So, you’ve perfected your own unique, perfect pasta sauce. Your friends and family tell you it’s time to stop talking about it and finally start selling it. You have the recipe, but now you need a process that will enable you to build an inventory with a long enough shelf life to enable you to get your business off the ground.
- Consideration #1: Refrigeration – short shelf life of 3-4 days unless you use preservatives, storage can be expensive especially if you plan to keep a large stock.
- Consideration #2: Freezer – longer shelf life up to 6 months but inventory storage is even more expensive.
- Consideration #3: Canning – longest shelf life up to one year, offers the least expensive storage option.
Two Types of Canning: 1. Boiling-Water Canning, 2. Pressure Canning.
The boiling water method is safe for tomatoes, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and other high-acid foods with a pH of 4.6 and below. In this method, jars of food are heated completely covered with boiling water (212°F at sea level) and cooked for a specified amount of time. For step-by-step guides and videos on how to use the boiling-water canning method, visit http://www.freshpreserving.com/waterbath-canning.html.
Pressure canning is the only safe method of preserving vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood, low-acid foods with pH values higher than 4.6. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a special pressure cooker which is heated to a temperature of at least 240° F. This is the only method that will ensure the microorganism called Clostridium botulinum will not grow in these low-acid foods. For step-by-step guides and videos on how to use the pressure canning method, visit https://www.freshpreserving.com/pressure-canning.html.
Food Preservation Reference Charts
The following link provides a food-preservation quick reference chart for various foods. https://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/canning/canning-quick-reference-chart/docs/reference-chart-2017.pdf
The following link provides a list of approximate pH levels for various foods. http://www.pickyourown.org/ph_of_foods.htm.
Elevation Impact for Tucson
Elevation impacts canning processing times. Water boils at lower temperatures as altitude increases, which is less effective for killing bacteria. Increase the process time or canner pressure to compensate for lower boiling temperatures. Most listed canning processing times assume altitudes of 1,000 feet or lower. Tucson’s elevation at the Tucson International Airport is 2,643 ft. above sea level. Your elevation may be even higher depending on your location in the metro area.
Documentation of Process
In addition to the ingredients and recipe, you’ll need to list each of the steps taken to process the product. The documentation needs to be very specific and should include cook times and temperatures as well as equipment used in each step. It should include an outline of how the pH for pH-controlled foods was determined, including time intervals, frequency of testing, and equipment used for testing.
Businesses selling acidified foods and low-acid canned foods are required to register their business and processes with the FDA for each product, product style, container size and type and processing method. You can register online by visiting https://www.access.fda.gov/.
- A low-acid canned food (LACF) is any food (other than alcoholic beverages) with a finished pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85, excluding tomatoes and tomato products having a finished equilibrium pH less than 4.7.
- An acidified food (AF) is a low-acid food to which acid(s) or acid food(s) are added and which has a finished pH of 4.6 or below and a water activity greater than 0.85.
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