Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Day 70 Bottling Meat and Managing Risk
Bottled meat is nice to have if one is trying to live off one's shelves, it is also great to have just for convenience, and bottling meat saves a lot of money when meat is purchased on sale. The process is not really difficult but it does require adherence to strict guidelines to minimize the risk of food spoilage. My mother bottled thousands of quarts and 2 quart bottles of fruit throughout my lifetime. There was additional risk due to our high altitude in Wyoming. She managed that risk by cooking the fruit in the jars before sealing and processing the jars. This eliminated any chance that the fruit would expand and push the lids or let a little pulp get on the rim compromising a seal. She made sure all air bubbles were worked out as the fruit boiled in the canner then wiped the rims clean and dry before putting the hot sterilized lids on the jar. Finally she processed the fruit extra time to correct for higher altitude. She never put any jars on the shelf that had not sealed. Nevertheless we were taught to always make sure the lid was on tight when we opened the bottle. If not, we were to toss it. Common Sense enabled us to eat.
I am so glad that several of the readers of this blog have commented on the safety of bottling butter. They left an excellent web address to get answers to all canning questions. (www.uga.edu/nchfp/questions/FAQ_canning.html Botulism Spores are everywhere. They do not really harm us unless kept in an environment without any air then toxins begin to be produced. Toxins, which can make us ill and be fatal, can be disabled by boiling food for 10 minutes. To manage the risk with butter there are several levels possible:
1) Only use freezer preserved butter.
2) Boil the butter to disable toxins prior to sealing.
3) Use butter preserved this way only in cooking so that the butter is heated and toxins disabled. During this challenge, we have used most of our butter in cookies and Magic Mix white sauce which are both heated well.
4) As a spread, one could gently boil the butter again before use. The butter is grainy when it hardens but the flavor is good. As it cools after boiling the second time, gently invert the jar several times to promote mixing into a creamy cloud. Once melted on toast, the graininess is unnoticeable.
Or 5) As the web site notes most of the Internet methods promote "open kettle" bottling. Butter is a low acid food like meat. Meat can be pressure canned to kill the botulism spores. Researchers have simply not collected data to know if botulism can be killed in butter as well. I pressure canned half pint jars for 20 minutes and 75 minutes at 14 pounds pressure just to be sure Omaha's elevation isn't off 2000 feet or my gauge is bad (11 pounds is recommended). The 75 minute processing left the butter slightly browned. The 20 minute processing was the same as open kettle in appearance. Neither flavor was unacceptable. I would be grateful to have either one my shelves after three months of living off what we have.
The lids sealed well within five minutes of removing them from the heat. There is some concern that greasy meats and butter would get on the lip of the jar and prevent sealing. I melted the butter, filled the jar (sterilized with water and soap), wiped the lip smooth and dry, screwed the sterilized lid on tightly and processed it in the pressure canner.
At any perspective one is managing the risk to be within acceptable limits of safety. Butter is sold from big blocks that are 1 cubic yard square in Estonia. People are not dropping like flies. It was kept at room temperature in the late 1800's. The web site reports butter is sold in shelf stable tins in foreign countries. The risk seems to be manageable to me.
I have read, cheese, also reportedly at risk for botulism, is still dipped in wax and kept at room temperature in the Wisconsin grocery stores and many European vendors still have hard cheese hanging from the ceiling ripening to delicious perfection.
Even the web site on canning standards manages risk: "Good quality butter is available at all times, if butter is needed for fresh use." Pictures below show how well the grocers were able to manage this risk just two months ago when the storms hit the East Coast. They ordered in extra trucks to prepare for the predicted storms. You can see how long their preparation lasted. These pictures are taken two days after the first storm.
Thank Goodness we can govern ourselves to a level of risk with which we feel comfortable.
We made two batches of bread today. One burned so we trimmed off the crust and kept the middle for croutons. We used Rye flour that has been in the freezer for months. The bread has a wholesome, grainy taste. I like it but I would really enjoy butter on it and we don't have enough for spreads.
Breakfast: Leftovers with muffins
Lunch: Goulash - macaroni, hamburger, and tomato with corn added. This was my favorite dish in school lunch when we had Grandma Elsi doing the cooking.
Snack: frozen yogurt
Dinner: Everyone was on their own. Two chose black beans and rice, two chose cream of chicken soup and the little ones chose peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I chose the black beans with rice. My husband is out of town again and so spared eating more beans. (He loves the taste but doesn't like the risk of flatulance at work.)