Acid Levels and Safe Canning



The quintessential canning question: do I need a pressure canner to can low acid foods? Its sister question: do I -really- need to add acid to my tomatoes?

The short answer: yes, but it’s also not like there’s canning police.

If you see a conversation on line about canning where people are getting up in arms about the green bean war (what I call the raging that breaks about water bath canning green beans), the thing is, there are the ‘traditional’ methods of canning low acid foods, which include excessively long processing times in a water bath canner for decidedly low acid foods like green beans-and then there are the more modern, tested methods that say that no, it’s too risky, use a pressure canner for low acid food. A lot of canners will suggest using only tested, modern methods because a lot of the canners reading these discussions are new. They don’t have decades of experience behind them.

They’re also looking at things like the recent botulism outbreak in Pennsylvania that was connected to improperly canned produce and wondering what they should do, because they want to can but it seems to be dangerous.

You can use a water bath canner for low acid foods if you acidify them. That means doing things like pickling vegetables and adding acid to tomatoes to ensure the acidity levels. They are no longer suggested for low acid foods on their own.

I personally am not comfortable ignoring acid rules-and therefore I don’t recommend older techniques. I don’t recommend open kettle canning either for that reason. I also frankly don’t find the price output and time usage to be so high with new techniques that I feel that I can’t afford newer techniques. A box of lids is a couple of dollars, a water bath canner can be a stock pot, the squeezy lime bottle of juice is less than a dollar on sale. As in, it really doesn’t take that long to follow new standards.

But by all means, if you want to do what you’ve been doing no one is going to stop you. However, people suggesting to switch over to newer techniques also isn’t a personal attack. It’s not a statement about you if someone on line (like me) tells you in a blog post or wherever to add acid to your tomatoes to water bath them, to make sure that you’re using a pressure canner for green beans, or that canning pumpkin puree is no longer suggested. It’s all your personal comfort level-but mine is that I will tell you to acidify your foods in your projects where acid levels are dicey, or use your freezer (like the pineapple salsa recipe) or a pressure canner.


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