The USDA in the past has sometimes seemed very subtle in what it “approved” and “didn’t approve” of.
Granted, all the recipes in its “Complete Guide” are of course things it “approves of.”
But they don’t even use those words, “approve” and “disapprove.”
In USDA canning lingo, “has not been recommended” equals “recommended against.”
Lately, through the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), explicit advice is starting to come through more clearly.
This page will try to track some of that advice.
- 1 Explicit Recommendations For
- 2 Explicit Recommendations Against
Explicit Recommendations For
1. Keep beets hot while canning
The USDA Complete Guide (2015, page 4-9) has you parboil beets, then “Cool, remove skins, and trim off stems and roots.” Debate went on in the blogosphere about that instruction, with some people interpreting it to mean that you should let the beets get quite cold.
The NCHFP weighed in in 2015 in a post on their blog to settle the matter:
Beets should be hot when packed into jars for pressure canning, not cool and not cold. After parboiling them to get the skins off, let them cool only enough so that you can bear to touch them to peel them. But do not chill the beets otherwise; the canning recommendation presumes reasonably warm beets going into the jar.”  Christian, Kasey. Plain or pickled, they make great treats. What are they? Yes, they’re Beets! Preserving Food at Home blog. 18 February 2015. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2015/02/18/plain-or-pickled-they-make-great-treats-what-are-they-yes-theyre-beets/
The instruction was also clarified within 2 months on the NCHFP’s version of the USDA’s directions:
Cool just enough to handle without burning yourself, then remove skins, and trim off stems and roots.”  https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_04/beets.html
Explicit Recommendations Against
1. No pressure canning in electric countertop pressure cookers
The NCHFP has explicitly recommended against using an electric pressure cooker for canning, even if the manufacturer says you can.  Christian, Kasey. Can I Can in a Multi-Cooker? Preserving Food at Home blog. 25 November 2014. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2014/11/25/can-i-can-in-a-multi-cooker/
2. No using pressure cookers as pressure canners
“In the late 1980s the USDA published its recommendation to not use pressure saucepans (small cookers) for home canning.” National Center for Home Food Preservation. Burning Issue: Canning in Pressure Cookers. 7 November 2006. Accessed March 2015 at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/pressurecookers.html
3. No adding just any vegetable to the USDA “choice” soup recipe
The NCHFP offers a “choice” soup recipe, where you have a lot of leeway on the ingredients you can choose to use with the main proviso that half the volume of the jar be liquid. They have since explicitly come out to emphasize the line in the direction that says that you can only, however, choose ingredients that “already have separate canning recommendations.”
The procedure for canning soup says ‘Each vegetable should be selected, washed, prepared and cooked as you would for canning a ‘hot pack’ according to USDA directions’, which means that there must be a canning recommendation for each added ingredient. As examples, for this reason we cannot recommend adding cabbage nor cured meats like cured ham to canned soup.”  Christian, Kasey. Simply Soup. Preserving Food at Home blog. 5 March 2015. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2015/03/05/simply-soup/
So this means no cabbage, no celery, no cauliflower, no zucchini, etc used in that recipe as an ingredient.
Onion can be used, because it has a tested canning procedure in So Easy to Preserve (2014, page 92.)
And to be clear, celery can be used in tested fixed soup recipes from reputable sources that call from it, such as Ball’s Vegetable Soup because they have specifically tested for it. The above just applies to the USDA free-wheelin’ soup recipe.
See here for full details about the soup.
4. No home canning of cured meats
For a full discussion, see: Home canning cured meats.
5. No home canning of dairy products
This includes adding any dairy as an ingredient to something you are canning. See: Canning Controversies: No to Home Canning Dairy Products.
|↑1||Christian, Kasey. Plain or pickled, they make great treats. What are they? Yes, they’re Beets! Preserving Food at Home blog. 18 February 2015. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2015/02/18/plain-or-pickled-they-make-great-treats-what-are-they-yes-theyre-beets/|
|↑3||Christian, Kasey. Can I Can in a Multi-Cooker? Preserving Food at Home blog. 25 November 2014. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2014/11/25/can-i-can-in-a-multi-cooker/|
|↑4||National Center for Home Food Preservation. Burning Issue: Canning in Pressure Cookers. 7 November 2006. Accessed March 2015 at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/pressurecookers.html|
|↑5||Christian, Kasey. Simply Soup. Preserving Food at Home blog. 5 March 2015. Accessed March 2015 at https://preservingfoodathome.com/2015/03/05/simply-soup/|
I don’t understand the fear with digital. Everything is digital these days.medications that you receive in the hospital comes digitally. With today’s environment why Is there no funding for Testing digital canning? Why can’t our government put some money aside for this. With the inflation these days people are going hungry. There needs to be more testing done for home canning. Or would you rather people stand in line and get free boxes of vegetables. Like we had with the beginning of covid and nobody being able to work. People are scared. Gas prices going up daily.
Agreed. The field of home canning is way overdue for a fresh dose of funding to do a lot of catchup testing and research. It wouldn’t take much, and would be absolute peanuts compared to everything else the government spends money on without giving a second thought. Tell your elected reps you want a little bit of money invested in this for long-overdue catch up.
I am confused caused by the discussion of digital pressure canners and USDA guidelines. The statement that digital canners are NOT approved by USDA seems to imply that traditional/manual canners ARE approved by USDA but those are not approved either. There is not a seal of approval on those canners like you might find a UL label on a electric device indicating it has been tested and approved by UL. The USDA does not approve the traditional manual pressure canners OR the newer digital/electric pressure canners, so what makes the traditional pressure canners safer than digital one if the gauges and weights on the manual pressure canners are not calibrated or verified and especially since the different manufacturer’s model have not been tested?
This page discusses how use of the term “approved” is erroneous; it’s the wrong word. The USDA itself doesn’t use it. You’re right that they don’t issue any seal of approval. What they do is recommend, or recommend against (though they way they word “recommend against” is “not recommended”. As of summer 2022 are still unable to issue a positive recommendation for digital pressure canners.
Can water-bath canning be used all the time, even with vegetables? I do not like pressure cookers.
Absolutely not, never. It cannot be used with low-acid foods such as plain vegetables. If you don’t like pressure canners, use your freezer or food dehydrator instead, or, just buy frozen veg or canned goods when they are on sale.
I have read the 2019 NCHFP warning against canning with a pressure cooker (I.e. instapot or similar). There is a (new?) Presto 02144 pressure canner that says it is the first electric home canner that meets the USDA guidelines for home pressure canning. Is that ok, or would the caveats and concerns of the 2019 NCHFP still apply?
We’re aware of this. The National Center hasn’t yet had any funding to do any testing with this new Presto device and so they are unable to give it a nod at this point.
Uh, it’s 2017, is there anything from NCHFP about pressure canning that’s not from 2006? Seems pretty archaic considering advances in technology.
Where do you get the 2006 date from?
I’m confused. I am fairly new to canning and try to stay within the guidelines since I don’t want to harm my family with my creative flair. But above you stated no celery. Why then, in the 2016 Ball Blue Book, for their Vegetable Soup (pg 108) do they have celery in their recipe? It seems they are contradicting themselves with the statement of only using vegetables that have an approved preparation but then they are using a vegetable that doesn’t have one. (And don’t get me started on the errors I have found in this book). I am going to assume that it is safe to use celery in the amount specified in their tested recipe. Would that be a correct assumption?
I love this site by the way. Some wonderful recipes and loads of great information. Thank you.
Hi Kathleen, on the front inside cover, does it give 2016 as the printing date for your Ball Blue Book?
That soup discussion above is about the USDA’s “Your Choice” recipe, the rules for which are: you can’t use in it an item for which there isn’t a separate canning recommendation on its own. No one has a current separate canning recommendation for plain celery on its own, so that let’s that out. Ditto, ground chicken. But, that restriction on celery just applies to that recipe.
You’re right in that it’s different if the celery is called for in a tested recipe that has tested for its presence. So that’s why Ball can call for it. There are a few other pressure canning recipes that call for celery such as the USDA’s spaghetti sauces, some of their stewed tomato mixes, etc.
And you’re right, all the exceptions can get maddening. But there’s only so many and eventually you encounter them all. Here the rule affecting celery is: it’s okay for the big guys to break the rules. It does seem really unfair, but it’s because they have labs and trained staff that can test to make sure it’s okay.