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Canning using a lit match thrown in the jar to seal lids

My hairdresser, who is from Turkey, told me that when she cans homemade things like a recent batch of tomato sauce, she fills the jars, then lights a kitchen match, the wood kind, and throws the lit match in the jar and quickly seals it. When the match uses up all the air, the lid is drawn down, creating a vacuum seal. She showed me a jar she had done like this, and sure enough, pushing on the center of the lid, it was not springy at all. Has anyone sealed jars like this instead of processing in boiling water? Is this a safe method of sealing jars? It seems much easier than a water bath. She says she just takes the match out when she opens the jars. And she says the jars stay fine for a few years! I am afraid and don't want to get sick so if anyone out there has also used this method, please let me know. Thank you.

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    1. re: pikawicca

      Ditto! NO, NO, NO! Bad! Good way to kill someone with botulism.

    2. I would not be so worried about the SEAL as about the "pasteurization" of the jars in the water bath and the slow-cook process in the pressure cooker of the food.

      Would I trust the method to securely close jars of non food items-- absolutely. But there are other elements of the canning process that I believe insure safe food, beyond a sealed lid.

      EDIT:
      Here's a blog about seal/canning:
      http://mamasnuthouse.blogspot.com/200...

      1. If you can at home then please, please refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the latest information.

        http://nchfp.uga.edu/

        The methods they approve are the safest that there is. Why risk your loved ones health?

        1. yes..why bother? It borders on truly unsafe I suspect in some places where they could not afford to equipment to o it right, they improvise....but the risk is just too great

          1. Sound like an easy way to make homemade Botox. Yikes!

            1. Seems like a waste of an otherwise good match.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Not to mention the contents of the jar.

                Thinking about it from a purely physical viewpoint, the burning match will consume a portion of the oxygen in the headspace of the jar, which may cause a seal to form when the jar cools, but it's not going to generate a high enough temperature in the jar to kill any microbes that may be lingering. If she boiled a high-acid tomato sauce and put it directly into a hot, sterilized jar - maybe. I'm not going to bet my life on it.

                1. This method is apparently safe enough (for acidic contents, at any rate) to be standard procedure in her culture, which leads me to believe that it has little or no risk. I notice that no responders so far have actually tried doing this, and neither have I. But if you are already afraid and risk-averse, it's best to skip it.

                  1. I would not eat it:) Would you? Knowing a used match has been festering in there?

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Lillipop

                      I probably would! The water bath method is not commonly used in Europe anyway. When preserving, I use sterilised jars and an old-fashioned wax seal, which is what everyone does. And guess what - we don't die of botulism or anything else!

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        My late mom used a parraffin/wax seal for jelly.I think I am going to try my hand at some home canning this summer.

                        1. re: Lillipop

                          wax seals have pretty much been proven to be unsafe in all but the most tightly-controlled conditions.

                          pop over to www.freshpreserving.com -- it's the Ball canning site, but loads of instructions and guidelines.

                          The National Center for Food Preservation linked downthread is a great resource, too.

                          When we moved to France, I tried tipping the jars upside down while still hot to create a vacuum, which is printed in all the websites and on the labels for the pectin (and is how my friends say their mothers did/do it

                          )

                          Nastiest batch of mouldy jam I've ever made in my entire life, and I washed and sterilized all the jars and lids before I used them -- the only difference was the way I created a seal.

                          Water-bath sealed everything after that.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Thanks for the link. I really want to try home canning.

                            1. re: Lillipop

                              It's really very easy -- you have to be on your toes about the sanitation issues, but it's more time and effort than difficulty most of the time.

                              Waterbath canning doesn't take a lot of expensive equipment, either - once you've bought the jars, you only have to buy new lids every year. (and threaten death to anyone who doesn't return your jars....I find the enticement of "if you return my jars, I'll give you a full one" to work pretty well)

                              It's also a tremendously social thing to do -- it's kind of a pita to do a lot of preserving by yourself, so invite a couple of friends over and do a mass canning day -- it's a fun social day, and it's no more mess to can three batches rather than one. Usually when you share the labor, it's not a lot more time to do multiple batches, either.

                              Last year my BF and I took the kids to a you-pick farm to get tomatoes and peppers and onions for salsa -- then they played video games while we canned all afternoon (30 pounds of tomatoes is a LOT of salsa....) Everybody had a blast.

                              And it's just so darned rewarding to open a cupboard and see jars of lovely things lined up.

                              Do take a look at your local extension service -- some of them have canning kitchens with all the commercial equipment, and extension agents to help you do it right. It's a very nominal fee.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Sunshine, I agree with you... the water bath is really easy to do, and I just don't understand why people are so anxious to avoid it, at the risk of losing their product and possibly endangering their health. It makes no sense.

                                I have preserved jam successfully with a hot pack method and no water bath. But it really isn't that much easier. You have to sterilize the jars first, which means boiling them. Then you have to keep them hot while you make the jam (I use the oven for this). Then pack hot jam into the hot, sterilized jar. The turning upside down thing is a bunch of BS. The jar should seal even if right side up, and I would argue that turning it upside down might even impede the process.

                                Anyway, since you've already had to get out a stockpot to sterilize the jars, it really isn't much trouble to go ahead and process them in a hot water bath. And then you know you have a safe, shelf-stable product. It seems like people are so bent on avoiding the water bath that they will use methods that are as much or more effort, only to get an inferior product (both in terms of safety and quality after long-term storage).

                                1. re: MelMM

                                  well, yeah -- I agree with you 100%, especially after having lost a batch of jam.

                                  My inner voice is telling me that turning the jars upside down allows jam to seep between the lid and the jar, creating a possible barrier to making a proper seal -- but I said that since everyone's mother and grandmother do it that way here, and the instructions say so, I'd give it a try.

                                  In the Murphy's Law of things, I started seeing electric sterilizers (basically big electric water pots...) on the market right after I emptied all my jam.

                                  But since the only extra step is 10-15 minutes with the jars in boiling water (and I'm in the kitchen cleaning up during that time, anyway), there's just not a good reason to not do it.

                                  The ruined batch was stored in a stone basement, by the way -- so temperature wasn't the case.

                                  Universities and government agencies have done considerable research, and found that water-bath is the best way forward....so on we go.

                                2. re: sunshine842

                                  My daughter is visiting from NZ ( she is grown moved there last June and married her Kiwi hunk) she is an adventurous person too like you.She sat here today and scared me straight about the possible perils involved in home canning (which she did several summers in a row while still here in Calif.) BUT I am going to do it. I will shop around and get some good reliable equipment (good investment) and then as I told my girl I will do a small batch of cheap tomatoes with basil and oregano if that is possible just to get my *sea legs* so to speak. I also have a tree full of Meyer lemons that I want to preserve in jars..two orange trees that have lots of fruit left that I need to try learn to make marmalade out of. I think I can deduct my new *hobby* expenses from my federal income tax next year too:) I am in close enough proximity to U.C. Davis to utilize some of their info. I live right in the midst of the agricultural mecca of California near Lodi wine country so I know there is an abundance of info around.Thanks. I am actually very excited at the prospect of trying my hand at this:)

                                  1. re: Lillipop

                                    tomatoes are one of the easiest --

                                    While you're out shopping, pick up a copy of the Blue Book Guide to Preserving -- it's published by Ball, but it's cheap, easy to follow, packed with information and recipes, and readily available.

                                    http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/b...

                                    (places like Walmart and Target and your local Ace Hardware typically carry it, especially during the summer and fall canning seasons)

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Thanks sunshine. I appreciate your advice.

                              2. re: sunshine842

                                I make preserves all the time using the European method and will continue to do so, like millions of other people here! Honestly, you will never find a British book on preserving that uses the water bath method. And I've never had a batch of mouldy jam, marmalade or chutney. Did you use less sugar perhaps in your jam?

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  followed the directions on the box of pectin to the gram.

                                  I've never, ever had mouldy jam with a water bath method, so that's what I'll continue to use.

                                  It got right up my nose that I'd picked all those berries and made all that jam, then had to chuck every blasted jar.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    That's your prerogative, but it's mine to use the old-fashioned method that EVERYONE uses in Britain, without any problems.

                                    To sterilise the jars, I run them through the dishwasher while I'm making the jam, so they're still hot when I fill them with preserve.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      I ran them through the dishwasher AND put them into boiling water for several minutes, as well as sterilized the lids in boiling water. As I said, the only difference in the batch was the final sealing method.

                                      Not again. It might be a bit 'belt and braces', but it's not enough additional work or effort to make a difference.

                                      I'm not sacrificing my lovely produce and all my work just to dump it in the bin a few weeks later.

                        2. without even discussing the safety --

                          sorry, but I'm not going to toss a burned match into my carefully homemade goodies so that my goodies can taste like wet, burned wood and sulfur.

                          Yuck.

                          1. Human beings were preserving foods with wax seals, corks, or other caps for ages before the invention of the modern wax seal. I have survived, by nearly 60 years, Mom's wax-sealed wild strawberry preserves.

                            While everyone has the prerogative to choose their preferred message, sweeping statements about hazard and quality are narrowminded. Furthermore, while I am sure the water bath method is a good one, it behooves the manufacturers of the lids and other canning equipment to tout their own products as better than alternative methods. I would not expect a manufacturer of pressure cookers to recommend crock pots.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: greygarious

                              you have to buy a new lid no matter what method you use to close the jar.

                              once the sealing material has been heated and compressed, it will never make an airtight seal again.

                              That's fine for leftovers, but it's a no-go for long-term preservation.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                As was done for centuries, when Mom sealed a jelly glass with paraffin, there WAS no lid. The paraffin-topped vessels sat on the basement stairs until needed. Once opened, they went into the fridge with saucers laid over the open rims.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  all I have to do is look at the average life expectancy during most of those centuries.

                                  and it's not JUST the jar or lid manufacturers -- if wax was good enough, there'd be no lids at the supermarket.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    The fact that you survived your mother's preserving practice is anecdotal evidence, not scientific evidence. The science supports modern methods.

                                    Also, I notice that you mention putting the jars on the basement stairs. I might assume, a cool place, especially if you are in the North. For those of us in warmer climates, who don't even have basements, is it too much of a stretch for you to imagine that this method might not work?

                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      Wild strawberries were canned in summer in NY, set a few steps down on the stairs, so perhaps 5-10 degrees F lower than the kitchen counter temp. When I can today, I use the water method most of the time (I do pickles involving boiling brine over raw veg in clean jars, no water bath, room temp storage. They usually vacuum seal as they cool.). Sure, I can imagine that some of the alternative methods might not work all the time. Is the converse too much for you to imagine?

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        As I have mentioned above, I have tried some of the alternative methods, and had them work. So imagining the converse to be true, which would be that the alternative methods might work some of the time, is by no means beyond my imagination. But that isn't good enough. And I don't find the alternative methods to be much easier than a water bath. I have also found that preserves processed with a water bath keep with better quality (here I am talking about color and texture, not safety), at least in my climate and storage conditions.

                                    2. re: greygarious

                                      My late mom canned home made concord grape jelly when I was a kid in the late 50's. She actually had tiny little jelly jars and she used paraffin to seal things up and then a lid.The paraffin disc had to literally be dug out of the jelly jar.Makes me nostalgic when I think about the shelves in our basement lined with jar after jar of peaches from Kings County Ca.and jar after jar of pears from Kelseyville Ca. I sure would like to try my hand at canning some fresh caught fish. Have you done that greygarious?

                                      1. re: Lillipop

                                        fish MUST be canned in a pressure canner, unless it's pickled (and even then....)

                                        It's not high enough acid to stay safe, nor is a water-bath process a high enough temperature to kill microbes.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Probably not recommended then? I will do tomatoes and easy things until I get it mastered.Can not wait.

                                          1. re: Lillipop

                                            yes -- start with fruits and tomatoes and other acidic foods that can be water-bath canned, then progress on to pressure-canning.

                                            http://nchfp.uga.edu/

                                            has pages devoted to canning fish

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Agreed - I started canning last year (at age 42, my urban/suburban family did not can) and high acid foods like preserves, fruit, tomatoes, and dilly beans are easy in the water bath method and good ways to learn and get more comfortable with the process. I'm still not comfortable enough to get a pressure canner and do low acid foods, but I could do it if I needed to.

                                            2. re: Lillipop

                                              I want to second Sunshine's advice about picking up the Blue Book. Water bath canning is only safe for high acid foods, and the book will have lists of what can water bath canned and what requires a pressure canner. That is extremely important information for the novice canner to have.

                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                Adding to what I said above, there are some other resources you should check out. I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand the basics of canning, and what is, and isn't, safe to do. Don't try to learn this from some blogger or internet forum.

                                                Since you are in the US, you should have a local Cooperative Extension office, and they will have information on home canning, and perhaps offer classes, or have an expert to answer your questions. An invaluable and under-utilized service. Find you local office here:
                                                http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

                                                The USDA publishes a guide to home canning. You can find it online here:
                                                http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/pub...

                                                And the University of Georgia is home to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have lots of online information, and offer a free online class.
                                                http://nchfp.uga.edu/index.html

                                                I come from a long line of canners. While I think it is great to see a resurgence in interest, I have seen some really scary stuff out there on the Web and in some cookbooks. Always keep in mind that botulism grows in an anaerobic environment, so just having a good seal does not mean you have safe food.

                                    3. re: greygarious

                                      Wax sealing has its own problems - wax is tricky to work with, and getting splashed with molten paraffin is not fun. My mother used to preserve grape jelly with wax seals, but I think the main preserving factor was all the sugar in the jellies.

                                      It's true people were preserving food long before modern seals, but it's also true that poorly preserved foods were causing problems then as well. Either people had better constitutions (the ones who survived to an age where they could eat solid foods anyway) or the illnesses they got were mild enough to be shrugged off as better than starving.

                                    4. After reading about a method like that, I hate to think what she does to try and sterilize the jars. :-)

                                      I would not for a couple a reasons one of which is that while it may not be noticeable in something like a big jar of tomato sauce, I would think the taste of charred wood and burned sulfur would be very noticeable in something like a marmalade.

                                      1. I have done it, leave ~2 inches of head space, put down a layer of foil. I don't use a match, but instead light a small piece of wax paper, maybe ~2" square, then twisted.

                                        I learned this in the early 80's, have occasionally used it to prevent mold. There is a partial container of commercial tomato salsa in the fridge now that has been "preserved" using this method. For acid items, I put wax paper under the foil.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Alan408

                                          OK, but you are refigerating the "preserved" product, right? I can't see doing this for something to go in the pantry.

                                          1. re: MelMM

                                            Yes, you are correct, ice box, not fridge. I do this when "off the grid".

                                        2. Do people who do this match trick serve these concoctions to unsuspecting dinner guests? Shudder. Better have your homeowners insurance up to date.

                                          1. Thank you everyone. I appreciate your replies and wisdom. I am not sure if this method is safe and also I was concerned about the match and sulfer being in the food and ruining the taste. My hairdresser was just so convinced that this is a perfectly safe method that I wanted to know if anyone else has used this method. Sometimes I feel like "I live under a rock" because people know of methods and technologies which I've never heard of, so I threw this out to the group. I agree with what some of you have said, that it's just not worth the risk to save a little work, so I'll be sticking to the water bath method. Thanks again. Barbara

                                            1. Don't even think of going there. Proper canning is tough enough. Adding some odd method such as oven canning have been proven to be dangerous. Follow the tried and true methods.

                                              1. Not safe. All you've done with the match is make an anaerobic environment. You still have to clean the jar, ensure the food is below 4.6 on the pH scale, kill any residual bacteria, and other not-so-trivial tasks that will make the contents safe to eat.

                                                National Center for Home Food Preservation:

                                                http://nchfp.uga.edu/