Monday, August 15, 2011

Death by Gift


It's home canning season!
I have to admit that I'm more than a little leery of home canned foods. Especially so, when receiving them as gifts.

Do you know how to tell if there is botulism present in the home canned marmalade, pickles, kim chee, jams, or fruits and vegetables that someone gave to you? There is only one way, you die or wish you had!  Seriously, unless you have a Ronco (as seen on TV) home chemistry lab, there is no way of knowing.

Why do people insist in giving this stuff away as gifts? While it's true that botulism deaths are much rarer these days, it wasn't always so.  How about the home canners who ask you to return the Mason jar when it's empty? These folks get their jars back after they've sat in my cupboard for an appropriate and reasonable amount of time, that will make it seem like we've actually eaten the potentially rancid and deadly gift.

I appreciate your green thumb, kitchen skills and generosity,  but I'd really rather receive something that has zero chance of killing me.

I hope I haven't offended any of my family, or any of my gardening or rural friends with this post, but it really does bother me. Am I the only one who has worries about  this?

.

54 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That made me laugh! I'm a bit of a sanitary nut, so I don't like receiving homemade food of any kind. How do I know your kids didn't lick every spoon during the process?

Lolamouse said...

I'm the same way! I leave them on my shelf and admire the beauty and thriftiness of these home canned gems for several months, then I guiltily toss them!

Bossy Betty said...

Love your title! I had not worried about this until today. Now I feel a little sick.

baygirl32 said...

I'm sure if you looked at the stats, anything you get as a gift can kill you....even cards can kill you LOL

TS Hendrik said...

Well I was going to send you a jar of pickled pig's feet, but you can forget it now. haha

I never though about it I guess. I grew up in farming country with people trading jars like baseball cards. I guess it comes down to people not knowing how to properly seal jars.

Budd said...

a little botulism never killed anyone. Oh wait, nevermind. Never eat anthing home canned that the lid comes right off. It should be the biggest pain in the but.

Lovkyně said...

i think you are the only person who has worries about this, actually. ^_^

Baby Sister said...

I've never even given it a second thought, actually. But then, the only homemade thing I would ever think of giving away is jam...and in my book, that is totally allowed. :) But that's probably because I know that I am a clean freak and I would be extremely careful...and the only people my family has received that kind of gift from I trust, so I know they're the same way. I certainly wouldn't accept it from someone I didn't know well.

Pat Tillett said...

Alex - I'm only a part time germaphobe. I'm a firm believer in the 5-second rule, but I have issues with OTHER people's germs.

Lola - I also feel guilty about it. I don't have a lot of quirks (okay, maybe I do), but this is one of them.

Bossy Betty - I never worried about it when I was young. It's just like heights; I never had a problem until I was an adult.

Tim - I used to eat PPF, pickled eggs and all kinds of pickled bar food. I have no idea what has happened to me

Ven - I hear you! I wonder why I have more faith in something "canned" by a corporation, than I do by somebody in their home? I need more pills and therapy.

Pat Tillett said...

Baygirl - I'm sure you are correct. I wanted to kill myself for having to wear some of the clothes my aunts made and gave to me. Especially the sweaters.

Baby Sister - That's my problem! I do know the people well that give it to me! I've eaten the jam plenty of times though. I'm just messed up, that's all...

Ms. A said...

I'm just glad someone else is a freak and worries about this kind of stuff. I hate being the only one!

Talli Roland said...

I don't think I've ever received home-made jams or jellies as a gift, thank goodness!

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

The Newfies (Newfoudlanders) give away "Tars". We received several mason jars of these unspecified edibles once and were too embarrassed to ask what they were. Seems like some kind of small bird--gross! I stick to jams. I also think, maybe mistakenly, that if the seal is not broken or bulging, the contents are supposed to be safe. Of course, one has to decide for oneself if the risk is worth the delicacy within.
Rosemary

#1Nana said...

Good one! I'm a little leery of vegetables in general, even when they're not canned.

My husband canned tuna after a fishing trip. Homemade canned tuna!!!! He's still alive though.

tapirgal said...

Some of the best preserved food I've ever had came from a friend of a friend who really knew what she was doing. I trusted the contents, but it's been awhile now since we've been in contact, so I'm no longer sure if I was being naive, or if I worried, or was in some zone and didn't think about it. I thought you could tell by bulges in the lid or lack of a "pop" sound when opening it. Not true?

Mama Zen said...

I only trust my grannie's canning!

Sharon Wagner said...

I canned salsa for awhile. But I was always afraid of the big B myself. Every can I opened felt like Russian Roulette!

Nat said...

This sort of thing worries me sick :-) Seriously, I am a horrific germophobe and wary of homemade goods from anyone!

Jenny said...

Well darn. And after I just spent all that money sending you a case of home-canned tomatoes.

Sigh.

Please just send them back to me. I can re-gift them elsewhere.

Sigh.

Powdered Toast Man said...

I'm more worried about vampire zombies. I'm immune to botulism.

Pat Tillett said...

Ms. A - We are the pale under belly of society...

Talli - I seem to get some each and every year. Of course, my sister-in-law will probably stop that practice if she see this! Although, her stuff is pretty darn good.

Rosemary - Now that doesn't sound too appetizing... I'm not taking a chance...

#1Nana - I know what you mean, because we cook our vegtables, we barely cook them at all. I'd like to thank my mom for overcooked veggies...yuck!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

HA HA Pat.... Do as I do when I receive those crazy gifts we do NOT want???? Thank them --and then either pitch them or give them to someone you don't like!!!!! (Sorry--I couldn't resist!11)
Betsy

Copyboy said...

So I should go crap on the lawn of the jarred jelly guy down the street in my childhood home?

Chuck said...

The last jar of home made hot sauce I received is still sitting...unopened...in the outside fridge. It's been 3 years...should I dispose and return the jar, oh wait, this isn't Dear Heloise...sorry Pat. I have to agree with you on this one.

Jerry said...

I wasn't much concerned about this. Until now. What I don't know can't hurt me....and you screwed that notion up.

Clarissa Draper said...

Oh, thank goodness I'm not the only one who worries about this! I don't even can for my own family's sake.

faye said...

I am with you on this one Pat ...
I only like gifts of homemade candy
or cookies from my sister.. I trust her and she hasn't canned anything in years... the homemade jelly in the
mason jars that others give as gifts
usually get stashed away for a year and then removed from the pantry.

oh and I work in a huge Micro lab and
could test the stuff, but sometimes
not knowing is better.

Pat Tillett said...

tapirgal - I guess you can't always count on those things. I guess smell is a major clue.

Mama Zen - My granny would only take canned food from her sisters.

Sharon - I'm with you! I don't my first bad experience to kill me.

Nat - Me too! Especially in things that other people have the control over.

Jenny - You'll be seeing those jars soon. They'll all be marked "return to sender!" sorry!

PTM - Botulism is right up there with zombies and clowns for me.

Betsy - Tell it like it is Betsy!
I'm with you.

Jesse - If you ate it and lived this long, it probably was good stuff. Probably...

Chuck - Whew! If you've had that stuff for that long, I wouldn't even open one and smell it. You are most likely going to drop over dead if you do...

Jerry - I'm so happy to be of service! Any other dreams or aspirations I can crush for you?

Clarissa - I guess there are more of us than I thought. Not canning may be saving the lives of your family members.

faye - Thanks faye! I'm with you. Candy, cookies, and home baked bread are just fine by me.

Megan said...

I accept jams and jellies only. And only from the two people I trust. They are both over sixty. :)

SquirrelQueen said...

I'm pretty leery of home canned foods too unless I do it myself and make sure everything is spotless. There are a couple of folks who are clean freaks that I will accept stuff from.

Leovi said...

Without doubt the best preserved are those that my mother did. Never get sick because of it.

missing moments said...

LOL ... I'm with you! Even though I grew up with parents who did canning every summer and no one ever got sick.

Brian said...

HeeHee, you sure got everyone thinking about that one!

Shrinky said...

Oops,(blush) I'm guilty as charged, Guv'! Okay, I'll leave you off my gift list, but you rally don't know what you're missing, no one has ever come back to complain about my stuff - tho' now you come to mention it, a few HAVE gone missing..

Pearl said...

I'm good unless the seal is popped. Of course, the only one giving me these things are my mom and sister, and they're scrupulous about it.

Oh, wait. They're NOT the only ones.

Shoot.

Maybe I need to reconsider this?!

Pearl

Gwen said...

So you are turning down my pickles?

I understand what you are saying and the fear of killing my friends and family did scare me away from canning for a long time. Then I took a good look at my friends and family and thought, what do I really have to lose?

I tend to do small batches that are designed to be used right away, not sit in the pantry for months. So far....no one has died.

M Pax said...

I love my mother's home made pickles and chile sauce. Yum.

Neal said...

The only stuff I every get is from family and I don't worry about it at all.

Ann Best said...

Oh my. This takes me back to my childhood. My mother bottled and bottled: peaches, cherries, pickles, etc. etc. I never ever thought to worry about botulism, and I'm still alive (maybe because she's passed on and stopped bottling long before she died, and because no one gives me bottled stuff! a:)

That said, it was great seeing your comment on my Teaching Old Dogs and a Giveaway post today. I'm so glad you liked my memoir! (And thanks, Patrick, for the review!!)

Have a GREAT week!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Erika said...

I am so glad you posted this. Canning and pickling is one of those thing I have always thought I should learn how to do. But, I have a borderline unhealthy fear of spoiled food and I never put two and two together.

I no longer feel the need to learn to make such stuff.

John McElveen said...

Home Canning = ES&D! Eat, Chit & Die! I'm with you 100% on this my friend. I saw way to much of it in Urgent Scare to ward me off. I even take foods temps sometimes to make sure it's cooked through! (Meat - that is!

We do do (ar ar) , our own Bread and Butter Pickles--they are awesome--but only we eat them.But I grow the Cucumbers and Onions, and Pickle them myself- so if I die--It's my fault! Beats Gerkin off!

J

Good post Bra!

J

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I don't blame you, Pat. I'm glad I'm never gifted with home canned anything.
xoRobyn

Icy BC said...

Ok..you got it, and I won't send you my homemade freezer jam, or ask for my can back :-)

altadenahiker said...

No, you're not alone. Although, oddly, I trust the efforts of others much more than my own.

marlu said...

my mom learned to can (over night) in the oven during the war...green beans in jars. Only one exploded and blew the oven door off. I think we ate the other ones. She canned everything and we didn't get sick. Just lucky, I guess.
marlu

Marlene said...

A healthy dose of skepticism isn't a bad thing.

There ARE ways you can tell if botulism is present, besides being killed.

If there is a good tight seal, that lid will be difficult to remove, and when it "unseals", you should hear an audible "pop" or "whoosh". If there is no sound, and/or the lid is not sucked down properly (and hence easily picked off without the aid of something like a kitchen knife to break the seal) - then toss it.

I've canned for YEARS and have never killed anyone or even made anyone sick. Granted, I don't do much canning anymore. It's a pain the arse. Last time was two years ago when I made my own batch of pasta sauce, and dang it was good....all 18 jars of it...which I kept all for myself. (I do understand others' aversion to these gifts...and have received some myself, that I've promptly tossed if I didn't trust.)

One Woman's Thoughts said...

Well, to be honest you never really know for sure . . . it happens but it's less than a few hundred a year.

Here is a great website with lots of answers. Recomended often.

pickyourown.org

Jimmy said...

Yes sir I have had this concern myself about home canned stuff, especially the ones with the bulging lids and the comment "Don't worry it'll go back down once it sits in the cupboard a while"

Have seen some strange looking stuff in canning jars so I just stick to my own now.

Belle said...

I was laughing at this one. I actually had a guy give me a jar of jam that had mold on the top! I'm pretty leery of home-made stuff.

Minoccio said...

We used to get a lot of canned food from my grandma, and that issue never made me worry LOL. I'm back by the way, thanks for writing to me while I was away, that's very nice of you.

KaLynn ("MiMi") said...

Honestly, I figure that it is probably cleaner or just as clean from home than from a massive plant that has bugs and rodents running loose all over the place. I will take my canning any day over processed foods from grocery stores. If the lids are not glued on where you have to have a pry bar to get them open, then you chunk them, jars and all. If the lids are bowed, chunk them. But if lids are caved in and stuck like gorilla glue, they are safe. Unless of course, you know for a fact that the person who gave it to you has bugs and rodents roaming freely about their house, then you can decide whether to get the ones from the store or use theirs...........HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAA I know I'm a smart ass today. Sorry..

Francisca said...

Good lord, are we ever on different planets on this one, Pat! If I started to worry about everything I put in my mouth the way I travel I would've died from the worrying alone! I think you have a much bigger chance of being killed once you step into your car. And I don't worry about that either. With food, I let my senses decide... it looks good, it smells good, it tastes good, it's good. I'm here to tell about it. As you read in quote I left on my SkyWatch post yesterday, death is always on the way. So I just focus on living.

Ann said...

You are like my husband, botulism, I hardly bottle anything.

Warren Zoell said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QdhSFfaoz0