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Growth of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in canned food may cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.
The processing times in this publication ensure destruction of the largest expected number of heat-resistant microorganisms in home-canned foods. To further reduce the risk of botulism, home canned low-acid and tomato foods should be boiled even if you detect no signs of spoilage.
Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or a boiling-water bath to control botulism bacteria depends on the acidity in the food.
Although tomatoes usually are considered an acid food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6. Acidity of foods helps determine the type of heat processing or home canning required for safe preservation. As with many things in our society, ongoing research continues to increase our knowledge about factors affecting the safety of canned food. Using the process time for canning food at sea level may result in spoilage if you live at altitudes of 1,000 feet or more. Open-kettle canning and the processing of freshly filled jars in conventional ovens, microwave ovens, and dishwashers are not recommended. It is not recommended that pressure processes in excess of 15 PSI be applied when using new pressure canning equipment.
So-called canning powders are useless as preservatives and do not replace the need for proper heat processing. Jars with wire bails and glass caps make attractive antiques or storage containers for dry food ingredients but are not recommended for use in canning.


Devices for canning food in microwave ovens are not recommended because of incomplete destruction of bacteria due to non-uniform heating. CanningHome canning of foods is done using two processing methods based on the type of food being canned. Properly processed, canned food will be free of spoilage if lids seal and jars are stored below 95°F. Combinations of incorrect ingredients, processing times unadjusted for altitude, faulty equipment, and human error may cause the home-canned food to be unsafe for consumption. This ensures that the acid level is great enough to permit water bath processing or allow reduced pressure canning times. New methods have increased processing times or pounds pressure and this requires food be heated to higher temperatures.
Because steam canners may not heat foods in the same manner as boiling water canners, their use with boiling-water process times may result in spoilage. Therefore, if they are to be canned as acid foods, these products with unknown pH must be acidified to a pH of below 4.6 with lemon juice or citric acid. The latest changes in home food preservation methods are based on research sponsored by the USDA and conducted at the Extension Service Center for Excellence, Pennsylvania State University. Because of this there is increased expansion of food in the jars and headspace must also be increased. High acid foods, such as fruits, tomatoes, pickled foods, jams and jellies, are processed using a boiling water bath.
Acid foods contain enough acidity to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated.


Properly acidified tomatoes and figs are acid foods and can be safely processed in a boiling-water bath. The acidity level in foods can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar is included to make them acid foods. Processing acid foods at boiling water temperatures will destroy yeast and molds, the most common forms of spoilage microorganisms in these foods. The highest inhabited elevation in Minnesota (2,000 ft) is used to determine the recommended processing times found in this publication. Blanching also helps, but the vital controls are the method of canning and making sure the recommended research-based process times are used.
At these temperatures, the time needed to destroy bacteria in low-acid canned food ranges from 20 to 100 minutes. However, if you use the charts in the new USDA Canning Guides, select the proper processing time or canner pressure for the altitude where you live. The exact time depends on the kind of food being canned, the way it is packed into jars, and the size of jars. The time needed to safely process low-acid foods in a boiling water canner ranges from 7 to 11 hours.



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