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Are my canned tomatoes safe to eat?


hazardnc
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The SO and I put up 5 qts of romas on Sunday. This is only our second attempt at canning tomatoes, and I am still a bit insecure about what I am doing. We followed all the directions re: sterilizing, getting rid of air bubbles, leaving 1/2 of space and wiping the rims, etc. But, while they were processing, some of the liquid from the jars seeped out - enough that it is quite noticeable. The lids seemed to seal - they do not "pop" when pushed down - but I am concerned that the reduction in liquid at the top combined with a chance of tomato juice build-up inder the lids will mean botulism. Any suggestions?

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Anecdotal evidence only, but I have frequently had the same issue and never gave it a second thought. If the seal on the lids is good, I don't worry about it. As long as you have enough acid, and processed long enough, and properly sterilized, I think you will be fine.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Personal experience here.

This is the "head space" issue. When processed the contents of the jar make physical contact with the lid. Quite often there is leakage through the seals during processing, but keep in mind that too little head space is better than too much head space. Too much head space will leave air in the jar, that nutures the bacteria that you are trying to avoid.

Happens to me all the time. Maybe one in 5 or 6 jars, because I am paranoid and tend to push the head space to a minimum.

You followed all the directions, the seals are good. Enjoy them this winter!

Edit to add: Oh, I always, after the jars have cooled for 24, remove the rings and wash the exterior with hot, soapy water. You don't want that gunk on the outside of the jars and ruing your rings in storage. Additionally, once the seal is made, the rings are superfluous.

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Too much head space will leave air in the jar, that nutures the bacteria that you are trying to avoid.

This is incorrect. C. botulinum requires anaerobic conditions for spore outgrowth and toxin formation.

Also note that many varieties of tomatoes are low in acid. Unless the tomatoes are sufficiently acidified pre-canning they cannot be assumed to be acidic enough to prevent C. bot outgrowth.

Kevin

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Too much head space will leave air in the jar, that nutures the bacteria that you are trying to avoid.

This is incorrect. C. botulinum requires anaerobic conditions for spore outgrowth and toxin formation.

Also note that many varieties of tomatoes are low in acid. Unless the tomatoes are sufficiently acidified pre-canning they cannot be assumed to be acidic enough to prevent C. bot outgrowth.

That's a really good point: even if the jars did seal properly, you can end up with botulism in tomatoes if you didn't add some kind of acid (or at least make sure there was enough acid naturally present).

That said, I assume what annecros was saying is that there are other kinds of nasties that can grow if there's too much air in the jar. Mostly molds, I would guess. But at least mold is visible.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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We will be canning our tomatoes starting tomorrow.

I peel and quarter the tomatoes and bring the to a boil. I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint, add tomatoes, and wipe off the top of the jars with a clean damp cloth. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath to which I have added about a half cup of white vinegar. Process for 35 minutes after the water boils.

Remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt. You should hear the caps start to pop within a few minutes.

It's important to use bottled lemon juice rather than fresh because acid is variable in fresh lemons.

Why put vinegar in the water? I have extremely hard water and if it is used straight I will get white film on the jars that's a real PITA to get off.

Edited by BarbaraY (log)
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Too much head space will leave air in the jar, that nutures the bacteria that you are trying to avoid.

This is incorrect. C. botulinum requires anaerobic conditions for spore outgrowth and toxin formation.

Also note that many varieties of tomatoes are low in acid. Unless the tomatoes are sufficiently acidified pre-canning they cannot be assumed to be acidic enough to prevent C. bot outgrowth.

I did in fact, word that awkwardly. I assumed that the use of the phrase "followed all the directions" included the recipe for the tomatoes, in addition to the sterilization and processing times.

Botulism also requires the presence of spores in the first place in addition to the right growing conditions.

It is, however rather rare:

Food poisoning from botulism is normally rare, with about 30 cases occurring each year, often attributed to home canning. It occurs when the bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum, widely present as harmless spores in normal garden soil and the general environment, grow and produce a potent nerve toxin when contaminated foods are stored in airtight containers. Heating the foods to the proper temperature before storage is key to killing the spores and any harmful toxins that may be present. However, once food is contaminated it's impossible to be sure that all the toxins are eliminated. That's why it's important to throw away all contaminated products.

As long as all the processing directions are followed, and the seals are good, there should be no problem. There are other nasties that are aerobic, but proper processing also prevents these buggars. I think the original poster is fine, but wouldn't wish botulism on my worst enemy, certainly.

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We will be canning our tomatoes starting tomorrow.

I peel and quarter the tomatoes and bring the to a boil. I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint, add tomatoes, and wipe off the top of the jars with a clean damp cloth. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath to which I have added about a half cup of white vinegar. Process for 35 minutes after the water boils.

Remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt. You should hear the caps start to pop within  a few minutes.

It's important to use bottled lemon juice rather than fresh because acid is variable in fresh lemons.

Why put vinegar in the water? I have extremely hard water and if it is used straight I will get white film on the jars that's a real PITA to get off.

Umm, I gotta ask . . . why must one "remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt"? I ask because 1) I recently canned a bunch of peaches and I know that they got tilted on their way out of the pot, and 2) I want to can heirlooms when they show up at the farmer's market, and I don't want anyone to get hurt along the way.

Are my peaches ruined? And, what will happen if I tilt the tomatoes when it's their turn?

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Per the instructions in my Ball canning book, I added 2 TBSP bottle lemon juice per quart jar, as well as 1 tsp of salt.

How do you know if you have botulism?

The spores or the toxin? All the procedures you followed from the Ball Blue Book - that has been around nearly as long as canning technology has - are designed to eliminate any spores that happen to hitch a ride. The spores simply will not survive the conditions.

The Mortality Rate:

Between 1910 and 1919 the death rate from botulism was 70% in the United States, dropping to 9% in the 1980s and 2% in the early 1990s, mainly because of the development of artificial respirators. Up to 60% of botulism cases can be fatal if left untreated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the current mortality rate is 5% (type B) to 10% (type A). Other sources report that, in the U.S., the overall mortality rate is about 7.5%, but the mortality rate among adults over 60 is 30%. The mortality rate for wound botulism is about 10%. The infant botulism mortality rate is about 1.3%.

Infant Botulism and Wound Botulism are different issues.

List of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

The most recent botulism outbreak was connected to Castleberry's recall.

Umm, I gotta ask . . . why must one "remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt"? I ask because 1) I recently canned a bunch of peaches and I know that they got tilted on their way out of the pot, and 2) I want to can heirlooms when they show up at the farmer's market, and I don't want anyone to get hurt along the way.

I am speaking as a home canner here, but I have had them tip. I am guessing the issue would be that the contents would get under the seal.

That being said, I've never had anything terrible happen after a jar tipped. I pack the canner full, and let the canner cool down naturally before releasing pressure, and if I don't have a full canner for some reason - I snug empty jars into the empty spots. Nevertheless, I get clumsy unloading sometimes. Never lost a seal because of it.

I refrigerate partial jars and use them first, I have maybe one in 50 jars that doesn't seal properly so I use those up. I've had maybe two jars in the last 3 years that lost the seal in storage. It would be hard to estimate how many jars I put up a year, but it is quite a lot.

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sorry - should have been more specific.  I know botulism kills - how do I know if my tomatoes will star in the remake

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES

You follow the directions to the letter, and then don't worry about it any more. :biggrin: If any spores happened to be present, they are dead, and there will be no resulting toxin.

Can't be any worse than some of the other artisinal items that we all know and love to eat.

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Also, if any of the lids bulge later, throw it out. If it smells funky, throw it out. When in doubt, well, you guessed it... That said, I think I've only thrown out one or two jars over a lifetime of canning.

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I couldn't be quite sure whether you were canning using the water bath method or a pressure canner.

We gave up on the water bath method because of uncertainties such as you mention in the end product.

After 30 years of canning with a pressure cooker, we've had a few bottles break during the process, we've had a couple of bottles that, despite feeling the glass lip with our fingers, had a chip that allowed the vacuum to escape. However, in such cases, you can pretty much tell if something is fresh by the look, smell or lack of a "Pop" when removing the lid.

We also pressure cook the jars 5-10 minutes longer than guidelines say, just to be extra safe.

Never gotten sick once in 30 years from our canned stuff. Found some tomato puree we canned 4 years ago, and when opened, it still smelled fresh like the day we canned it.

On the other hand, we made some raspberry puree, using lemon juice and sugar, and I recently found one jar that escaped my attention from 2005 that was dark colored, and didn't smell right when opened so we threw it out.

ON the other hand there was a 1/2 pint jar that was canned in 2006, and it smelled good, and so we used it for salad dressing and on some vanilla Hagen Daz ice cream. Um Um good.

That was a week ago, and I'm here to tell ya.....

Well you get the picture. Throw out the water bath and get a good pressure canner.

They're much safer and more versatile. Buy spare sealing rubber rings for the cover, as they do lose their sealing characteristics after a few years of use.

doc

Edited by deltadoc (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
If the seal on the lids is good, I don't worry about it.

Happens to me all the time. Maybe one in 5 or 6 jars, because I am paranoid and tend to push the head space to a minimum.

You followed all the directions, the seals are good. Enjoy them this winter!

How do you know if the seal is good after the jars have leaked? Do you just use the same tests you normally would, or is there a more rigorous test you can use under these circumstances? I just had some jars of jam leak while they were being processed, and I'd like to be sure they're safe to leave on the shelf. Thanks!

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Remove the screw band from the jar. Can you pick up the jar by its sealed lid (a certain amount of dexterity is required—I don't recommend doing this more than about 3" from the counter or tabletop just in case you drop it. :cool:) Did you acidify the tomatoes with citric acid or lemon juice? Did you process in a boiling water bath or in a steam pressure canner?

If you're uncertain, you can empty the jars and freeze the tomatoes.

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How do you know if the seal is good after the jars have leaked? Do you just use the same tests you normally would, or is there a more rigorous test you can use under these circumstances? I just had some jars of jam leak while they were being processed, and I'd like to be sure they're safe to leave on the shelf. Thanks!

Remove the rings/screw bands and wash the sealed jars to remove leaked jam. If you can pick up the jar by the edges of the sealed lid using your fingertips, your seal is good. Shelf storage should be fine and you will look at the contents when you open the jar to enjoy your jam.

What kind of jam did you make? I've made three batches of Boozy Floozy Peach Jam and still have half a lug of peaches looking at me.

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I couldn't be quite sure whether you were canning using the water bath method or a pressure canner.

We gave up on the water bath method because of uncertainties such as you mention in the end product.

After 30 years of canning with a pressure cooker, we've had a few bottles break during the process, we've had a couple of bottles that, despite feeling the glass lip with our fingers, had a chip that allowed the vacuum to escape.  However, in such cases, you can pretty much tell if something is fresh by the look, smell or lack of a "Pop" when removing the lid.

We also pressure cook the jars 5-10 minutes longer than guidelines say, just to be extra safe.

Never gotten sick once in 30 years from our canned stuff.  Found some tomato puree we canned 4 years ago, and when opened, it still smelled fresh like the day we canned it.

On the other hand, we made some raspberry puree, using lemon juice and sugar, and I recently found one jar that escaped my attention from 2005 that was dark colored, and didn't smell right when opened so we threw it out.

ON the other hand there was a 1/2 pint jar that was canned in 2006, and it smelled good, and so we used it for salad dressing and on some vanilla Hagen Daz ice cream.  Um Um good.

That was a week ago, and I'm here to tell ya.....

Well you get the picture.  Throw out the water bath and get a good pressure canner.

They're much safer and more versatile.  Buy spare sealing rubber rings for the cover, as they do lose their sealing characteristics after a few years of use.

doc

Waterbath processing and steam pressure canning each have their appropriate uses. I would not stop using a boiling water bath for some things and a steam pressure canner is a MUST for other things. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a fine site with tested recipes for a beginner or someone who's been away from preserving for a long time: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp. I wouldn't process sweet spreads under pressure; there is no need for it.

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We will be canning our tomatoes starting tomorrow.

I peel and quarter the tomatoes and bring the to a boil. I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint, add tomatoes, and wipe off the top of the jars with a clean damp cloth. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath to which I have added about a half cup of white vinegar. Process for 35 minutes after the water boils.

Remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt. You should hear the caps start to pop within  a few minutes.

It's important to use bottled lemon juice rather than fresh because acid is variable in fresh lemons.

Why put vinegar in the water? I have extremely hard water and if it is used straight I will get white film on the jars that's a real PITA to get off.

Umm, I gotta ask . . . why must one "remove very carefully from the water so they don't tilt"? I ask because 1) I recently canned a bunch of peaches and I know that they got tilted on their way out of the pot, and 2) I want to can heirlooms when they show up at the farmer's market, and I don't want anyone to get hurt along the way.

Are my peaches ruined? And, what will happen if I tilt the tomatoes when it's their turn?

Jars are put into and removed from the canner straight up so liquid doesn't get between the sealing compound of the lid and the rim of the jar, preventing a seal.

I daresay your peaches are not ruined. If you're acidifying your tomatoes, you should be gold if your jars seal and you processed the correct amount of time. Salt is added for flavor and nothing else; you do not need to add salt.

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How do you know if the seal is good after the jars have leaked? Do you just use the same tests you normally would, or is there a more rigorous test you can use under these circumstances? I just had some jars of jam leak while they were being processed, and I'd like to be sure they're safe to leave on the shelf. Thanks!

Remove the rings/screw bands and wash the sealed jars to remove leaked jam. If you can pick up the jar by the edges of the sealed lid using your fingertips, your seal is good. Shelf storage should be fine and you will look at the contents when you open the jar to enjoy your jam.

What kind of jam did you make? I've made three batches of Boozy Floozy Peach Jam and still have half a lug of peaches looking at me.

Thanks for the reply. I washed the jars pretty shortly after they had cooled down, and only then realized that I probably should have separated out the ones that had visibly leaked. In any case, none of the lids came off when I tugged on them, so I'll just check for mold when I open them! (And warn anyone I give them to...)

Oh, and it was straight-up damson plum jam that I made. Next week is grape jelly!

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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