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Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and River Cottage Preserves book = unsafe?

I recently bought the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and the River Cottage Preserves book. I was taken in by the luscious photography and the unusual flavor combinations.

However, upon getting them home and reading more closely, the methods that the books use to preserve the jams are entirely unsafe! The River Cottage book uses the open kettle canning method and no after-processing. I know tons of grannies may swear by this method, but I'm not taking the chance.

The Blue Chair book is slightly better, though the author says she processes her jars in the oven. It sounded like a brilliant idea to me, but now that I've researched it, I see it isn't safe either. The other option in the Blue Chair book is to "process according to manufacturer's directions". Say what? I assume she means the directions given by the jar maker (Ball or Mason or whomever.) So, does this mean I can put her jams in half-pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes and they'll be safe?

Can I make any of these jams as freezer jams? Should I just take both books back to the store and ask for a refund? I'm very annoyed and don't really want to get into the debate of whether open kettle canning is safe. I don't think it's safe, so that's not an option for me.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I would just follow Ball instructions for similar jam and you should be fine-10 min for 1/2 pints, etc. The only ones I'd be worried about would be anything low acid-fruit jams and jellies and any pickles should be fine.

    1. Are you annoyed that you didn't look at the book's canning methods before buying or annoyed that people are still using the open kettle canning method? If you're not happy with the books, return them. I know you don't want to hear it and I'm not debating but open kettle canning has been used since before you were probably born and is safe if you know what you're doing.

      1. My mom always mad jam and jelly with the open kettle method. Nobody ever got sick. My understanding is that this is only safe for jams and jellies but not pickles, tomatoes, etc. I also think low-sugar jams shouldn't be processed with this method.

        I make my own jams and never use a recipe. I sterilize my jars, lids and rings, fill with hot jam and then process in boiling water for 10 minutes. I'm sure you can follow the jam/jelly recipes in the book you have, fill your jars and boil for 10 and be perfectly fine.

        1. Re: making fruit jams, marmalades and preserves: Open kettle method canning is not unsafe as long as the fruit being preserved has sufficient acidity. My grandmother regularly used this method. Figs are the only fruit that will present a problem. If the seal fails and you see mold, discard the jam. Most fruits are too acid to allow for the growth of harmful bacterial like botulism. If you are deeply concerned about canning, the USDA has free online instructions here:

          1. Hello.
            The River Cottage book is part of my library of canning books. I love reading it, because I grew up in England and it reminds me of my childhood.

            You are quite correct about its very old-fashioned jar processing instructions. This is NOT a reason for avoidingthe very cool and interesting recipes, that are very different from what you will find in the North American (USA and Canadian) canning recipe books. Rather, you can follow the jar-processing instructions for similar recipes, found in the more conservative North American books, for the UK-based recipes.

            The reason why the North American books err on the side of caution is the USA-based National Center for Home Food Preserving (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/) and the many University-based extension services that provide advice on canning. These government-funded treasures, have carried on actively researching, and advising on home-canning, which never lost popularity as much in North America compared with England. My British mum and mother-in-law make jam and pickles, but they are in their 70s to 80s and I never really took up canning until my 40s. Canning is becoming more trendy again, in the UK, after being associated with little old ladies for the longest time. Soooo, the popularity of preserving NEVER kept up the way it did in Canada and the USA among a younger generation. As a result, the UK-based books have not kept up in the same way as the North American books, in terms of how they reflect the ongoing research on processing jars.

            The food science behind the most-up to date recommendations has to with pH (acid level) of the product being canned and whether botulism (Clostridium botulinum) spores will be able to grow. At Christmas, I made a fabulous Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Jam, for gifts (from LJ Amendt's 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and other Soft Spreads) and then freaked out because I had read the store and use-by instructions wrong, and was terrified that I would poison the gift recipients. I found that the jam making online community was divided on how long and where to store these jams - because the pH of the product was on the borderline of whether it should be stored in the fridge and used up fast, or stored on the shelf for longer than this time. There was only one thing for me to do, and that was to bring home a pH meter from my lab and test my recipe for myself - I haven't done it yet... (see http://dorisandjillycook.com/2009/12/...


            Here's a fun way to lessen your anxiety about this - and it's free, if you use your local library.
            Or if you need an excuse to buy more cookbooks, this might work for you: I used it in the last 2 years, to build up a new area of my cookbook library (it was the only way to justify buying more cookbooks!!) in preserving and canning.

            Compare the processing instructions in the following books and you will see the difference. My goal has been to use the recipes in the European books and combine them with the more up-to-date recommendations out of the USA.

            My USA fave canning books:
            1. Eugenia Bone. Well-Preserved (2009 Clarkson Potter Publishing) (her Denver Post blog is also amazing http://blogs.denverpost.com/preserved/
            )2. Linda J. Amendt. 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades (2008 Robert Rose Publishing)

            My Canadian fave canning books:
            3. Bernadin Guide to Home Preserving (2008) - get it at Canadian Tire - similar, I believe to Ball book from USA.
            4. Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving (2007 Firefly Press)

            My British fave preserving (!!) books:
            5. Pam Corbin. River Cottage Handbook No. 2 - Preserves (2008 Bloomsbury Press)
            6. Gloria Nicol. Fruits of the Earth (2009 CICO Books)
            7. Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton. Preserved (2004 Kyle Books)

            My French fave confiture books:
            8. Christine Ferber. Mes Confitures (2002 Payot and Rivage) - in French - but I love it so much that I have ordered the English translation because otherwise I spend too much time with French-English dictionary.

            I hope this helps. Pls don't give up on those British books - I am going to look out for the Blue Chair Jam book.

            2 Replies
            1. re: carriesmum

              I just got Gloria Nicol's new book "100 jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles." I can usually figure out what North Americans would do with these recipes, but one has me stumped. She has a pear and chocolate jam that looks delicious, but I cannot find any usda info on canning safely with chocolate. Any ideas?

              1. re: timothina

                If chocolate has a high pH, then the only safe way to can this jam will be with a pressure canning method. Since chocolates vary depending on whether they contain milk solids, it will depend on the chocolate.

            2. I put hot jam in hot jars, put seal and lid on turn them upside down leave till cool and sealed jam jars, been doing this for 30 years and has been done for at least 30 before me, and no one has gotten sick

              1 Reply
              1. re: mombaker247

                This is risky behavior that can result in sealing failure. The only reason it's not unsafe is that the contents are not dangerous to begin with (too acidic to promote/allow bacterial growth). The USDA recommends against this. http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications...


              2. I would find a similar recipe you know to be safe and follow the processing times for that recipe.

                As a Brit, I've noticed that many US jam and jelly recipes use much less sugar than is standard here - you'll find that the recipes in the River Cottage book in particular work out at 60% sugar after cooking. Also, most of our pickles are in almost undiluted vinegar - not brine. This increases the percentage of acetic acid in the recipe and hence lowers the pH. For future reference when you buy preserving books, none of the UK books will follow safe US practises - open kettle jam-making is the norm here.

                However, you need to do what ever you feel necessary to feel safe, and it should be possible to recreate many of the flavour combinations found in those books by adapting tested US recipes. The above information isn't an attempt to change your mind, just to let you know that UK books probably aren't something you're going to find useful without tweaking to your own standards.