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The long and winding road that delivers your fruits from the field to the grocery store includes several points of potential contamination, which makes these five steps for washing fruit vital in ensuring your family ingests the nutrients and not the pesticides, insects, and pathogens lurking on that apple.
This Is The Only Way to Wash Fruit
Shutterstock / mythja
The long and winding road that delivers your fruits from the field to the grocery store includes several points of potential contamination, which makes these five steps for washing fruit vital in ensuring your family ingests the nutrients and not the pesticides, insects, and pathogens lurking on that apple.
Shutterstock / Jorge Moro
If you loathe the waxy exterior on fruits like apples and pears, pre-soak them in equal parts cold water and vinegar in a shallow tub or bowl for about 10 minutes. This technique will remove the artificial wax and any residual dirt so you can enjoy your fruit as Mother Nature intended.
Wash Under Clean Running Water
Shutterstock / Africa Studio
A 2005 study that looked into different vegetable- and fruit-washing techniques concluded that thoroughly washing fruits under potable running water was effective in removing salmonella from the surface of the produce.
Use a Vegetable Scrub Brush
Wash the fruit
Shutterstock / Thomas Klee
Every time you slice open a fruit with a rind without first washing the outside, you introduce all the bacteria that was living on the outer surface to the fruit you eat. It is important to wash the whole fruit to prevent contamination.
Remove Outer Leaves and Dirt
Shutterstock / mythja
For those fruits with leaves or layers, it is important to remove any obstacles that might prevent a thorough cleaning. Basically, removing the dirt is only half the battle when washing fruit. Insects and bacteria lurk in the crevices.
This Is the ONLY Time You Should Wash a Turkey
Are you planning on washing that raw turkey before roasting it? You might want to think again.
According to a recent study by the food safety experts at the USDA, washing or rinsing raw turkey can put you at risk of foodborne illness. There&aposs only one time you should wash a raw turkey. And that&aposs after you&aposve brined the bird.
In fact, this advice holds true for most raw meats and poultry. Research shows that when you rinse raw meat and poultry, you&aposre not simply washing bacteria safely down the drain, you&aposre actually spreading bacteria around the kitchen.
There&aposs the splash factor, of course. No matter how careful you are, water can splash bacteria "up to 3 feet surrounding your sink," according to Marianne Gravely of the Food Safety Education Staff of the USDA&aposs Food Safety and Inspection Service. But even if you&aposve been vigilant about washing your hands after touching the turkey, you can still spread bacteria by accidentally touching, say, a cross-contaminated countertop and then touching the refrigerator door handle, dishes, utensils, towels, table tops, other food, your cell phone, etc.
Exactly How To Wash Your Fruits And Vegetables, According To Experts
The conversations around exactly how to wash your produce are contentious. There are camps that think a rinse in water is enough, while others think the only way to truly clean the dirt, wax and chemicals off your fruits and vegetables is with a store-bought produce wash , soapy taste be damned.
The jury may still be out on that one, but one thing is clear: We need to rinse our fruits and vegetables with water (and give them a good scrub). However, it’s not always clear how important it is , or how to do it properly. That’s why we asked the experts. Here’s everything you need to know about washing your fruits and vegetables.
Why do you need to wash your fruits and veggies in the first place?
There are a few reasons it’s important to rinse every fruit and vegetable you consume with water. First, there’s often dirt on them before they’re washed, and no one likes eating dirt. And more pressing, many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides , which aren’t necessarily safe for consumption .
But according to nutritionist Karina Heinrich , the most important reason for rinsing and scrubbing fruits and vegetables is to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, 48 million people get sick from contaminated food each year .
“The goal with washing well is to decrease bacteria and prevent any illness, such as E. Coli ,” she said.
FDA attorney Marc Sanchez added that we only hear about some of the foodborne illnesses that occur, such as salmonella or E. Coli ― so people getting sick from unwashed fruits and vegetables is actually more common than we think. “Often we only hear about the big outbreaks, but contamination can occur on any scale,” he explained.
Heinrich also noted that timing matters a lot more than most people think ― both to avoid getting sick and because your produce will last longer. “The best time to wash produce is immediately before eating or cooking the product,” she said. “You should avoid rinsing and then storing produce because it creates a perfect, wet habitat for bacteria to grow. Too much moisture can cause fruits and vegetables to go bad more quickly.”
Here’s how to wash your fruits and vegetables.
Here’s the big question: Can you get away with running water over your fruits and vegetables and call it a day? Sanchez says yes Heinrich says no.
“Start by properly washing your hands with soap or water, which ensures that no microbes are transferred from your hands to the fresh produce,” Sanchez said. “When actually washing, use running water and rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. For something with a hard rind or firm skin, a vegetable brush can be used to scrub the surface. A good tip is to avoid using hot water, which can allow microorganisms to enter the stem or blossom end of the produce.”
Sanchez advises against using any kind of produce wash, since the effects of ingesting them haven’t been properly studied. While Heinrich doesn’t suggest buying produce wash ― it can lead to a new set of residue ― she does recommend taking your washing a step beyond water.
“Rinsing fruit under the kitchen tap may remove dirt,” she said. “But lots of research shows that adding baking soda to the water is the best way to remove pesticide residue. To take bacteria elimination a step further, use a vegetable brush when washing produce with thick skin and throw away the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce before washing.”
To make a DIY vegetable wash, Heinrich recommends filling your (clean) kitchen sink with cold water and adding 4 tablespoons of baking soda.
“Soak fruits and vegetables for about five minutes, rinse with cold water and pat dry,” she said. “Exceptions to using this wash are berries or other soft fruits and vegetables that may get too soggy. They still need to be cleaned, but make sure to rinse in the baking soda solution quickly.”
Should some vegetables and fruits be washed more than others?
While none of your fruits or veggies should be consumed before washing, this can get confusing ― especially when your lettuce package says it’s been “triple washed.” “This is not a regulated claim and not one validated or verified by the FDA, which is why I always recommend washing again anyway,” said Sanchez. “Better safe than sorry, as the adage goes.”
And while you’re at it, Heinrich recommends paying special attention to the “ dirty dozen .” “This list is made by the Environmental Working Group and ranks fruits and vegetables from most to least likely to have pesticide residue,” she said. “The Dirty Dozen list for 2019 are strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.”
In other words, pay special attention when washing any member of the dirty dozen.
Here’s what the government recommends.
Yep, that’s a lot of information about how to wash your fruits and vegetables ― and we don’t blame you if you’re feeling just a little nervous about foodborne illnesses by now. Before you start whipping up that baking soda solution, rest assured that the government recommendations around washing produce are pretty simple:
Wash your hands with soap and water, rinse produce before you peel, and give it a gentle rub while holding it under running water. Got tougher produce? Go ahead and use a vegetable brush.
Should I Wash Fresh Fruit in Vinegar?
Should you wash fresh fruit in vinegar? Does vinegar remove bacteria from fruits and vegetables? Dr. Floyd Woods and Dr. Joe Kemble, who are both horticulture professors at Auburn University, answered our questions about washing produce in vinegar.
What we learned: Yes, it is safe to soak fruits and vegetables in vinegar. Using a solution that’s three parts water and one part vinegar will be most effective at removing bacteria. If soaking fruit in the sink, be sure to clean the sink first and make sure you’re using enough vinegar to meet the three-to-one ratio. Using vinegar, however, is not necessary because simply washing fruits and vegetables with clean water will remove 98 percent of bacteria. Also, a vinegar soak will not extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
Is it safe to use vinegar or acetic acid to clean produce?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “Vinegar or acetic acid is safe to use as a home remedy to clean, sanitize or surface sterilize a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, the extent and effectiveness of sanitation by using vinegar will depend on the nature of the suspected disease-causing agents. In other words, fungi and bacteria can be effectively removed from these fresh products by using vinegar, but the effectiveness of the vinegar depends on which bacterium and/or fungus is on (or suspected to be on) the fruit or vegetable, the concentration of the vinegar, the temperature of the water and the amount of time the produce is exposed to the vinegar.”
How much vinegar should be used?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “Research has shown that a ratio of three parts water to one part vinegar is most effective. From the photo on Facebook, one cup of vinegar in a sink would not have been enough vinegar to make a difference. Don’t forget to clean your sink before you soak and clean any of your produce. A soak of five to 10 minutes should be sufficient. Try to get the water temperature as close to that of the fruit or vegetable that you wish to clean. When you have a variety of fruits and vegetables, it might be best to wash these separately.”
Is household vinegar effective to remove bacteria?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “The concentration of vinegar that you purchase at the store is lower than most of the commercial formulations designed to sanitize or surface sterilize fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are in doubt as to what to do, your best course of action is to use one of the commercial preparations such as Tsunami (peroxyacetic acid-based sanitizer). Tsunami contains a cousin to acetic acid called peroxyacetic acid and has been used effectively for many years to control post-harvest microorganisms. Since you are not likely to know which microorganisms are on your produce, your safest course of action is to treat for the worst-case scenario (which most commercial products do).”
Is it okay to use plain water to clean produce?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “When it comes down to making an informed choice as to what you should use to clean off fruits and vegetables, research has shown that using just plain old water can remove 98 percent of the bacteria when it is used to rinse and soak produce. Simply washing produce will remove any bacteria or other residues on your produce.”
“Before using any agent to clean, sanitize, or surface sterilize any fruits or vegetables, it is important to remove any soil or debris that might be on the produce. Any organic matter or soil present in the solution will decrease the efficacy of the active ingredient – acetic acid or peroxyacetic acid from the examples above.”
Will washing produce such as fresh fruit in vinegar make it last longer?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: As to the extent that vinegar or another similar treatment will prolong post-harvest life of various fruits and vegetables, it depends on the specific fruit or vegetable. Each fruit and vegetable has its own shelf-life, which can differ from a few days after it is harvested to one or two weeks. It can be months for many winter squashes, Irish potatoes, pears, apples and root crops. It depends on how the produce is treated after it is harvested. If this is produce that you purchased from a supermarket or farmers market, you might not be able to do much to extend its shelf-life unless you know when it was picked and how it has been stored”
For more information on ideal storage conditions and methods of cooling your home-grown produce, check out University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.
What about storing and cooling produce from your own garden?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “If you cool the produce from your garden correctly, then you will extend its shelf-life. For example, if you are going to cool and sanitize your tomatoes you will need to do more than simply run the fruit under cold tap water. In fact, that is the worst thing you can do. You will need to dip or soak your tomatoes in water that is the temperature of the tomatoes that you just picked. So, if it is 85°F outside, the internal temperature of your fruit will be about 85°F. When preparing your cleaning solution, the water must be at the same temperature as the tomato. We realize that this seems odd, but if the water is cooler than the fruit the drastic change in temperature will cause the tomato to actually draw in or suck in through its pores water that surrounds it. It is a great way to get microorganisms into your fruit that will ultimately cause a fruit rot. After you clean and sanitize your fruit, place them in a cool area somewhere around 55°F. With tomatoes, never place them in your refrigerator. It is too cold in there! Most refrigerators are set around 35°F to 45°F, which is too cold to store tomatoes and many other vegetables such as summer squash, bell peppers and eggplants.”
So how should you store fruits and vegetables?
Dr. Woods and Dr. Kemble: “Most fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.) and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, watermelons, etc.) of tropical and subtropical origin may be damaged by cool temperatures and develop a condition called chilling injury. Chilling injury results from prolonged exposure to low but not freezing temperatures. Symptoms of chilling injury include dark circular pits on the surface, shriveling, internal darkening, loss of the ability to ripen and the development of off-flavor and poor texture. Proper storage will help achieve a maximum post-harvest life.”
“In the case of strawberries, blueberries and other berries, generally any wetting or direct contact with water is detrimental and will shorten their shelf-life. You should never place any of these into your sink to soak them. Before you store them, be sure that they are clean but do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are natives of temperate climate and can be stored in your refrigerator. In fact, they should be stored as close to 32°F as possible to maintain their shelf-life. When stored properly, strawberries have a shelf-life of a week, blueberries can last up to two weeks and blackberries and raspberries will last two to four days.”
Washing fruit and vegetables in vinegar is a good way to remove potential bacteria. Use a solution of three parts water and one part vinegar. Plain water is also effective at removing most bacteria. Vinegar will not make produce last longer. Chill or store at proper temperature to help fruit last as long as possible.
Make Your Own Fruit Juice From Berries
Like most people, if you give me something sweet to drink, I will probably like it. I liked flavored "vitamin waters" until I read their labels, and with years of soft drink slurping behind me, I have some making up to do. Enter dazzlingly delicious (and awesomely nutritious) drinks made from the juices of raspberries, blueberries, and even rosehips. If you can boil water, you can make – and preserve – wildly wonderful fruit concentrates to enjoy year round.
Any canning book will tell you how to turn potent little berries into jam, but most have nothing to say about canning raspberry, blueberry or blackberry juice. You can find instructions for canning berry syrup or grape juice, but information is slim on making juice from berries. Go figure! Slightly sweetened berry juice over ice with a sprig of mint is exactly what your body wants on a hot day. Try it once, and you'll see.
I'm several batches into berry juice-making now, and it's amazingly easy.
1. Thoroughly rinse berries, and place them in a heavy pot with just enough water to make them bob. Bring to a slow boil, mash with a potato masher or spoon, bring back to a boil, and remove from the heat. Cool slightly.
2. Pour the mashed berries into a jelly bag or a colander lined with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Collect the juice in a bowl, and pour it into clean jars as it accumulates. Be careful, because berry juice stains. When the bag or cloth is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the juice and some of the pulp. Compost what's left.
3. Sweeten to taste with sugar, honey, or other fruit juices (such as pineapple). Under-sweeten, because you can always add more sugar later, but you can't restore lost tartness. At this point you have a concentrate, which can be diluted with 3 to 4 parts water for casual quaffing. Don't dilute it if you want to freeze or can it. Whether frozen or canned, you juice's future might include transformation into home brewed soda, wine, or a warming batch of berry cordials.
4. Freeze your concentrate in ice cube trays or small freezer containers. Or, seal it up in half-pint jars processed in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes. Most berries are naturally acidic, but when canning concentrates from softer fruits like plums, I add a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice per cup, just to be safe.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
How to Wash Raspberries
Raspberries are extremely fragile and susceptible to spoilage, but you can extend their shelf life naturally with the right washing and storage techniques. Because raspberries break so easily, they are particularly vulnerable to natural surface molds and microbes that attack damaged fruit. Minimize microbe growth by gently washing the raspberries in diluted vinegar, then storing them without excess moisture. Using this method, you can enjoy clean, fresh raspberries for several days after bringing them home.
How to clean and disinfect fruits and vegetables in Mexico
This is not a pretty topic, but it’s something not to be ignored: how to clean fresh fruits and vegetables. For those of us who live in Mexico, the practice of soaking all fresh produce in an antibacterial solution is necessary. Soil, microbes and bacteria are found on the skins of fruits and vegetables. In Mexico (and other countries, including those north of the border), where sanitary practices are not always followed, from the time produce is grown and harvested, until it is delivered to the store, there are opportunities for contamination: unclean hands, waste water run-off, animal wastes, fertilizing with fresh manure, irrigating with unclean water. Washing fruits and vegetables in tap water, or even purified drinking water, is not sufficient if you want a sanitary kitchen producing healthy food. Tap water, no matter how pure, will not kill bacteria. Purified drinking water does not kill bacteria. Using an antibacterial product in a soak solution will ensure clean produce, whether it is to be eaten raw or cooked.
Anything with a skin that you plan on removing before eating, like cantaloupes, watermelon, limes, and mangoes, should be soaked. Produce that grows close to the ground, like cilantro, especially needs to be soaked. Anything eaten raw needs to be soaked, whether it is peeled first or not. (Bacteria on the peel can be transferred to the peeled fruit by your hands or knife.) Any produce that will be cooked should be soaked, because it may not be cooked long enough to kill certain bacteria, or it may contaminate other, already cleaned produce (that will be eaten raw) if stored in contact with them. In short, everything fresh in the plant world that passes through your kitchen should be soaked in an antibacterial solution.
This lesson was driven home to me a few years ago when I walked to our neighborhood store very early one morning. Produce was being unloaded from a truck and placed directly on the pavement. No plastic bags or newspaper or anything, were between the cilantro, lettuces and watermelons and the cobblestones. I will not go into details of the other substances I sometimes see on the same cobblestones, stuff I would never want to come into contact with anything edible, but the sight of this was enough to make me turn around and vow never to shop there again.
Later, when I had time to think about this rationally, I realized that anything purchased in the cleanest supermarket may have spent some time on the ground or pavement on its way to the store. Or handled by unclean hands. Or other situations I don’t want to talk about here. So I did shop at this store again, but I am now extra careful about cleaning produce no matter where I purchase it. This is an easy practice if you make it part of your kitchen routine.
Common products used in Mexico are Microdyn and Bacdyn, both of which contain the active ingredient ionized silver (which I do not believe is the same thing as colloidal silver, but I am not a chemist), and both are equally effective. They are usually sold in grocery stores in the produce department and come in different sized bottles. North of the border, grapefruit seed extract is used, as well as other commercial products. A solution of Clorox (sodium hypochlorite) and water is effective, but a rinse with potable water is needed, plus chlorine has environmental issues. Microdyn and Bacdyn solutions don’t need to be rinsed off, a plus if you live in Mexico or another country where drinking water is purchased.
I use Microdyn, and have noticed that different sized bottles contain different concentrations. The largest bottles are not as concentrate as the smallest, so more Microdyn is needed.
To soak: first wash off any obvious soil. Always read the instructions for the proportion of solution to water and how many minutes to soak. Various brands and different sizes of the same brand call for different amounts of concentration to water. Use tap water, not purified water, because the antibacterial product kills any bacteria in the water as well. After all, this is the same procedure for purifying unclean drinking water.
After soaking for the specified time, place produce in a colander or on a clean dish towel to drain. You don’t need to rinse off the soak solution (unless you used chlorine bleach, and then only with pure water). Allow to air dry completely, as drier produce stays fresher longer in the fridge.
If you elect to clean your fruits and vegetables with chlorine bleach, do not use scented chlorine or color-safe bleaches. The University of Nebraska, USA, suggests using 1 1/2 teaspoons bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) in one gallon of water. Do not wash before storing. Rinse just before using. Clorox brand bleach contains 5.25% sodium hydrochlorite.
Ohio State University, USA, instructs to soak produce for 15-20 minutes in a chlorine bleach solution. The amount of bleach to add to water depends on the percentage of chlorine it contains. For 2% chlorine, use 3/4 tablespoon per quart of water. For 4% chlorine, use 1 teaspoon per quart of water. For 6% chlorine, use 1/2 teaspoon per quart of water. Rinse thoroughly with safe drinking water.
North of the border, a product called Fit is sold for cleaning produce. The makers claim it removes chemicals on the surface, but their web site offers no claims that it kills surface bacteria.
Cleaning products that contain grapefruit seed extract are more effective, as GSE, as it is known, has been found to eliminate fungus and bacteria.(It is used in hospitals as a cleaning agent.) Look in health food stores and natural food stores for products containing grapefruit seed extract.
Produce can also be cleaned with a solution of one cup of vinegar to three cups of water. Either spray fruits and vegetables with this solution, waiting three minutes before rinsing in clean water, or soak produce for three minutes and then rinse in water. Use a scrub brush to clean dirt in crevasses.
Cross contamination is common. Unsoaked squash or broccoli are cut up for cooking in your kitchen. Then salad ingredients are prepared on the same cutting board, using the same knife. Cross contamination has just occurred. Even hands contribute to cross contamination. By soaking every fresh fruit and vegetable, you will join the practice of the majority of cooks and kitchens in Mexico.
Disinfect all your produce as soon as you come home from shopping. Make it a policy to not put any uncleaned fruits and veggies in the fridge. This way, everything is ready to grab and eat, or cook, without stopping to clean and soak. And an unsuspecting family member will not reach for an uncleaned apple.
The same disinfectant solution may be used many times over, provided the water appears clean and does not have dirt and spoiled plant parts accumulating. I normally prepare one container of Microdyn and water and re-use it until all the produce brought home from the market has been disinfected. This is on the advice of my husband, a former chemist, who says that ionized silver, the active ingredient in Microdyn and Bacdyn, does not break down or get “used up” with successive soakings.
Be aware of cross contamination. Don’t allow unsoaked produce to be stored with clean. If you used a cutting board and knife to trim before soaking, wash them thoroughly with hot water and soap before prepping soaked veggies.
Cilantro, tomatoes and other produce may have obvious soil or dried mud on the surface. Rinse off completely before using a soak solution.
To clean tight heads of lettuce and cabbage, remove the outer leaves. The inner head is already clean, as it grew from the inside, protected by the outer leaves. If you buy a head of cabbage already cut in half, a common occurrence in Mexico, it will need to be soaked, as you have no way of knowing if the knife, hands and cutting board were properly cleaned first. Never buy watermelons or papayas that have already been halved at the store.
Mushrooms and strawberries are too absorbent to soak in a solution without becoming water-logged. Walmart sells a spray to use on fruits and vegetables, and this is probably the best way to clean these two. The active ingredient is “citrus seed extract”. Spray and wait 10 minutes. For other spray products, follow the instructions.
Update on cleaning mushrooms and strawberries: remove all detritus from mushrooms with a mushroom cleaning brush (sold for this purpose, then rinse — don’t soak — then cook tnoroughly. Don’t eat raw. For strawberries, rinse briefly, don’t soak, in a Microdyn/water solution that has already sat for 10 minutes to purify the water. Drain and eat fresh. Our area sells strawberries labeled Driscoll, the same strawberries sold in the US where produce is not routinely soaked to sanitize. Using the reasoning that Driscoll strawberries are not soaked north of the border, I don’t soak them here. THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE, JUST MY PERSONAL PRACTICE. (9/17/18)
A special note for travelers: if you are on the road in Mexico, or anywhere, and want to disinfect the fruits and vegetables you purchase in the markets, travel with a zip lock bag and a small bottle of Microdyn, available in any grocery store, even in the smallest Mexican towns. Disinfect your produce in the zip lock bag first before eating. You do not have to use purified water, as the Microdyn disinfects water, also. In fact, Microdyn will disinfect drinking water if you are unsure of its purity, though these days, purified water can be purchased anywhere in Mexico. We also travel with a small cutting board, knife and vegetable peeler.
What can go wrong?
1. Mould on the top
If mould starts to grow on top of jam, I just spoon it off, give it to the hens and continue to eat the rest. Keep the jam in the fridge from then on and use it as soon as possible. When we were little, Mummy would just tell us to stir in the mould and eat it because it was penicillin and good for us – I'm not sure about that but I am alive to tell the tale! Having said that, eating mouldy shop-bought jam is a different matter and certainly not advisable. If you remove jam to a separate dish to serve it in, do not add it back to the main pot afterwards or it will go boozy. Mould grows on top of jam when:
(a) jars are not properly sterilised
(b) the fruit was picked while wet
Sugar crystals appear on top and sometimes through the jam. The jam is safe to eat but will taste very sweet and gritty. Crystallisation is caused when:
(a) too much sugar is added
(b) the sugar is not properly dissolved
(c) the jam is over- or under-boiled
When fermentation occurs, the jam will start to bubble and can smell gassy when the lid is removed. Jam that has fermented should not be eaten. Fermentation can occur when:
(a) the jam is undercooked
(b) the fruit was wet when harvested
(c) the jars were not properly cleaned and sterilised
This Is the Only Way to Wash Fruit - Recipes
Pressure Canning Fruit & Water Bath Canning
Wash and assemble canning equipment, utensils and containers. Make sure you have everything that you need before you start fruit preparation. Once you begin the canning process you need to work as quickly as possible without delays.
Use authentic Mason or Ball canner jars. Examine and discard those with nicks, cracks and rough edges. These defects will not permit an air-tight seal. All jars should be washed in hot soapy water, rinsed well and then kept hot. This can be done in a dishwasher or by placing the jars in the water that is heating in your canner. The jars need to be kept hot to prevent breakage when they are filled with a hot product and placed in the kettle for processing.
Jars that will be filled with food and processed for less than 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner need to be sterilized by boiling in water for 10 minutes. NOTE: If you are at an altitude of 1000 feet or more, boil an additional minute for each additional 1000 feet of altitude. (i.e.) 5000 feet=5 minutes longer.
Gather fruit and vegetables early in the morning when they are at their peak of quality. Do not use over-ripe products. Gather or purchase only as much as you can prepare within 2 or 3 hours.
Wash products by either quick soaking and/or rinsing making sure to remove all dirt and sand including any chemicals that may be present. Dirt contains some of the bacteria that are hardest to kill. The cleaner the raw foods, the more effective the preserving process. Do not can decayed or damaged fruit. Do not let the food soak it will lose flavor and nutrients.
Fill the kettle with the appropriate amount of hot water and begin heating it on the range. The water bath requires 1 to 2 inches of water above the tops of jars. This can be difficult to determine before the filled jars are in place but after a batch or two you will learn how much water you you have to add. It is always a good idea to have an extra small pot of water heating just in case.
Raw Pack (Cold Pack)
Pack raw fruit into jars and cover with boiling hot sugar syrup, juice or water. It is necessary to leave a head space between the lid and the top of food or liquid. This space is needed for the bubbling of liquids and fruit expansion. If the jars are filled too full the contents may overflow during processing. The amount of head space is usually between 1/8 and 1/2 inch. Check the individual recipe for the exact amount of head space.
Heat fruit in syrup, in water or over steam before packing. Fruits with a high juice content and tomatoes can be pre-heated without adding liquid and then packed in the juice that cooks out.
Pack each jar to within 1/4 inch of top or as specified in individual recipe. For non-liquid foods(ie. peaches) it is necessary to remove any trapped air bubbles by running a rubber spatula or table knife gently between the solid product and the edge of the jar. Add more hot syrup as needed. Wipe rim and screw threads with a clean damp cloth, place lid on top and screw bands on tightly and evenly to hold rubber sealing lid (or sealing ring) in place. Sometimes it is necessary to position and hold down sealing lid while you tighten the band to insure the lid is centered on the top of the jar. Do not over-tighten. Jars are then ready to be placed on the rack inside hot water canner.
Place jars on rack immediately after packing. Lower filled rack into canner. Jars should be covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Add additional boiling water if needed. If you add more water, pour between jars and not directly on them (this is where the extra pot of heated water comes in handy). Cover pot with lid. When the water comes to a rolling boil, start to count the processing time. Boil gently and steadily for the time recommended for the food being processed. When the cooking time is up, remove jars at once and place on a rack or on towels away from heat and away from any draft.
After jars have cooled between 12 and 24 hours after processing, check seal. To do this press down on the center of the lid. The lid should be con-caved and not move when pressed. Another method is to tap the lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a high-pitched sound. If it makes a dull sound it means the lid is not sealed or possibly that food is in contact with the underside of the lid. Do not be alarmed if during the first the first hour or so of cooling if you hear a popping sound come from the jars. This is a good sound to hear as it most often means that the vacuum effect has taken place which causes the lids to pop down and seal.
After jars have cooled thoroughly, the screw bands may be removed if desired. Be sure to label canned jars with content and processing date. Store jars in a cool dark, dry place.
Canned fruits oftentimes will float if the sugar syrup is too heavy, if jars are packed too loosely or if air remains in the tissues of the fruit after processing. To avoid this use a light or medium sugar syrup, make sure fruit is firm and ripe and pack fruit tightly in jars without crushing.
If fruit is not covered by liquid it may darken during storage but does not necessarily mean it is spoiled. To avoid this be sure fruit is covered by liquid while still leaving the recommended head space. Also be sure to remove trapped air bubbles with a slim rubber scraper, spatula or kitchen knife. To do this effectively, tilt the jar slightly while running the tool between the fruit and the edge of the jar and also pressing inward against the fruit a few times.
Canned peaches, pears and apples may show a blue, red or pink color change after processing. This is sometimes the result of natural chemical changes that occur as fruits are heated.
A spatula-shaped wooden spoon that has a flat end instead of rounded, is good to have for stirring sugar syrup in a flat bottomed pan during the cooking process.
Avoid storing canned food near a furnace, water heater or hot water pipes. Jars need to be kept cool for longer storage life and to protect against spoilage. Be sure to store in a dry place. Rusting of the lid or band can cause seal to break.
To avoid freezing in extremely cold storage environments, wrap canned jars with newspaper and place in heavy cardboard boxes. Cover boxes with a heavy cloth of blanket if necessary.
When packing jars, is the head space really important?
Yes, leaving the specified amount of head space in a jar is allows a vacuum seal during processing. If too little head space is allowed the food may expand and bubble out when air is being forced out from under the lid during processing. The bubbling food may leave a deposit on the rim of the jar or the seal of the lid and prevent the jar from sealing properly If too much head space is allowed, the food at the top is likely to dis-color and jars may not seal.
How long will canned food keep?
Properly canned food stored in a cool, dry place will retain optimum eating quality for at least 1 year. Canned food stored in a warm place near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, or in indirect sunlight may lose some of its eating quality in a few weeks or months, depending on the temperature. Dampness may corrode bands or metal lids and cause leakage which will spoil the contents.
Do jars need to be sterilized before processing?
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, however it is good practice to take the extra time and sterilize anyway. You can never be too careful when it comes to food safety.
Jars that will be processed in a boiling water bath kettle for less than 10 minutes need to be sterilized by boiling them in hot water for 10 minutes before they're filled.
Is it safe to use an oven for food processing?
No. This can be dangerous because the temperature will vary according to the accuracy of oven regulators and circulation of heat. Dry heat is very slow in penetrating into jars of food. Also, jars explode easily in the oven.
Why do you have to exhaust a pressure canner?
If the pot is not exhausted, the inside temperature may not correspond to the pressure on the gauge. Steam should be allowed to escape for 10 minutes before closing the valve.
Should liquid lost during processing be replaced?
No. Loss of liquid does not cause food to spoil, though the food above the liquid may darken.
Is it all right to reuse jar lids and bands?
Lids should never be used a second time since the sealing compound becomes indented by the first use, preventing another airtight seal. Screw bands may be reused unless they are badly rusted or the top edge is pried up which would prevent a proper seal.
Is it safe to use the open kettle canning method?
No. In open kettle canning, food is cooked in an ordinary kettle, then packed into hot jars and sealed without processing. The temperatures obtained in open kettle canning are not hot enough to kill all the dangerous microorganisms in the food. Contamination may also occur during the transferring of food from the kettle into the jars.
What causes the undersides of jar lids to dis-color?
Natural compounds in some foods, particularly acids, corrode metal and make a dark deposit on the underside of jar lids. This deposit is harmless providing the jar has a good seal and the contents have been properly processed.
- Using commercial food jars rather than jars designed for home canning
- Using jars that have chips or hairline cracks
- Putting jars directly on bottom of canner instead of on a rack
- Allowing jars to bump against each other during processing
- Putting hot food in cold jars
- Putting jars of raw or unheated food directly into boiling water in the canner. This sudden change of temperature is too great and will crack jars.
Questions About Canning Vegetables and Fruits
Is it safe to can food without salt?
Yes. Salt is used for flavor only and is not necessary to prevent spoilage.
Is it safe to can fruits without sugar?
Yes. Sugar is added to improve flavor, help stabilize color, and retain the shape of the fruit. It is not added as a preservative.
Can fruits and vegetables be canned without heating if aspirin is used?
No. Aspirin should not be used in canning. It cannot be relied on to prevent spoilage or to give satisfactory products. Adequate heat treatment is the only safe procedure.
Is it safe to can green beans in a boiling water bath if vinegar is used?
No. Recommended processing methods must be used to assure safety. Recommended processing times cannot be shortened if vinegar is used in canning fresh vegetables (this does not refer to pickled vegetables).
Should all vegetables be precooked before canning?
For best quality, yes. However, some vegetables can be packed raw or cold into jars before being processed in the pressure canner.
What vegetables expand instead of shrink during processing?
Corn, peas and lima beans are starchy and expand during processing. They should be packed loosely.
What causes corn to turn brown during processing?
This occurs most often when too high a temperature is used causing caramelization of the sugar in the corn. It may also be caused by some minerals in the water used in canning.
Questions About Canning Meats
Should giblets of chicken be canned in the same jar with chicken?
No. Their flavor may permeate other pieces of chicken in the jar.
Is it safe to can meat and poultry without salt?
Yes. Salt is used for flavor only and is not necessary for safe processing.
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While trying to figure out what to do with about 75 pounds of fruit that our citrus trees bestowed upon us in January, we came across an interesting fact: marmalade is really easy to make. People of older generations may know this already, but so far as we knew, marmalade was one of those mysterious things that strictly comes from a jar. It turns out that all you need is citrus fruit, water, sugar and some time on the stovetop.
The first step is to peel the fruit. We’ve made lemon, lemon-orange, and orange marmalade, but you can use pretty much any citrus fruit.
We looked around a bit and settled on this recipe primarily because of its simplicity. It scales well. For a large batch, just keep peeling and cutting fruit until the pot is full or your hands were tired. You can also scale down–grab a couple of oranges from the cafeteria and you’ll make a lot of friends in your dorm kitchen.
The peels need to be cut into little slivers for the appropriate texture in the marmalade. If you stack up the pieces, you can cut a bunch at once.
Many recipes recommend removing the white pith because it is bitter. Other recipes recommend removing the pith and reserving it, cooking it along with the fruit in a cheesecloth bundle and removing it at the end, presumably to allow extraction of the pectin. Many jam and jelly recipes call for pectin to be added, but it isn’t needed for marmalade because of the amount of pectin already present in the skin and pith of the citrus fruit.
Some recipes call for a blanching or soaking stage. The primary purpose of blanching is to remove the bitterness from the pith and peel. We like bitter marmalade, so we left in most of the pith and didn’t soak or blanch the peels or fruit. That also keeps the recipe simple– just slice up the fruit and throw it in the pot with the peel pieces.
The fruit and peel are cooked in water until they’re good and soft. It takes a while (about an hour), but once you’ve got a nice simmer going, you can ignore it pretty well.
The sugar goes in. Lots of sugar. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar (with ten lemons). The 4 cups of water barely covered the raw fruit (in a saucepan with roughly equal depth and diameter). For scaling the recipe up or down, you can use that as a rough guide: pour in water a cup at a time until the fruit is almost covered, then once everything’s soft add as much sugar as you did water.
Stir in the sugar, and bring it up to a boil, stirring regularly.
The original recipe says to cook it until it’s 220 degrees fahrenheit. If you’re one of the few with a well-calibrated thermometer, congratulations. For the rest of us, put a spoonful of the proto-marmalade on a cool plate. If it’s still runny after cooling for a minute, keep simmering a little longer. It should show signs of jelling after cooking for 45 minutes to an hour.
That’s it. You’ve made marmalade!
But now you’re wondering what to do with it. We recommend spreading it on a freshly toasted english muffin. Or maybe a crumpet.
You can put the rest of it in a bowl, let it cool, then keep it in the fridge and use it. Or you can can it. Canning is not as scary as it sounds. You pour the warm marmalade into warm jars, wipe the rims clean, put a clean lid and rim on them and boil the jars covered with water for 15 minutes.
There are lots of kinds of canning setups but the simplest is a pot with a spacer to keep the jars off the bottom. While you can get dedicated canning kettles with jar racks inexpensively, you don’t really need any special equipment. Rules of thumb: your pot needs to be deeper than your jars so you can cover them with water, and the jars shouldn’t rest on the bottom of the pot, so as to avoid thermal stress. You can put a small wire cooling rack, a vegetable steamer, or an array of skewers tied together in the pot to keep the jars off the bottom.
After boiling the jars, you can ladle out some of the water and lift your jars out with an oven mitt. However, a set of jar lifting tongs doesn’t cost much and makes that step easier. A wide mouthed funnel is nice since it keeps stuff of the rims of the jars, but is also not necessary, especially if you get wide mouthed jars.
The folks who make Ball jars have some nice overviews (pdf) of canning techniques.
You may recognize our technique as one common in mathematics. We have reduced a difficult problem (what to do with 75 pounds of citrus) into a problem whose solution is well known: what to do with many jars of marmalade. QED.