I have been harping on about all things sustainable living for a long time. Over that time I have come to realise that there are many good number of readers out there who have just so much to share in abundance. So I would like to tap into that vast knowledge base.
As one of my goals this year is “More Maintenance, Less Projects”, I need to focus on servicing the many needs that my urban farm demands. To do this I also need to blog less, and stop replying to the constant stream of requests for help via email. I don’t really want to do this so I have come up with a plan.
My plan is to turn over the blog to all my readers each week for the ‘Wise Words Wednesday’ post. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Well I think it is. Here is how I see it playing out. I post one of requests for help that I receive during the week (with the senders permission of course), and I will request that you, the reader, have a crack at answering it via a comment. You can leave links to posts of your own if you like as well as long as it is pertinent to the question. I don’t mind. Take the time to promote yourselves while you are at it. We could all do with a little self promotion in this lifestyle, that’s for sure.
So now you know the plan, here is the first question from L.
I bought an old Fowlers Vacola electric unit second-hand, similar to the one that you use.
I’ve been reading very carefully about the latest guidelines for water bath canning tomatoes, and they state that they should be processed for 85 minutes with 1/4 tsp of citric acid added (per pint jar).
Anyway, I had all my jars in the Fowlers unit and started adding the water, only to find that the water spews out the thermometer hole when the water level reaches that point. It seems it is impossible to submerge my #20 size jars completely, and it would be even worse for really large sizes.
Now I know that these Fowlers units were manufactured a long time ago and food safety knowledge wasn’t what it is today, but am I missing something? Surely the water should completely submerge the jars?
Is it impossible to water bath preserve tomatoes safely using the unit I have?
Thanks Gav for always being so willing to share your wisdom with newbies like myself.
My tomatoes are sitting there in my pantry – I’ve love to eat them with a clear conscience 🙂
I did it with one of those old kits for many years, using the original instruction booklet, from the 1960’s where it says, in capitals, to fill the pan to 3 parts the way up the bottles…. I wondered, 3 parts out of how many!!
Add plenty of salt to the water, not to the bottles,which helps raise the temp of the water. (Necessary for tomatoes). Bring slowly to boiling and boil gently 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the water to cool with the lid on for 1 hour. Remove bottles.
I would suggest you invest in one of the new kits when you can afford it, because it is so much simpler.
If they cannot get the blue book of preserving this is an excellent site: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html
Michael from Canberra says
I’ve spent a bit of time researching this.
There is nothing “broken” about your unit – the design of the systems (at the time) was that the jars would be mostly covered by water, and you would just fill with water to a point just below the top of the thermometer well.
The “USDA’s Complete guide to Home Preserving” seems to be a source of authority on this, and claims have been offered that our CSIRO agree with the method prescribed by our American friends. http://www.greenlivingaustralia.com.au/USDAguide&more.html
Page 18 of the guide says “The canner must be deep enough so that at least 1 inch of briskly boiling water will be over the tops of jars during processing.” http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%201%20Home%20Can.pdf
So it would appear that things may have moved on since that unit was first produced, and I’ve noticed that the more recent units made by FV do have capacity to cover the jars completely.
I’m not sure if this makes your unit necessarily unsafe, though. Before doing anything drastic maybe you could try and contact FV directly on 03 9329 7799 to see what they think?
If you have ongoing concerns, do you know someone who’s handy with a welder? http://www.greenlivingaustralia.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1151
I am not familiar with Fowlers Vacola (not an Australian), but the time given and the presence of a thermometer suggests that you have a pressure canner and not a water bath canner. Pressure canners do not use as much water as water bath units. Perhaps an owner of a FV could shed some light on this?
Thank you everyone for taking the time to answer. Michael, that info was exactly what I needed! My dad is handy with a welder- he’ll be happy to fix it up for me!
Thanks Gav again for posting my question – Wise words Wednesday indeed!
I have been Fowlers preserving for over 30 years now.
You add the citric acid ( 1/4 teaspoon) OR you can use2 teaspoons of lemon juice for a size 20 bottle. This was bought about by more “modern” varieties of tomato being low in acid. It may not be necessary in heirloom varieties but does not hurt.
You add sufficicent cold water to come three quarters up the sides of the bottles.
With a stove top preserver you bring the temperature slowly up to 92C ( 198F ). This will take 45 minutes and maintain this temperature for 1 hour.
I would NOT add any salt to the preserving water as this will rust out your preserver over time.
I hope this helps
Pam M, Victoria
Just to add, if yours is thermometer one the above temperature instructions are correct, if you have a thermostat control you turn the dial to 92C ( 198F )switch it on and leave it on for one and three quarter hours.
Pam M, Victoria
Gavin Webber says
Thanks everyone for your advice. It was both prudent and knowledgeable. I believe that L got the answer she was after.