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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

September 25, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Home canning is now officially easier

File photo by Barry Wong/The Seattle Times

File photo by Barry Wong/The Seattle Times

Planning on canning some applesauce or pear butter or green-tomato chutney? Life just got easier.

Theresa Loe of Living Homegrown recently confirmed that Jarden, the country’s largest manufacturer of canning jars and lids, was changing its recommendations for water-bath canning procedures. Rather than simmering jar lids in a pan of water while preparing a recipe, Jarden (makers of Ball jars) now says to just wash the lids and use them at room temperature. Washing them works just as well as heating the lids, Jarden reps told Loe. (Actually, washing them sometimes works better. One of the issues with simmering, Loe noted in the comments, was that people were over-heating the lids, which created its own problems.) It sounds like a small change, but sometimes that one step is enough to tip a task into the “doable” category. And if not, here’s a bigger change:

Food preservation specialist Cathy Barrow noted in The Washington Post that Jarden also is no longer recommending that canning jars be sanitized in boiling water for 10 minutes before use, “as long as the recipe requires processing in the boiling water for at least five minutes.” Instead, the company says to just wash the jars, bands and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry.

As I learned years ago, the National Center for Home Food Preservation has long said jars don’t need to be pre-sterilized, though they asked for 10 minutes of processing rather than five. Their official guidelines: “Jars do not need to be sterilized before canning if they will be filled with food and processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more or if they will be processed in a pressure canner.” But most how-to guides still insisted that sterilizing was required. To have the official manufacturers recommendations — the thing that most recipes tell you to follow — make the change should save a lot of people a lot of time. It’ll also save those of us who were already doing it that way the nagging last bit of worry that we were compromising standards.

Inspired by the news? Here’s a pear butter recipe from Simply Recipes — just ignore that part about sterilizing the jars, and “follow manufacturers instructions” instead.

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