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Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

Posted by kylemob none (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 20, 13 at 1:45

We canned about 20 pints of Concorde grape jelly almost exactly one year ago from now. We just discovered that the jelly never set correctly and is more like a syrup. They were canned correctly and are all sealed, so my question is this:

Can we open up all of the jars and re-cook them from step 1, using pectin etc, or has it been too long since they were first cooked and the entire batch is ruined? If they are not ruined, does it sound like re-canning/cooking would fix the issue? We have never done grapes before so we are suspecting we just failed to cook the jelly long enough before canning and putting them through the water bath. Any advice is much appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

I would open no more than 3 pints at a time (6C) to boil down and reprocess. Of course you could just open 1 at a time to boil down and put into smaller jars, at least as an experiment. The longer you cook it though, the more "cooked" it's going to taste, so it's best to add pectin.

Did you use pectin to begin with, or just the grape juice and sugar? The problem may be more that you canned in pints (esp if you didn't use commercial pectin) than anything. Smaller jars will set up better.

Then again, I had grapes last year that didn't set up - some did, but I knew I was short on (homemade apple) pectin. I remade them with Certo liquid pectin in March and some still didn't set up well. Liquid pectin can be a tricky thing, but it's more convenient to use once you've got sugar added (powdered pectin is supposed to be added before sugar). I may mix some jars in with fresh grape juice (not many grapes this year) and new apple pectin (we're having a great apple year this year, had none last year). Or I may just pour them out since they've already been reprocessed once and the flavor isn't going to improve with doing it again.

If you don't already know about it, there is a Harvest forum on GW with experienced canners who can answer these types of questions. The go-to site for everyone there is the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCFHP), I've linked their instructions for remaking jelly below, 3 different methods depending upon your choice of pectin. Ball (freshpreserving.com) is also a good resource.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remaking soft jelly


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 20, 13 at 21:21

Kylemob,

I make jam/jelly and use Pomona's pectin which doesn't require sugar to set. Any pectin will work though (Sure Jell, etc).

Sometimes I don't have some batches that don't set up well. I try to use the least amount of pectin because I don't like jelly or jam too firm and sometimes I don't use quite enough pectin. The ripeness of the fruit will affect jell set. If a jam doesn't set well for me, we use it as syrup.

I agree with ajsmama. You can reprocess safely using more pectin. As she mentioned, use small batches until you get it figured out. Once you figured out how much pectin to use, you can do the rest of the batch.

A word of disclaimer about the Harvest forum. Many of those people are overly fanatical about safety. I've repeatedly seen some of those regular posters try to frighten new canners into throwing out a whole batch of canning, if the newbie made one small non-critical mistake. Some of them seem to gain a sense of satisfaction telling a neophyte to throw out a whole batch of canning. They've talked themselves into believing they are "saving lives" by their non-sense advice.

I would not be surprised if they tried to tell you it was unsafe to try to re-jell your jelly.

The truth is botulism cases are extremely rare. In the last 50 years there have been only 110 reported cases. Of those only 25% of the poisonings were related to food. You've undoubtedly heard about the deadliness of botulism, but in reality 50% of the people with botulism poisoning are successfully treated. People like to repeat all the sensationalism associated with botulism, but the truth is it's not really even on the radar.

If you read about some of the cases involving food borne botulism, these people are generally doing completely idiotic things with their food (i.e. leaving a burrito on the counter in a sealed container for two days then eating it cold, even though it smelled bad).

Jelly is especially safe because the sugar content is too high for clostridium botulinum to sporulate, and the pH is too low. Many people don't realize a lot of fruits naturally have a pH of about 3.0 (C. botulinum can't grow in a medium with a pH below 4.7)

There are other food borne pathogens, but jelly/jam have an extremely high margin of safety. That's why some people don't even refrigerate open jars. For decades people used the "sloppy" parafin wax seals for jelly. Some still do.

Just mentioning all this so you are not frightened into throwing all your hard work away.

Low acid and low sugar foods that must pressure canned, require a little more caution, but high acid foods are extremely safe. How many times have you seen ketchup sitting out at a restaurant? (Many times it's not refrigerated even at night.)

I once spoke with the guy who dug up the "Steamboat Arabia". It was a ship that sunk in the Missouri river before the civil war. The ship stayed buried for 150 years. There was some canned food on board and the guy's son ate some of the 150 yr. old pickles. Said they weren't too bad. He was probably in more danger from lead poisoning (they used to use lead to seal canning goods) than from food borne pathogens.


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

How about use it as a syrup to make home-made sno-cones? Use it as nectar in an oriole feeder. Maybe add a little water and freeze some as popsicles. Use on pancakes. Pour over cake instead of frosting. Mix with water for koolaide. Reprocess only some of it for jelly. If you are concerned about safety, just boil it for five minutes before using. If you used hot water bath for the prescribed time and it contains the recommended amount of sugar, it should be perfectly safe anyway.
Northwoodswis


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

No need to be concerned about safety with grape jelly (or syrup), unless it wasn't sealed properly and went moldy.

Don't be afraid to post over on Harvest - there are Master Food Preservers there to help, yes, they are concerned with safety but I have not read anything that was unfounded - if they recommend throwing something out (which they wouldn't do with most fruits since they are acidic), it's got a very good basis in science. No one is going to tell you it's unsafe to remake your jelly, though you might get some advice from someone with more experience than I about whether it's better to use pectin to do it, since just boiling more water off might affect the taste/quality.

Botulism is rare, but it's a horrible way to go. I don't know about the 50% treatable figure, but do you really want a 50-50 chance of dying by slow suffocation? And of the 50% who recovered, how many had lasting effects like blindness or partial paralysis? Even if most made complete recoveries, did it require months in ICU? Not something I'd like to risk, so I follow the USDA/NCHFP recommended processes.

It's not contracted by eating a bad burrito (unless it was anaerobic - as some baked potatoes that sickened people were - and if it smelled bad it was probably some other bacteria that caused the food poisoning, since generally nothing else will grow in that type of environment). The toxin is found in low-acid foods sealed in a low-or no-oxygen environment. While it could be considered that all the cases were caused by someone doing something "idiotic", I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. How are you going to know that something is "idiotic" (or risky) unless you learn what the safe processes are? And it keeps changing - who would have thought that holding baked potatoes under a heat lamp, wrapped in foil, could have created that low-oxygen environment that caused the spores to produce toxin?

There were two cases in the 90's of fresh salsa that had been stored at room temperature in air-tight containers causing botulism. While you may say that was "idiotic", and why didn't the people refrigerate the salsa, how man people "can" their own salsa recipes without making sure they're sufficiently acidic and processed for a proper amount of time? It's still an air-tight container at room temperature - in fact, the more air-tight it is, the more likely botulinum toxin is to grow.

Sorry for getting OT (grape jelly), just had to address what was said about the "fanatics" on Harvest.


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Sat, Sep 21, 13 at 13:59

"Botulism is rare, but it's a horrible way to go. I don't know about the 50% treatable figure, but do you really want a 50-50 chance of dying by slow suffocation? And of the 50% who recovered, how many had lasting effects like blindness or partial paralysis? Even if most made complete recoveries, did it require months in ICU? Not something I'd like to risk, so I follow the USDA/NCHFP recommended processes."

ajsmama,

This is the type of warnings repeated on the Harvest forum. It's these terrifying sensationalized descriptions that are given without proper context of how extremely rare the poisonings occur, or how completely idiotic one must be in handling their food, which unduly frighten people.

For example, you mentioned two cases of salsa poisoning occuring in the 1990s. What you didn't mention is that the two cases of salsa poisoning were from uncanned raw salsa which was stored in airtight containers at room temperature. See CDC report below.

"It's not contracted by eating a bad burrito"

It can be contracted by eating a bad burrito stored in a sealed container at room temperature. Refried beans are one of the more common means of C. perfringens poisoning, but can also grow C. botulinum. There was one case b/t 1990-2000 of botulism from a burrito. Again see link below.

"While it could be considered that all the cases were caused by someone doing something "idiotic", I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. How are you going to know that something is "idiotic" (or risky) unless you learn what the safe processes are? And it keeps changing"

I stand by my statement that people contracting botulism are doing completely nonsensical things with their food most of the time (except where people contracted botulism from restaurant food - in which case others were doing nonsensical things with their food).

The CDC report below describes botulism cases. In many cases these foods were simply cooked and set in air tight containers, or not cooked at all. Things like not refrigerating low acidic foods that were not canned is the most common. I think idiotic is a fair assessment of that kind of food handling practice.

The problem with the Harvest forum is that some of its participants take these outlandish food handling practices which have produced botulism and extrapolated the dangers to minor deviations of the USDA canning recipes.

For example, I was told it's unsafe to use citric acid to acidify salsa because the USDA canning recipe doesn't mention using it for salsa (even though it is mentioned as an acidifier for tomatoes). The only reason given was that it wasn't in the USDA booklet. It seemed no rational thought was applied to the circumstance.

Part of my frustration is that I want to dialog with people on a forum who are not afraid to use their brain (Not an accusation against ajsmama.) If I want someone to simply parrot the "USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning", I can read the manual myself.

On that forum, people have been told their properly acidified food is unsafe for extremely minor reasons. Anything can be couched in language to make it seem dangerous, when the real risk is non-existent.

When you try to discuss these things over on the Harvest forum, you typically get the response "Do it at your own risk". Another subtle response to frighten people.

What's missing in these discussions on the Harvest forum is a sense of perspective. I'll offer a farmer's analogy.

I had to do some welding on my stainless steel spray tank the day before yesterday. People are occasionally electrocuted to death from arc welders. I wear welding gloves most of the time, but when welding on the sprayer tank, I didn't wear gloves.

At this point, I can hear the folks on the Harvest forum in my mind (applying their rationale to welding):

Unsafe! Do you realize you could be electrocuted without gloves? There were X number of cases of electrocution accidents from welding in the last decade. Do you really want to take a chance with incurring a serious electrocution injury, or experience a horrible death from electrocution?

I might point out most electrocution deaths from welders are from bare or badly worn leads and involve water. My tank was empty and the ground dry. Their was no chance I would have been electrocuted (I mostly wear gloves to protect my hands from molten slag.) Their response, "Do it at your own risk."

Interestingly, I tried to have a intellectually stimulating discussion about this very topic on the Harvest forum. One of the regulars over there told me (not once, but repeatedly) to leave the forum. I wasn't rude to anyone. It was strange, like they were brain-washed and didn't want to discuss anything that might question the USDA canning guide.

Here is a link that might be useful: Foodborne Botulism in the U.S. 1990-2000


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

I did mention that the salsa was fresh and stored in air-tight containers - I got that fact from the same article you linked to. As I said, canning a salsa recipe without enough acid would give the same (or worse, since the toxin might multiply more rapidly in a sealed jar) result.

And the burrito referenced as "affected one person in Oregon in 1997, was caused by a commercially produced burrito purchased at a roadside store" which I think might have been another case of a low-acid food wrapped in foil and kept at room temperature or slightly above - if you have a better reference that said it was kept for days on the counter in a sealed container, that might be a different case.

Yes, the burrito(s) and the potatoes were commercially prepared (as was the clam chowder referenced). But since "In the lower 49 states, a noncommercial food item was implicated in 70 (91%) events" (so excepting the Alaskan native fermented seafoods) it does pay to handle (and can, since of those 70 events 44% were attributed to home-canned vegetables) food in accordance with tested safe procedures.

What you want to do (canning or welding) that affects only your own health and safety is up to you. But don't discourage other people from looking for information on safe food handling (including canning).


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RE: Canning Concorde grapes- a problem

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 1:07

My intent has never been to discourage people from looking for information on food handling (including canning). My point is simply to take some of the more zealotic advice on the Harvest forum with a grain of salt, or at least critically examine what is being said.

That and I feel some sense of duty to intervene when I feel people are unduly frightened by language of others.

"What you want to do (canning or welding) that affects only your own health and safety is up to you."

Yes everyone has to live their lives and day to day activities with the level of risk they are comfortable with. Again my point is to put some perspective on the discussion. Pointing out the very low botulism rates in association with gratuitous mishandling of food offers some perspective in this regard.

From 1990 to 2000, there were a total of 47 events involving home canned food which poisoned a total of 70 people. Statistically that's an extremely small number. When gross mishandling of food is considered, it becomes clear that some of the hysteria over botulism on the Harvest forum is unwarranted.

I'd be interested to know of botulism cases where food was handled with some measure of common sense and individuals were still poisoned.

For example, asparagus is the most common cause of botulism in home canning. 9 out of the 47 botulism events of home canning in the decade of the 90s involved asparagus. Of those, I'd be interested to know how many people actually pressure canned the asparagus (vs. water bath), in how many cases the jars of asparagus had the lids popped up and the individuals used them anyway, and in those cases how many ate the asparagus without cooking it.

In other words, I'd be interested to know how many of those cases people were not handling their food in a ludicrous manner. I suspect cases where people used common sense and were still poisoned are very close to non-existent, else they would be paraded ad infinitum by some of the more zealous fear disseminators on the Harvest forum, as examples vindicating their warnings. Instead people are treated to examples of the worst that could be imagined if USDA rules aren't rigidly followed, not what has ever actually happened from the particular deviation in question.

You mentioned it was possible for canned salsa to cause botulism. Are you aware of any cases where home canned salsa ever caused botulism poisoning? If so, what were the circumstances?

I want to take a moment during this edit to clarify a few mistakes in earlier posts. I said:

"In the last 50 years there have been only 110 reported cases."

That should read, " In the last 50 years there have been only 110 reported cases per year"

Also I said, "You've undoubtedly heard about the deadliness of botulism, but in reality 50% of the people with botulism poisoning are successfully treated."

Corrected, that would read,"You've undoubtedly heard about the deadliness of botulism, but in reality 95% of the people with botulism poisoning are successfully treated."

This post was edited by olpea on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 1:48


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