Bazaars and home canned items

Asking questions to get information about products you purchase.

I love visiting church bazaars and local craft sales to see what people are up to. There are always new ideas to get my creative juices going and many items for sale that make wonderful birthday and holiday gifts. Do you ever wonder how the items were made, including the home canned pickles, jams, salsas and other edible creations? I do!

When I see individuals selling foods, I ask questions. So can you.

Because allergies are so rampant, the first question I ask is “What’s in it?” so I will know if there is an ingredient in the product that could cause problems for someone with allergies. This is especially important if the food doesn’t have a label. According to the Michigan Cottage Food Law, people can make things in their home kitchen to sell, but it must have a label with ingredients listed along with any allergens. If one is allergic to peanuts, and there are traces of that nut in the cookies you’re thinking of purchasing, it can lead to trouble.

Another question to ask is “How was this processed?” Anything in a jar should have been processed – either by a pressure canner (vegetables and meats) or a boiling water bath (tomatoes, pickles and fruits). The seller should be able to tell you how it was prepared and canned. If salsa has been sealed in a microwave or oven, or the seller doesn’t know, you should leave it at the table and find another product to purchase.

You can also ask other questions:

    • Did you make this?
    • When – to check for freshness - was this made?
    • Where did you get your ingredients?
    • Do you pick your own berries? Where?
    • What type of pectin – for jams and jellies – did you use?
    • Did you use an old family recipe or one that is research-based recipe?

Not only will you get the information you’re looking for, but you’ll be getting to know another person, and may find a source for gifts in the future. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you be proactive in your purchasing power and ask questions when purchasing foods for yourself or your family. By asking a few questions, we learn about what’s available and what we might want to purchase - or avoid. Don’t wait until you have a bout with foodborne illness; take the initiative to keep yourself safe.

If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Did you find this article useful?