Corn Free Canning

Spring is here, and for those who need to avoid grocery store produce due to sprays and cross contamination, that means food preserving.  I have done a little bit of canning, but I’m no expert: I’m here to talk about avoiding corn in canning supplies. If you have questions about how to actually do the canning safely or how to make your canned goods taste *good*,  that is a question for someone else.

Avoiding Corn in Canning

Lids & Jars

The standard glass canning jars available in the grocery store are perfectly safe for a corn allergy. Rather, it’s lids are the single biggest concern for corn allergy in canning. The new Ball BPA-free lids are NOT corn free. I don’t think anyone has been able to get a detailed answer from Ball about what exactly is in the resin, but something in it is causing many corn allergics to react, and NOT just the most sensitive folks. Some are even breaking out in a rash from touching the lids. I had thought for a time I was okay with them because I was able to store non-canned food in them. Turns out that the resin in the seal was simply staying on the lid and not touching the food. Once I water-bath canned dozens of quarts of (expensive, mail-order) mandarin oranges, I discovered that when the boiling water melts the resin and creates a seal, it also infuses all of the water with corn. My non-allergic friends and family have been enjoying my delicious, now-corny mandarins all winter.

One possible option other than the Ball canning lids is Tattler reusable canning lids.

I’ve been using the Tattlers and so far, so good, but I’ve done basically two batches of applesauce so far and not much else. Updated August 2015: Yeaaahh I think I had a mild reaction to applesauce canned with the old school tattler lids. On top of that, right after I bought a bunch of them they changed their lids to be “new and improved” and have a better seal. No definitive reports on safety.

Another alternative is to use the Weck canning system. These are reported safe by several corn allergics. I haven’t tried them quite simply because they are expensive. The seals on the Weck jars are natural latex rubber, so NOT safe for a latex allergy.

There are a couple other kinds of canning lids, but I don’t know anything about them. If you have some options and links and contact info to the companies, please comment below.

Ingredients

As always, any ingredients you use in canning need to be safe for you. Application of heat can denature some allergens for some people, but so far I haven’t heard of anyone with a corn allergy being able to eat corn just because it had been cooked enough.  Here are the biggest concerns with canning:

Salt

Salt can most definitely be corny, so use something that you know is safe for you. Any safe salt should work fine instead of “canning salt.” The main reason to use canning or pickling salt is that it will not have minerals which may alter the appearance (but not taste or safety) of your canned items.

Sugar

Sugar can be cross contaminated with corn. Make sure to use something you know is safe for you.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Botulism requires an anaerobic (no air) environment and low acidity to grow. Adding an acid is a common way of making a low-acid food item such as a vegetable or some varieties of tomatoes safe for water-bath canning. Both pre-squeezed lemon juice and vinegar are commonly corntaminated. In the case of vinegar, it’s actually typically  made *from* corn. There are vinegars that are not made from corn, though many of them are contaminated in some way. If you have a safe premade vinegar, great. Do NOT use your own homemade vinegar though, unless you have a way to be 100% sure that it is ph 4.5 or below. Similarly, the FDA’s official recommendation on lemon juice is to only use the bottled stuff because it has a standardized acidity. Of course this standardized acidity can be achieved by adding corn-derived acids, so that is no good for us. If you have a bottled lemon juice that works for you, great.

If you don’t have safe vinegar or lemon juice, probably skip these recipes and convert them to pressure canned recipes instead, which do not require a high acidity since the high heat of the pressure canner will kill all botulinum spores.

General Canning Resources

If you are new to canning, I recommend that you read up on canning safety. Even if you have some basic familiarity, you may want to review. Safety recommendations have changed in the last decade or two, so what you learned from your grandmother may not be safe.  Botulism is a real concern with canned goods, even today, so it is important to follow temperature, acidity, and cook time guidelines in well-tested recipes. The below resources can teach you about canning in general, but be aware that the recommended ingredients may not be safe for you.

National Center for  Home Food Preservation (UGA)

Ball/Jarden Official Website

Pick Your Own

Punk Domestics

Making Corn Free Hot Sauce

This will probably never be a recipe blog. I just don’t have enough safe foods to really have what you’d call “recipes.” Most of my meals consist of 3 safe foods prepared very simply, without cooking oils and with minimal spices. My taste buds are kind of broken after a long winter of very few foods I could tolerate, so these days the simplest things just taste wonderful to me. I’m okay with a number of things people find appalling to even consider: salad without dressing (if the ingredients are fresh and quality), cooked lettuce (tastes just like spinach!), food braised in water instead of sauteed in oil, and raw honey eaten by the spoonful as a snack.

But I do like some spice in my life, so of course my first post about food I *do* eat instead of food I *don’t* eat is about hot sauce.  I loooove hot sauce and put it on pretty much everything. The only time I refrain is when a food is still a “trial” item, as one of my first reactions is mouth and tongue burning and hot sauce confuses the issue. The sensation of spice is markedly different from the sensation of tongue swelling/burning, but I prefer to not confuse the issue.

Make sure to use safe-for-you ingredients. Peppers should be unwaxed and unsprayed. Vinegars, citrus juices, and additional vegetables and spices should be tested individually for safety before putting them in the recipe.

This is the first hot sauce I made, and followed the recipe exactly:  How to Make Hot Sauce on Omnomnomicon

It turned out wonderfully, but of course I am allergic to garlic now. Or, I reacted to several garlics, might still be corn. Haven’t checked.

Anyway since then I haven’t even been using a recipe- I chop the heads off of peppers and puree them with a vinegar (I use bragg’s apple cider vinegar and/or my own homemade kombucha vinegar, then heat on the stove for a time, probably 20-30 minutes, maybe longer if I’m getting in to a movie or something. (If you have an open kitchen, do this when it’s okay for the whole house to smell like hot vinegar.)

I taste-check every 10 minutes or so. Do this by dipping one tine of a fork in the sauce and barely licking it. Do NOT take a whole spoonful right away and do NOT stick your face over the pot to smell it. You’ll probably do this at least once without thinking, and regret it. Hot pepper and vinegar fumes are pretty caustic.

It’ll boil down over time, and I just taste and add more vinegar if needed and sort of spice up with whatever tastes good, then boil down more as needed until it tastes right to me. You’re basically trying to really infuse the vinegar with the peppers, then add other flavors and then cook just enough to infuse them without destroying them.

I think last time I added molasses, honey, salt, and a tiny bit of lemon juice at the end. I feel like maybe there was another spice there and that I told someone about it last week and they thought it was ingenious for me to put in hot sauce, but I can no longer remember.

But in general the recipe is very forgiving and you can get away with a LOT of experimentation. If you have a safe oven *, roasting the peppers first is really awesome for making a smokey taste.

Here is a recipe for hot sauce that involves lime juice instead of vinegar. Basically you just need some kind of acid.

*The oven in my rental house was baking corn into everything I made. I tried and tried to clean the death out of it, but eventually I just gave up and bought a really nice toaster oven