2 Considerations When You Bottle And Preserve Produce And Other Foods At Home

Posted on: 27 October 2015

Bottling your own fresh produce and other foods can take time, but it is worthwhile when you are able to enjoy the food all through the winter. Here are two aspects of the bottling process you need to consider to help make your preserving successful.

Water Bath Canner or Pressure Canner

According to the National Institutes of Health, vegetables that are canned (bottled) at home are a leading cause of food-borne botulism. Botulism spores are harmless on fresh foods, but they will thrive in a bottled environment, which is void of oxygen and has low acid levels, and a temperature of between 40 and 120 degrees F. When you bottle your own food, you need to consider the acid level in each food you bottle, so you use the right method to process them. Botulism is a danger you need to take seriously, as it can lead to sickness or death if consumed.

Foods that are naturally low in acid, such as vegetables, meats, beans, and soups are at risk of growing botulism after they have been bottled. Processing low acid foods in a water bath canner won't reach a high enough temperature to kill the botulism spores. After bottling, the spores will germinate, multiply, and die inside the bottles, giving off toxins in your foods. So, It is important to use a pressure canner when bottling low acid foods. 

High acid foods, such as fruits, jams, and jellies can be bottled either with a pressure canner or by immersing your bottles in boiling water in a water bath canner. The high acid content in these foods prevents botulism from growing after bottling them, even when you process them in a water bath canner. Remember to always follow the processing time in your bottling recipe for either processing method you are using.

Tomatoes are a fruit, but they are low in acid, so you need to process them in a pressure canner or add lemon juice when you use the water bath method. When using the water bath processing method, you will need to add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint of tomatoes bottled, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart of tomatoes bottled.

Bottle Labels

After spending many months growing your garden, picking the produce, then spending the time to preserve it in bottles, make sure you label the bottles correctly. With good labeling, you can rotate and use the food while it has the highest quality. 

Once you have made sure your preserving bottles have all sealed to keep the food from spoiling, attach pre-made or blank labels to each of your preserving bottles. Then, write the contents of the bottle on each label. This is helpful if you forget and can't recognize the contents from the outside of the bottle, or if you give the bottled food away as a gift. Then, it is a good idea to write the month and year you bottled the food to help you use and rotate your food storage appropriately. 

It can be helpful to use two labels for each bottle. Add a food label to the top of each lid, so you can easily read what is inside the bottle if you are looking from above at the tops of a group of bottles. Then, place a second label on the side of each bottle, so you can read each bottle's contents as you view it from the front. For tips on bottle labels, contact companies like Northwest Label.

As long as you have used the right home bottling methods, your home bottled foods can be safely stored for one year. Make sure you keep the bottled foods stored between 50 and 70 degrees F and out of direct sunlight. After one year, natural chemical changes can occur in the bottled foods, which will affect the flavor, color, texture, and the food's nutritional value. After one year, you can still consume the bottled food, but it will not be its best quality.