The Outhouse Was Good Enough For Grandma…
The outhouse was good enough for Grandma, shouldn’t we still be using them then?
Lately, it seems that nearly every time I tell people what I do at Bygone Basics, a common comment is made by someone in the circle of conversation. “Oh, my daughter-in-law (or whomever) wants me to teach them how to can.” Of course that piques my interest and I ask about what they’ll can and which methods they’ll use. Almost always, the response is peaches or tomatoes to start with and they use the same method that has been in the family for a few generations, open kettle.
If I’m beating a dead horse I do not apologize. I know I’ve touched on this subject before.
I cringe when I hear open kettle or water bathing vegetables, or many other dangerous methods. Open Kettle refers to a pot on the stove of the product to be canned, boiled, and then pour hot into clean jars and lidded with no following water bath or pressure canning. When I let the person know that open kettle is not a safe canning process AND ALSO that meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables should ALWAYS be pressure canned (not water bath canned because water only boils at 212 degrees so the food product never gets hotter than that), the next (sometimes indignant) comment is as predictable as the one that led to it….
“It was good enough for Grandma, its good enough for us!”
Let’s explore that comment. Why? Because I need to get this off my chest as I’m going to explode the next time I hear it as a reason to pass along outdated and unsafe actions.
- Grandma used an outhouse, the sears catalog for toilet paper, and probably didn’t have a sink with nice hot water and antibacterial soap near it either. It was good enough for Grandma….how about you?
- Grandma (and Grandpa) butchered the hog and hung it to dry or cool. Did they hang it in the clean USDA certified cooler or smokehouse? No. That didn’t exist for most homes. This too, was good enough for Grandma…..would you be ok with this meat today?
- Grandma got her water out of the ground and used it as it was…..how many plastic bottles or purified water have you consumed or given your family lately?
My point isn’t to suggest that someone is taking the easy road. My point is that:
Grandma did the best she could with the equipment and the knowledge she had, shouldn’t we?
Science has come a long way in the last 75 years. Botulism isn’t the only organism to be concerned about, but it is a VERY serious one. We now know that botulism actually only grows in the absence of oxygen. So when a person does an open kettle canning process, they are creating a bit of seal on the jar, but the product inside never reached the temperatures necessary to kill organisms if they were present. (botulism is killed beginning at 240 degrees F.) The perfect environment to grow a nice bit of toxin.
How do we know that no one ever got sick from her home food preservation methods? Back then did we do a state-of-the art autopsy on every death? Did anyone ever just get sick? How do we know it wasn’t from the food they ate hours prior?
I’m sure many, many jars of home canned food was just fine from Grandma’s kitchen. It was tasty and nutritious.
Were they all? Probably not. Why wouldn’t we make the most of science and today’s advancements to make our home prepared foods as safe as possible?
For more information from the USDA on updated home canning recommendations check out this link:
For other comments on canning safety, check out the Bygone Basics August 2011 newsletter:
You can find more information on safely learning to can and read other newsletters at www.bygonebasics.com
Of course, I’d like you to come to Bygone Basics to learn about safe home food preservation while having a fantastic heritage culinary experience in an 1874 home. As always, thank you for preserving your heritage through food and fun….because …. You CAN. 🙂