14 August 2012

How to label home-preserved food

I can my own food more for penny-pinching reasons than for hobby reasons, so I'm not into decorating my jars with squares of cloth and tying hand-written cards to the jars with rustic-looking twine:

Gag me with an attached spoon
And the sticker labels that you find for sale next to the canning jars never really wash off:

I do not exaggerate: both of these jars have gone through the canner
at least a dozen times since I first removed their labels. Also: camera out of focus
Ball assures me that they've made their newest labels with a less permanent, "dissolvable" adhesive. But still, why spend the money? It's not a challenge to tell a jar of pickled onions from a jar of baked beans. The only thing you really need to note on the jar is the date you produced it. While you can tell a jar of strawberry jam from a jar of orange marmalade, you can't tell a jar of apple butter from 2011 versus 2008, unless you have a fantastic memory of what each year's batch looked like, based on the variety of apple and ratio of spices you tried out. Or you want to do some forensic dating based on the style of snap lid you used:

"RAS-BLU JAM"? Also: I hated that cute little basket-'n'-banner
style of lid (top left). Luckily, masking tape.
To sum up: Yes, you need to label your jars. At the very least, you must put a date on them; month and year is perfectly adequate. The official rule is to use up home-canned food within 12 months of taking it out of the canner, because after 12 months it deteriorates in both quality and safety. (Even if you're willing to use jars that have been kicking around for longer than that, you need to be able to determine exactly how long a particular jar has been kicking around.) As for naming the jar's contents, you should do that, though it's not nearly as strictly necessary as dating the jar. While it's easy to tell whole tomatoes from cranberry sauce, will you really remember, a year from now, which jar is white-peach butter and which is pear butter? It takes only a second to scrawl RAS-BLU JAM over 06/08, and it saves guesswork in 06/09.

Or in 07/13

3 comments:

karona said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
karona said...

I only just canned last year, so I know they are coming up on 1 year. Being as they are tomato sauce, are they likely to last another 6 months? I seem to not eat pasta as much during hotter months.

Also, great tip on the labeling. I hate sticker residue with the burning passion of a thousand suns!

Michele Grant said...

So long as (1) you followed recommended canning techniques and a proven recipe, and (2) the lids are still sealed when you go to open the jars, they will be safe after another 6 months. However, they will continue to lose flavor and nutritional value as time goes on.