If I make things like homemade peanut butter should I add a food preservative?

Peanut butter is just an example…could be any of a lot of things that can be made and jarred/canned at home.

As a single person if I make a jar of peanut butter it will take me a month to use it all. I know it may last a week on my shelf but will it last a month? That is my worry.

Should I get a food preservative to add when I make it? If so, is there a particular kind I should use? (I see there are several different things used for this purpose)

Will it change how the food tastes? Should I just not bother trying and buy Skippy (Skippy is a common brand of peanut butter in the US for those readers not in the US)?

Salt is a preservative. Even natural peanut butter has salt. Plus keep it in the fridge.

We get homemade peanut butter from our friend’s farm market. No preservative added. We buy a quart at a time and use it sparingly. It lasts a couple of months. It is kept in our pantry at room temperature and we’ve never had a problem.

ETA: I usually specifically get a little honey added, which may be a natural preservative?

How long will peanuts last on the shelf? Grinding should not appreciably shorten their lifespan. It’s not like you’re cooking them or something. I also keep my home-ground peanut butter on the shelf with no salt or anything added. It can go a little stale after a long while, but there’s no reason it should be dangerous.

If you’re canning things, that’s a whole other ballgame and you should only follow exact recipes from a well regarded source to avoid horrible sickness and death (not an exaggeration).

Testify! Jumping in here with my usual admonition to NOT RE-USE THE SEALS!!

(Oh, the things I’ve seen.)

A co-worker told me that in college he made spaghetti sauce, put the hot sauce in jars, screwed on the lids, and assumed since they sealed he was good to go.

He is so lucky to be alive.

My late Alabama Granny constantly re-used seals, believing a thick layer of paraffin would do the job.

Uh, no.

So, where is the line drawn?

Peanut butter in the pantry for a month is fine but something else will likely kill you?

I am aware of botulism but I am not aware of when and where to worry about it. Considering its insane lethality it is a real worry.

And botulism isn’t the only thing. Mold happens too. It is worrying.

It’s impossible to have a broad standard because there are so many variables and so many threats.

Botulism is anaerobic, so it grows in oxygen-free environments such as the inside of a sealed container. That’s why you are supposed to cool your food thoroughly before closing the lid on your storage container, and why it’s such a threat to canned goods (the primary purpose of processing is to kill Botulism and other bacteria inside the can or jar). Bacteria generally grow at temperatures between 40F and 145F, so you want to keep your food outside that range as much as possible.

What other things are you thinking of making?

I was literally just watching a video on people pickling eggs who said they capped the jars when hot (I assumed because as the jar cooled the pressure inside lowered and thus pulled the seal on tight).

I found the video again and queued it to the right place (long video but you can see them doing what I mentioned in 30 seconds from where I linked it below):

Heh, I’ve eaten pickled eggs from communal jars sitting out on a bar for months.

There is a difference between “poured boiling liquid in and sealed” and “after dinner put my leftovers in a sealed container” in that for the former you’ve killed off most of the bacteria with boiling, and the latter you’ve let it sit out collecting bacteria all through dinner.

As he says, this is called “Open Kettle”:

Open-kettle canning has been considered an unsafe home canning practice since the 1980’s due to the high risk of contamination during processing

I actually do this for Maple Syrup, which as far as I can tell is high enough in sugar to not have to worry about bacteria. The same may be true for some pickle recipes, where the acid and salt are high enough that contamination isn’t really much of a concern. While in general it’s not safe, there may be specific instances where the risk is low.

Did she die of food poisoning?

– if not, then from her point of view, it did indeed do the job. (Though I’m not recommending the technique; and she may have been putting up things high in acid, sugar, and/or salt. Or even alcohol.)

No, old age.

When we’d go down for a 2-week visit in the summer, the rut cellar awaited us. There would be several jars of Lovecraftian glop that had to be dispatched, but she was mostly successful with her canning. Or lucky.

There does exist commercially available peanut butter with no salt (or any other added ingedients besides peanuts. (My SO eats it, and doesn’t keep it in the fridge, although she goes through it relatively quickly.)

Some years ago, a friend was dating a man who (I think he wanted to impress her*) home canned some tomatoes. IIRC, he put the cooked tomatoes in jars and put on lids. I’m not sure the tomatoes were even hot when he did this. The next day it occurred to him that boiling water was supposed to be involved somehow, so he put an inch or two of water in a pot, brought it to a boil, and put the jars in for a few minutes.

The jars foamed and bubbled while sitting on his pantry shelf, forcing the lids off and dribbling down the sides. So naturally, in the time-honored tradition of idiots, he used the tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce.

She called me to ask if I thought the sauce would be okay to eat. Obviously, I told her No. Curious though I wrote the National Center for Home Food Preservation to ask how they should deal with the tomatoes. They promptly wrote back with a fairly complicated procedure designed to assure that the discarded tomatoes wouldn’t poison any wildlife (or maybe even the groundwater).

  • Her former husband wanted to can tomatoes. He came to my house and we spent an afternoon canning, of course following guidelines for safety. I think she told her boyfriend about the great canned 'maters, and the new guy wasn’t to be outdone by her ex.

I mean, there’s a pretty good chance he just made tomato cider. But I sure wouldn’t eat it.

I used to make wine at home. It’s a great deal, making 64 bottles for less than a dollar a bottle (not including labor).

A friend wanted to give it a try. I lent him a six gallon carboy, a fermentation bucket, floor corker, sanitizer, etc. I directed him to an easy kit. I loaned him a book. I stressed sanitizing.

Somehow, he fucked up. He eventually loaded his wine rack. The next day every single bottle had shot its cork and there was wine everywhere.

That is a scary story.

I grew up with home-canned tomatoes that did not undergo boiling after they were put in the jar. Jars were washed beforehand and usually still hot from the dishwasher. Lids and rings were sterilized right before they went on. We stewed the tomatoes for 20 minutes, put directly into the hot jars, with a 1/2 tsp of canning salt on top of the tomatoes. Lids and rings were put on immediately. When cool, they were loaded to the pantry. No boiling filled jars was involved. If a jar didn’t seal, we used it right away or froze the contents, again right away. Jars never sat on the shelf for longer than two years and if it was opened and looked iffy, the contents were not used.

I only started the post-canning boil after you guys gave me grief about it. Yet, somehow, I made it to age 59 without involving this step. Reasons? Tomatoes are acid which helps detain bacterial growth. Also, my mother and I (and extended family) took our canning seriously and worked quickly in a scrubbed-clean kitchen. Mom was a nurse who had seen the results of food poisoning.

We also canned peaches, vegetable soup, apples, and made jams and pickles.

That was the standard technique for years. I think they changed it because modern tomatoes can no longer be counted on to be acidic enough – though now they also tell you to add citric or ascorbic acid for that reason; and come to think of it they now tell you to hot water bath pickles; so maybe they’re just leaning over backwards, on the presumption that nobody’s going to sue you if they don’t get botulism, and some people won’t be careful enough about their techniques. IMO the hot water bath isn’t really great for the pickles, at least if you use grape leaves instead of alum for crispness. Maybe I ought to learn how to make fermented pickles.