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The last word on The Great Mayonnaise Jar Debate: don't.

Countryside: On the "great mayonnaise jar debate," I was going to put in my two cents worth, but just could not think of the right words then as did Julie Keith.

I am a graduate nutritionist and I flipped when Mrs. Martha Johnson made all her statements about "not hurting anyone yet." I do hope all this information has made sense to her. Every now and again we hear of persons at some school, church or family picnic, or social gathering dying and a lot of other people becoming very ill.

I did not like--fully--Julie Keith's explanation between bacteria, toxin and bad odor. It just was not strong enough!

Many times there is no smell or odor! Never mind 10 hours or six minutes -- toxin is not killed, destroyed or removed!

All this talk about what to do or what not to do with the "bad" stuff is also lunacy!

1. Do not use mayonnaise jars for canning (or any other jar not made for canning).

When I was a young boy, my mother always told me, "If something is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well." Do we not make the best soil, plant the best seed, give the best of our selves, or purchase the best with our hard-earned money? Then why be cheap or use something less than the best to store or care for our food stock?

2. There will be those who will say, "It's all I can afford." If one wants to he or she can find good canning jars at sales, even outlets, after the season. Why put your life and those of your family and friends on the line just to save a few pennies?

3. "Sterile" -- untouched -- period! Paper towels are not sterile either. Mother used to splash a little boiling water over the rim (tomatoes come to mind) and lifted each lid or rubber ring or whatever out of the boiling water and nothing was ever touched to the seal that was not sterile. Who says the lip needs to be dry anyway? (Ed. note: "Dry" isn't the point. Paper towels were suggested as an alternative to wiping jar rims with a dishcloth--and is any canner deft enough to consistently avoid spilling? Even a small particle can hinder sealing.)

My mother was very careful of her jars. It was our well-being and her hard work she was protecting. She did not use mayonnaise jars for canning! Sure, we had the big jars filled with oatmeal, cornmeal, beans, beans and more beans. Red ones, yellow ones, green ones, black ones, pinto -- you name it, it was there, easy to see. And yes, every now and again a jar would break -- that is the mayonnaise or mustard or pickle jar. Mother never lost a canning jar. Never had a spoiled can or jar of any food she processed; she used both the water bath and pressure cooker.

Homesteading fails when we take risks; children have enough risks just having parents. How does anyone know if we have been lucky or not? Who is going to talk about their "green apple two-step" after an outing or overeating Aunt Jane's delicious pickles? There should be a set of rules -- and I know there is -- but it should be published every year:

A. Do not use jars not meant for home canning.

B. Know what you are doing and how to do it.

C. Know what sterile is!

D. Know what sanitation is and how to achieve and maintain it.

Know the danger and difference between bacteria and toxins. Know the difference between "animal" and "plant," or "fungus," or "toxins," and what it takes to make them harmless.

We do not want to live a life of just being "lucky." At least I don't. -- L. W. Erdman, Coldwater, Michigan

A magazine reader might think that "the rules" could be published once a year and' that would be that. It's not that simple.

This discussion has been going on for years, and it's clear that some people just aren't going to listen to the more scientific side of the debate. After the letter from biochemist Julie Keith, we received the one above--and several from home canners who scoffed at the advice and said they'll continue to use the questioned practices and materials.

Editors are patient, especially involving topics that demonstrate reader interest by bringing in mail, but there are limits.

We're not going to prolong what is deteriorating into a shouting match. However, if you still feel compelled to defend using non-approved canning jars, I'd be interested in knowing why.

As reader Erdman notes, cost can hardly be considered a factor, certainly in the long term: some of our canning jars are providing for the fifth generation. Our grandchildren eat food from some of the same jars their great-great grandparents did.

If it's because "I've been using other jars for years and haven't had any problems yet," it could be that reader Erdman is right again: you've just been lucky. But not everybody has luck, and luck runs out anyway.

Some homesteaders tend to distrust, or even disbelieve, people with book learnin' when that learning goes against their personal experience or what they learned from their parents. In some cases that has turned out to be valid, or at least the scientifically educated have gone overboard--as in the case of the professor who told us a few years ago that all home canning should be banned! However, this strikes us as a very different situation.

As a service to inexperienced canners (who, Heaven knows, are already confused enough) we will not be printing any more mentions of questionable canning procedures. As much as we favor frugality, that's insignificant in this case. As much as we promote recycling, this is a form that's too risky (and important) to promote. As much as we sometimes distrust academia, this time it has a point.

But if any of you old-timers who apparently have such strong feelings on the subject still don't buy into current scientific knowledge of food safety, please tell us why.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:canning with recycled jars
Author:Erdman, L.W.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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