Guess where I am. I'm starting my afternoon attending a lecture on the many uses of gourds, followed by the performance of a pack of chihuahuas, perusing a soybean mural and finishing up with a party for Smokey the Bear's birthday. Figured it out yet? Why, I'm at the State Fair, of course.
Last year, I strolled through a white, beadboard-walled basement with its ancient cement floors in a Pavillion that displayed contest-winning jellies and relishes, lofty cakes and elaborate pies. But if I were to want to put the peach jelly I made yesterday up for the judging, it wouldn't go on display until next summer.
With flowers, it is easy to tell what is still fresh and what is not...same with newly canned goods. But if you've been canning with me since last summer, you may be a little unsure of the quality of those last few jars left from the summer of 2010...or maybe even from the summer before that.
Indicators that your food is spoiled include the following: broken seals, seepage of contents, mold, gassiness, fermentation, yeast growth, slime, cloudiness, spurting liquid and disagreeable odors.
If you do suspect low-acid foods like meats, poultry, seafoods, even low-acid tomato products have spoiled, you should take care to prevent botulin from being available to either humans or animals. Detoxifying involves boiling the jar (along with its contents) under water for 30 minutes, then discard everything from the boiling pan. A solution of 1 part bleach to 5 parts water should be used to clean all surfaces that the suspect product has touched, letting the cleaning solution stand for 5 minutes before rinsing. Finally, dispose of any dishclothes and sponges used.
These precautions are far more likely to be necessary for the pressure cooker canner who is canning meats and low-acid vegetables, but every canner needs to be aware of them. The old saying, "better safe than sorry" absolutely applies in the world of home canning!