Homemade jam as “an act of defiance”
From “A Cultural Analysis of Homemade Jam in the Twenty-First Century” by Lynn Houston:
Thus, home jam-making in the twenty-first century breaks with earlier methods of this practice and comes to represent this contemporary historical moment. The practice of making jam at home is counterculture and radical if it seeks to resist the heavily advertised and marketed brand name jams and provide the consumer with a sense of agency and control over the processes of production. Although it may cost cooks more money and take more time than simply purchasing jam at the supermarket, every jar of jam they make themselves is an act of defiance, however small, because it refuses to put money into the pockets of multinational corporations. Here, to use the terms of Michel de Certeau in the Practice of Everyday Life, the consumer unmakes his own domination by developing practices of everyday life that “poach … on the property” of the corporation and factory owners. Making jam at home is one of the “ways of operating [that] form the counterpart, on the consumer’s … side, of the mute processes that organize the establishment of socioeconomic order” (xiv).
We are presently swimming in nectarines. Hundreds upon hundreds of nectarines. My family has been busy helping with the harvest, and my wife has been busy making nectarine jam. I think she’s up around 40 jars now. We’d like to sell the jam, but many folks have told me that an FDA-approved commercial kitchen is required. On the other hand, the owners of the fruit stand up the road are selling their own jams made in their farmhouse kitchen. When I asked one of them – presumably the wife and the cook herself – about FDA requirements, she just shrugged and said no one has ever bothered them about it. So I suppose one can do this on a small scale and get away with it around here. There are lots of “old school” people in this county who prefer their food home-grown and home-made.
I’m still looking into the rules for California and Glenn County – a web search hasn’t turned up anything – but here’s a brochure from the state of Washington detailing the requirements in Clallam County:
Preparation – Product must be prepared in a clean environment. Children and pets are not allowed in the area. Before starting preparation, all surfaces should be sanitized with a wiping cloth that is stored in a solution of one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of cool water. Hands must be washed thoroughly and good personal hygiene must be practiced. Preparation should not be done by any person experiencing symptoms of illness. All equipment and utensils must be clean. As always, frequent handwashing is very important.
Children and pets not allowed in the kitchen??? How’s that for crazy.
Containers – Each container must be visually inspected to ensure there are no obvious cracks, breaks, sharp points, or other defects. Each container must be sterilized. Lids or seals must be new and may not be reused.
Sealing – Paraffin wax is an acceptable sealing method. Thermal processes, such as hot fill hold process or hot water/steam bath processes are also acceptable means of sealing. (If using a thermal process you must follow approved guidelines such as WSU Cooperative Extension Bulletin EB1665 or other USDA approved and published guidelines for home canning of fruit based products.)
Labeling – It is a good idea to have your label approved by Environmental Health before printing to save time and money in the event of necessary changes.
The label must contain:
- the common name of the food (i.e. Strawberry Jam).
- a list of all ingredients, including additives, in descending order of predominance. You may use the term ‘spices’ to protect any secrets.
- the name and address or phone number of the processor so consumers can contact you if a problem exists. The contact name can be a company name or an individual’s name.
- a packaging date/batch code. This can be in code form ( i.e. 980630 means June 30, 1998 ) and can include as much information as you want ( time, batch number, etc. ). If there is a product recall, each batch can be recalled instead of a whole product line. An interpretation of your code must be filed with the Environmental Health Division.
- “Keep Refrigerated” if the product is to be sold refrigerated. This can be on the label or on a separate sticker.
- accurate information.
The label must be:
- easily readable. Labels can be hand written if they are legible and contain complete information.
- written in English, although duplicate labeling in foreign languages is allowed.
Labeling is expensive and time consuming, especially for a small enterprise.
If you intend to sell your product unrefrigerated, laboratory testing must be performed to determine that the product is not a potentially hazardous food (PHF). (PHFs are foods that support the rapid growth of bacteria.)
I’ve never seen jams – homemade or otherwise – sold refrigerated. It seems that most everyone would have to submit their jams for laboratory testing before selling.
Please have your product tested for the following parameters:
- pH (or acidity level)
- water activity
- soluble solids
You will need to prepare a batch for testing, and some labs will require recipes as well as product samples. Please contact the laboratory to determine what needs to be submitted for product testing. Some laboratories will provide only the results, while others may also offer to assist you with recipe modifications if needed.
You may choose not to have your product tested. However, an untested jam or jelly must be assumed to be a PHF, and must be kept and sold refrigerated. In order to sell an untested product, you are also required to have a Food Service Operating Permit from Clallam County.
Registering Your Product
Prior to selling your product, you must register it with Clallam County Environmental Health. Simply fill out the registration form and provide the necessary information (recipe, label, and lab results if product is unrefrigerated). After County review you will receive a copy of the form with an approval or denial notation at the bottom.
If the fruit-based product is tested and determined to be a potentially hazardous food (PHF), it must be sold refrigerated. If you choose not to have your product tested, it must meet the same requirements as a refrigerated product.
Fruit based products requiring refrigeration must be produced in a County approved commercial kitchen and must be kept refrigerated at 45ºF or below at all times. These products cannot be offered for sale if prepared in the home. To sell refrigerated products, you must register your product and obtain a Food Service Operating Permit from Clallam County.
There you have it. Selling homemade jam is flat-out illegal … at least in Clallam County, Washington.
Containers must be limited to one pint or smaller. Refrigeration of the product must occur as soon after processing as possible. Refrigeration must be maintained until sale of the product. The product must be labeled “Keep Refrigerated“.
Vegetable Based Products
Because of the physical properties of vegetable-based products, they are considered potentially hazardous food (unless scientifically proven otherwise). Vegetable based products must be produced in a County approved commercial kitchen and must be kept refrigerated at 45ºF or below at all times. Vegetable-based products cannot be offered for sale if prepared in the home. To sell vegetable-based products, you must obtain a Food Service Operating Permit from Clallam County.
If you have someone else sell your product (i.e. your products are available for sale at a retail store), you will be considered a wholesaler and are required to obtain a license from the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture. If you are a wholesaler, you do not need to register your product with Clallam County Environmental Health.
So much for a home business selling jams, pies, muffins, cheese, or most anything else prepared in your own kitchen!
Happily, there seem to be lots of people around here breaking the rules. I just mentioned the seller of homemade jams at the produce stand up the road. Last month at a harvest fair I bought some homemade jams from another local vendor. Every week a Mexican lady drives up to the house in an old gray sedan and sells my wife her delicious homemade tamales. (At least they taste homemade: we don’t ask, and she doesn’t tell.) We already have customers for our grass-fed beef and goat’s milk if we ever decide to go underground …