Resources for Home Food Preservation Gifts
Brian A. Nummer, Ph.D.
National Center for Home Food Preservation
The holiday season is one of gift-giving. Many home food preservers choose
to provide their friends and relatives handcrafted foods preserved
in their home. This is a great idea, but the gift giver and gift
receiver both should know a little about food safety.
Ensuring Safe Canned Foods
Growth of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in canned food may
cause botulism—a deadly form of food poisoning. These bacteria
exist either as spores or as vegetative cells. The spores, which
are comparable to plant seeds, can survive harmlessly in soil and
water for many years. When ideal conditions exist for growth, the
spores produce vegetative cells that multiply rapidly and may produce
a deadly toxin in an environment consisting of a moist, low-acid
food, at a temperature between 40°F and 120°F, with less
than 2 percent oxygen.
Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling
water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity
of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added,
as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough
to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough
acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated.
Because of the risks involved with botulism-causing bacteria in
foods, the USDA, University-based Cooperative Extension System,
and the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) recommend
only research-based, tested recipes.
Read more on ensuring safe canned foods: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/general/ensuring_safe_canned_foods.html.
Common gifts NOT recommended for canning:
Herbs or vegetables in oil or oil infusions. Read: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/questions/FAQ_canning.html#31.
Instead, choose to make flavored vinegars (See below).
Canned breads. Read: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/uga_can_breads.pdf.
Instead, package completely dry cake recipe ingredients as gifts
and provide mixing and baking instructions. Read: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/dry/pack_store.html.
Canned chocolate sauces/ fudge sauces. Many of the recipes that
are passed along are low acid, contain dairy products, and recommend
boiling water processing. The NCHFP, USDA or its partners in the
land-grant university-based Cooperative Extension System do not
have safe tested recipes for these products.
Canned gifts made in decorative, untested, jars. The temptation
to package holiday canned foods in special decorative jars is
not recommended. Only use recommended jars and lids. Read: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/general/recomm_jars_lids.html
There are many other recipes that are not recommended. Choose
only safe, tested recipes from research-based resources such as
the NCHFP, USDA or the land-grant university-based Cooperative Extension
Keep in mind that some recipes, such as those above, are safe only
if kept refrigerated or frozen. Most refrigerated foods can only
safely be kept out of refrigeration for a very short period of time
(usually less than 2 hours). Labels should tell the recipient to
refrigerate. Likewise, frozen foods should not be allowed to thaw.
These facts should be taken into consideration when choosing to
give a refrigerated or frozen preserved food as a gift.
We suggest you clearly label the contents of your gift. We encourage
you to include:
- The creation date
- The ingredients – helpful information to those with
- Storage and handling instructions, for example:
- Keep refrigerated.
- Store in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.
- How to cook.
- Discard if lid seal is broken or “popped” up.
- Ideas or tips for how to use the gift
- Jams and jellies make good spreads, but can also be used as
- A teaspoon of marmalade makes an excellent flavoring for hot
It’s never too early
May is the month to think about what gifts to make in your kitchen.
It’s never too early to make plans for your holiday needs.
As the harvests come in, you will have plans for your bounty. If
you are like almost everyone else, you waited until November to
think about holiday gifts. So here are a few ideas that can be made
from late season or all season ingredients.
Always choose only safe, tested recipes from research-based resources
such as the NCHFP, USDA or University-based Cooperative Extension
System. Follow directions as stated and do not alter ingredients
or processing procedures. Save your creativity for your holiday
Brian A. Nummer is Project Coordinator with the National Center
for Home Food Preservation, Department of Foods and Nutrition, College
of Family and Consumer Sciences and Adjunct Assistant Professor,
Department of Food Science and Technology, The University of Georgia,
This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State
Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
under Agreement No. 00-51110-9762.
Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or
in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the
cost of reproduction) provided the authors and the University of
Georgia receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:
Reprinted with permission of the University of Georgia. B. Nummer.
2002. Resources for Making Jellied Fruit Problems. Athens, GA: The
University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension Service.
References to commercials products, services, and information is
made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and
no endorsement by the University of Georgia, U.S. Department of
Agriculture and supporting organizations is implied. This information
is provided for the educational information and convenience of the
The University of Georgia and Ft. Valley State University, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and counties of the state cooperating.
The Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Georgia College
of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences offers educational programs,
assistance and materials to all people without regard to race, color,
national origin, age, sex or disability. An Equal Opportunity Employer/Affirmative
Action Organization Committed to a Diverse Work Force.
National Center for Home Food Preservation
208 Hoke Smith Annex
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-4356
Tel: (706) 542-3773
Fax: (706) 542-1979
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