From chopping to canning to grilling, keep your family safe in the kitchen!
Vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet onions, hot peppers! There’s a reason Labor Day weekend is special for my family: the ingredients to make my grandfather’s homemade salsa recipe are in abundance at local farmers’ markets across North Texas. While some families enjoy one last summer celebration on the lake or a backyard barbecue over the long weekend, each year mine gathers at our Poppy’s house for a multi-generational tradition of cooking, grilling, and canning the summer harvest.
As we team up to prep the kitchen and utensils, sterilize boxes of mason jars, and sample the first test batch of salsa over fresh-off-the-grill fajitas, our conversations inevitably include recounting stories of past years’ mishaps that have sent more than one of our relations to the emergency room. Like the time Uncle Matt accidentally rubbed jalapeno oil in his eye, or when Gran dropped a jar lifting it out of the hot-water bath and cut her finger cleaning up the glass, or the time a young cousin playing too close to the grill burned his arm.
These stories remind us to teach the younger generation about the important canning safety steps we’ve learned to follow.
For anyone new to canning, proper kitchen and ingredients prep are the key rule. Before you start, be sure to look up approved home-canning procedures and recipes and follow the instructions for both to the letter!
- First, only use high-quality produce. Overripe or damaged ingredients can spoil your product and make it unsafe to eat.
- Allow age appropriate participation for children, but always carefully supervise their activities.
- Wash all your fruits and vegetables carefully.
- Always wash your hands and food preparation surfaces and utensils thoroughly before and after handling raw foods.
- Use the right kitchen tools for the task and follow manufacturers’ safety guidelines for sharpening and using chopping knifes, food processors, pressure cookers, stove tops, etc.
- Pepper oils can burn skin. Wear rubber or latex gloves to slice or handle peppers, and avoid any contact with your face.
- If you grill your peppers, whether over charcoal or gas flames, use safety precautions to prevent burns.
- Remember canning is an exact science that requires a precise acidity level to preserve your food. Do not alter an approved recipe, or can an untested recipe!
- Follow procedures to ensure all jars and lids are properly sterilized.
- Follow canning safety instructions to be sure jars properly seal, and to prevent burns when removing jars from hot water.
- Make sure you test all seals the next day.
- When in doubt of possible spoilage, throw it out to avoid food borne illness.
Our family’s Labor Day of love in the kitchen is well worth it when we can open a jar of homemade salsa to spice up a winter’s meal. Whatever the season, we have learned to put safety first. Annually U.S. emergency rooms treat about 330,000 kitchen knife accidents, more than two-thirds are finger injuries; 325,000 cases of food-borne illness requiring hospitalization; and 486,000 minor burn injuries.
If you need emergency services, Medical City Healthcare has 16 emergency locations with average wait times posted online to help you get the care you need fast. Visit FastERTX.com to find an HCA ER near you.
If you’re ready to preserve some great family memories along with nature’s bounty, check out a farmer’s market near you to find fresh, flavorful ingredients harvested right here in the North Texas area. Find a listing of local markets at greensourcedfw.org and if you’re in mood for fresh — not canned — salsa, check out a heart healthy avocado salsa recipe from the American Heart Association.
The Texas Department of Insurance, “Foodborne Diseases FactSheet,” tdi.state.tx.us
University of Minnesota Extension, “Canning Tomato-Based Salsa Safely”
The North Dakota State Extension Service. “Canning and Freezing Tomatoes and Making Salsa”
Washington Post, “Knife injuries and other kitchen mishaps afflict both top chefs and everyday cooks”
AmeriBurn.org, “Burn Incidence and Treatment in the United States – 2015”
American Heart Association
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.