Concordia Student-Run Food Groups Research Project

Food Safety & Introduction to Canning

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Photos by Lorena Gropp

Food & Culture Conference Report – by Loreena Gropp
Conference: Season Jars – Food Preservation – Food safety & Introduction to Canning

Wednesday, September 27th 6.00-8.00pm

After weeks of unusual but mostly welcomed temperatures for this time of the year, September 27th marked the unofficial start of fall season. Getting to the workshop hosted at the “Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre” meant walking through pouring rain and heavy winds, but it was completely worth it. The event organizer was Season Jars, a “student-led Concordia Food Coalition working group that aims to promote year-round consumption of local, organic and seasonal produce through public education and collective food preservation” ( Nadra, Monica and Sherif from Season Jars successfully led an informative and fun hands-on event on canning and food safety. The fact that everyone was able to grab a jar of the self-made applesauce or apple chutney at the end just made it even greater of an experience.

“Canning is a food preservation method in which foods are processed then stored in hermetically sealed containers” (Season Jars). Home canning enables a shelf life of 1-5 years and is a great way to preserve seasonal and organic food items. Nicholas Appert was the first to discover canning when he participated in a contest to ensure food supplies for the French army during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time the scientific basis for canning was not yet known, until Louis Pasteur revealed how canning works half a century later. When heating up foods and placing it in containers microorganisms that cause spoilage bacteria to develop get destroyed, as air is driven out of the jar and a vacuum is formed during the cooling process. Ever since then, the canning industry has rapidly been growing.

There are certain health risks that can occur if canning is not done properly. At the workshop, Nadra, Monica and Sherif made sure to inform us about how to prevent illness caused by incorrectly canned foods. They emphasized that it is important to know the scientific basis behind canning: the level of acidity of the food item determines how safe it is to can it. Acid foods are those foods that have a pH-value of 4.6 or lower, so for example apples. Low-acid foods have a pH-value of 4.6 or higher, and are usually dairy and meat products for example. There are two home canning methods – water bath canning and pressure canning – the latter is a safer alternative for low-acid foods.

One important subject the workshop also touched on was how commercially canned produce may not be as safe to consume as home-canned products as it potentially contained substances from materials of cans (e.g. BPA), that can get transferred into the food item during transportation. When done correctly, canning is an important mechanism to preserve foods. Home canning also goes hand-in-hand with home-brewing and other movements that aim at food sovereignty and seasonality. Preservation of foods enables using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and providing food for oneself, which origins and transformation are known. So when you engage in your next fun fall experience of apple picking, pick up an extra batch of apples and try canning yourself. It is seasonal, practical and fun – and as in the case of the workshop, also very delicious.

If you are interested in making and preserving your own foods seasonally, there are other informative and hands-on events that you can attend:

This workshop organized by Season Jars and Transition NDG teaches you how to make your own Japanese pickles with Prof. Satoshi Ikeda. As spots are limited make sure to get yours and register early (link on facebook page). The workshop includes sampling your delicious creations and taking home a jar of the Japanese Pickles.


Another hands-on event, also organized by Season Jars and Transition NDG, is a great opportunity to learn about fermentation and its health benefits and how to make your own canned cabbage varieties, as well as squash to stock up for winter. Sampling and take-home jar included as well:


Also, be sure to check out Camilla Wynne’s events for the Preservation society. “Camilla Wynne is a writer, home preserving teacher, and the founder of Preservation Society” ( The Preservation society offers a variety of home-brewing workshops, where you learn to can all kinds of vegetables or to make your own jams.

Further Reading:

(National Center for Home Food Preservation, check for complete canning instructions and overview of acid and low-acid foods and suggested method for canning)