It’s very common to find old canning recipes tucked into family recipe collections or surface in fundraising cookbooks for groups. In recent years concern has been raised as to the safety of these types of recipes. We are now more aware of what needs to happen to make canning safe, but those that are inexperienced in the kitchen may not know the safety concerns.
As with vintage baking recipes, ingredients have changed over the years. From hens that used to free range, and home churned butter, to store bought goods. For canning, the best example is today’s tomatoes do not have the same acid level as the heirloom varieties. Newer recipes often call for the addition of acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar.
Pressure canning has also changed over the years with changes in equipment. This makes times, temperatures, and pressures different than what they may have been. Trying to adapt an old recipe to new equipment may cause safety to be compromised.
Old enough recipes may have been canned on wood stoves or over fires built outside making it difficult to adjust to current stove settings. In some cases, recipes may be written for rubber instead of the newer canning lids.
What’s the worst that can happen? You may not be able to tell if something is “bad.” Just because a jar seals doesn’t mean it’s safe unless it was prepared safely. One of the greatest fears is botulism, a condition that can be very serious if not caught early and treated. If in doubt, use an updated recipe from a reliable source.
There are some recipes that are valued not so much for what they produce but for the memories and the history attached to them. When a canning recipe has significant memory value, feel free to include it in your cookbook but consider adding a note with it that states that it is a vintage recipe that has been included for keepsake value and it is not recommended to be used.
If you want to check a recipe to see if it is a recipe that can be safely created, you can compare it to online canning recipes from companies that make canning jars. Often, they list recipes on their website. You can also visit your local library they may have current cookbooks on canning or can direct you to your local extension office where they can also provide you with guidance.