peppers should be fine, but "chutney" is a wide-encompassing term, and many of the ones I see commercially available would not be safe to can at home (ie, mint or coriander chutney) without further details.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MikeG

                Mint-coriander chutney is a fresh chutney, not cooked at all. It would be completely ruined if it were hot processed. I doubt that is what the OP meant.

              2. Thanks for the discussion guys. Looks like I might stick to freezing for now. It just makes it harder to give food as gifts :(

                1. Yes, pressure canning makes pretty much anything safe, but it does involve higher temperatures which may or may not be OK for a particular recipe. And unfortunately, yes, pressure canners aren't cheap. I don't know, but pressure cookers are not recommended for canning. But I suspect that for a couple of small jars now and then, it wouldn't be a problem.

                  Seriously speaking what you need to do is get your hands on a copy of the Ball canning book, at least to look over, rather than relying advice from boards like these. Mine included for that matter.;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MikeG

                    thanks, I think I'll do just that.

                  2. I've been canning the same tomato sauce for years, processed in a water bath, with no problem. I got the recipe from an old Italian lady. The sauce is tomatoes, onion, red pepper, carrot, celery, fresh herbs, garlic, lots of red wine, cooked all day. If I succumb to botulism poisoning, Candy will post my obituary as a cautionary tale.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        The USDA is recommending pressure canning for tomato products due to the sweeter (low acid)tomatoes that are now produced. I think that the red wine that pikawicca adds keeps the acid level high enough to water bath can her sauce. If you have doubts check the pH of your products before canning.

                    1. try to get yourself a copy of "Putting Up Stuff For The Coldtime" by Crescent Dragonwagon. It has many recipes for all kinds of preserved foods, and I think she's re-writing it for a new edition. Great stuff-you're sure to find something you'll like.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: toodie jane

                        Check out Lisa Rayner's thorough book on safe canning (It's called The Natural Canning Resource Book and can be purchased through her website: http://lisarayner.com/). MikeG made some excellent comments about proper food preservation and acidity. Botulism poisoning can be deadly and is not worth the risk of unsafe homemade recipes.