Not too long ago, I found myself in a discussion with a good friend of mine about home canned foods. Where I tend to stick to the regulations for the most part, she was a wild canner who canned anything and everything solely for the purpose of canning it. For the most part, I let her speak without interrupting her but when she mentioned canning rice, my ears perked up. I have never heard such a thing, but there she was, doing it herself and expecting to feed it to her family at some point. The entire conversation prompted me to head to my kitchen, pull out my pint jars, grab my pressure canner and process a couple pounds of rice. Why? Because I knew that she wasn’t practicing safe home canning and I wanted to prove it to her.
Before we go any farther in this post, I want to make it perfectly clear that I never intended to feed my family this rice. I flirt with a few of the safe home canning rules, but I am very picky about which ones I do that with and I have done enough research on each one to understand the science behind it. For instance, safe home canning rules now say that you cannot safely can shredded zucchini. The reason behind this is not because it isn’t safe, but rather that the organizations who put those rules out for us all lost the research. Because of this and the fact that they do not want to spend the money to re-test, they removed shredded zucchini from the list of foods that are safe to can in 2012. Canning knowledge hasn’t changed much since 2012 so I feel safe enough to can it using the methods that were approved before the research was lost.
Safe Home Canning – Is it Safe to Can Rice?
I have also been known to bake and seal quick breads and cakes. They are baked in the jar at temperatures that kill botulism spores and are sealed with a damp cloth and lid by the heat from the jar. Not only have I done the temperature research on it, but I don’t get too concerned since they never last long enough on the shelf for contamination to be a concern. The vast majority are eaten within 2 weeks. They are the perfect size to take with us when we plan a hiking trip or when we plan a camping trip as a family. When we’re ready to eat them, they are heated back up to a temperature that will kill botulism spores just as an added layer of safety.
With all of that said, canning rice goes against every safe home canning rule that I have ever seen and there is a reason for it. Rice holds moisture and that moisture can cause mold or a false canning seal. It may seem as if your jars are okay when in reality, they aren’t. We will talk more about all of this in a few but first, the method.
How to can rice at home
The process behind what my friend was doing went like this:
- Mix dry white rice with cinnamon and sugar for flavor. I believe she was trying to create something that could be eaten as a cereal and dessert both.
- Fill a pint jar 1/3 of the way with dry white rice.
- Top off with boiling water leaving 1-1 1/2 inch headspace.
- Process at 10lbs pressure for 30 minutes.
Seems legit, right?
Wrong. As I mentioned earlier, rice holds moisture and that moisture spells death for your canned rice and possible illness for your family (or anyone who eats it). When you can the rice, you add water. That water is absorbed into the rice and over time, that water can create condensation within your jar. That condensation can then seep under your seal and create what is known as a false seal. This false seal can appear to be sealed correctly, but isn’t. It will allow air into your jar which combined with the moisture held in the rice, creates what would amount to your child’s third grade science project.
In addition to that, rice when combined with water becomes very thick. This thickness makes it extremely hard for heat to penetrate. Since heat is what kills harmful organisms such as botulism spores, you are putting your entire family at risk of botulism. In case you have never looked them up, symptoms of botulism include – but are not limited to – vomiting, diarrhea, blurred or double vision, difficulty swallowing, paralysis and in severe cases, death.
Because of those risks, I was determined to show her exactly what she was risking. So I canned 9 pints of rice using the exact same method that she was using. After 24 hours, all 9 of them had proper seals. They were marked with a gigantic do not eat sign and placed in the back of my closet so that they were in a cool, dark place. At one month I checked them and they were fine. At two months, I checked them and they were fine.
At three months, they weren’t.
At the three month mark, 6 of the 9 jars looked like this. I want to point out that the lid is still sealed to the jar in the photo. It is still a tight seal that would need to be pried off should I want to open it. I didn’t because eww, but it’s tight enough that I was able to pick up the jar by the edge of the lid and have it hold. Do you see the water in the jar? Right above the F of the middle watermark there is water. That water is what seeped out of the rice as it sat.
Of the 9 jars that I tested, 6 had mold or had popped their seal. 3 of the 6 jars that had gone bad had their lids come completely off while the other 3 still had tight seals. I have no doubt that the other 3 would have gone down the same road given enough time. I wasn’t waiting around any longer though and tossed all 9 jars.
Safe home canning rules are there for a reason. They are there to keep you and your family safe. They are there to ensure that the food preservation you are doing will not only last, but that it will still be safe to eat when you need it.
The risks involved in canning items that are not meant to be canned are far too big to even mess around with.
If you’re new to canning, I highly recommend that you pick up the Ball Blue Book before you get started. Once you’ve taken a look at that, you’re ready to learn the basics of canning. Canning is an incredibly safe way to preserve food for long term storage, but as you can see; it absolutely must be done safely.
“Because so and so did it” or “My grandma canned this way” simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to the safety of your family. If you want to preserve rice, use a mylar bag and an oxygen absorber. It is just as easy (if not more so) to bag it and it will last much longer.