Cottage Food Connection
Enews for Minnesota Cottage Food Producers

Cottage Food Talks at the Minnesota State Fair 

University of Minnesota Extension food safety educators and Minnesota Department of Agriculture staff teamed up to promote the Minnesota cottage food industry and food safety at the fair. Cottage Food Basics and Food Safety Tips presentations will be held at the University of Minnesota U Talks stage ,  (U of M Central, Crossroads Building, 1673 Dan Patch). Join us at the Minnesota State Fair on:
  • Friday, August 24, 2018 
  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 

Minnesota Cottage Food Industry is Growing

It's been three years since the Minnesota cottage foods law was enacted. Hap py anniversary! The law requires cott age food producers  to register with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) before selling exempt food, regardless of the amount of food sold. Look at these numbers to see how the industry has grown since 2015:



Study finds most don't practice basic food safety steps

During cottage food production, do you take the time to wash your hands well? Are you careful not to touch refrigerator handles, ingredient containers or food contact surfaces with unclean hands? In a recent meal preparation USDA study May 2018, only 1 out of 10 food preparers washed their hands using the 6-step handwashing procedure.
Most common concerning handwashing mistakes were:
  • not rubbing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (76% control group, 83% treatment group
  • not wetting hands (40% control group, 44% treatment group)
  • not using soap (40% control, 44% treatment group)
  • not drying hands (13% control group, 10% treatment group)
  • drying hands with surfaces other than a disposable towel (16% control group, 23% treatment group).
Frequency of handwashing was also an issue. In a test kitchen, 383 consumers (201 control, 182 treatment group) were observed preparing turkey patties and a chef's salad. 1,054 times were identified as required handwashing interventions. Only 1/3 (33%) of the treatment group washed their hands when required.
Improper handwashing leads to cross-contamination, also a concern. Cross-contamination occurs when disease-causing organisms from one food or surface transfers to another food or surface. Spice containers became contaminated after being touched with unwashed hands preparing turkey patties by 48% of the control group.
To prevent cross-contamination during cottage food production be sure to:
  • Schedule dedicated time to use your kitchen only for cottage food preparation. Do not prepare, package, or handle cottage food products in your kitchen while cooking family meals, washing family dishes, clothes or entertaining guests. 
  • Wash your hands before and after food preparation. Wash hands after you touch your skin or mouth; sneeze or cough; touch raw eggs, phone, dirty dishes or garbage; use the bathroom; or change a diaper.
  • Practice good personal hygiene.
    • Wear clean clothes or aprons.
    • Cover cuts or wounds on hands, wrists with a bandage and wear single-use, latex-free gloves.
    • Don't wear jewelry on hands or wrists.
    • Wait 72 hours after you or a household member have recovered from vomiting or diarrhea to prepare, package or sell cottage foods. Be sure to clean and sanitize areas exposed to illness. Lean how here
    • Don't directly touch ready-to-eat food and finished product with your hands. Use gloves, tongs or wax paper instead.
    • Wash, rinse and sanitize equipment, utensils, dishes and food preparation surfaces before and after use and every four hours in continuous use. See common household products effective as sanitizers on food preparation surfaces here
    • Store ingredients, pots, pans, packaging materials and products in airtight food grade containers or in cabinets or rooms away from chemicals, free of pests, standing water, dampness and other unsanitary conditions.
    • Pets can be a source of contamination. Keep pets out of the kitchen and rooms where you store your ingredients and finished product. Wash hands after feeding or touching pets or animals.
    • Transport food in clean covered containers and in a clean vehicle.
Do's and Don'ts of home canned items for sale

Do you sell home canned goods like salsa, dilly beans or sauerkraut? A cake that didn't rise won't make anyone sick, but under processed salsa could send someone to the hospital. Keep these do's and don'ts in mind when preparing home-canned goods for sale.
  • Use current tested standardized recipes from reputable sources.
  • See our Resource Hub here
  • Follow recipe ingredients and canning directions carefully.
  • Use top-quality produce that is free of disease, blemishes and imperfections.
  • Wash produce thoroughly.
  • Acidify all tomato products. Guidelines here.
  • Use proper headspace: ¼ inch for juices, jams and jellies, and relishes; ½ inch for fruits, tomatoes, and pickles. Too much headspace results in a lower vacuum and a weak seal. Too little headspace may force food under the lid, causing siphoning or breakage of the seal.
  • After filling jar, remove air bubbles with a plastic utensil.
  • Wipe sealing edge of jar with a damp paper towel.  
  • For two-piece lids, only tighten screw band until it stops turning freely. Don't over tighten.
  • Use a jar lifter to place jars into and out of the canner. Be careful not to tilt jars.
  • Thermal process every jar with water bath, steam canning or pressure canning, as indicated by your tested recipe.
  • Adjust processing times for Minnesota altitudes. Select processing times between 1001-2000 feet.
  • After processing for the designated time, turn heat off, remove lid, and let jars rest in the canner for five minutes before removing from the canner to reduce siphoning (loss of liquid from the jar).
  • After processing, set jars at least 2 inches apart to cool for 12-24 hours. Do not retighten bands. Do not turn jars upside down.
  • Remove the screw band on each cooled jar to verify a solid seal. Press the center of the lid to see if it is concave. If the center does not flex up and down and you cannot lift the lid off, the lid has a good vacuum seal.
  • Wash each cooled jar with a wet soapy cloth. Thoroughly clean the lid, the threads and the jar.
  • Store finished product in a cool (50 to 70°F) dark place. Place cooled jars in cabinets, or boxes, totes with covers.
  • Before selling canned products, examine each jar. Check that the lid is tight and has a vacuum seal. While holding the jar upright at eye level, rotate the jar and look for signs of spoilage: streaks of dried food on the outside of the jar surface originating at the top of the jar. Look at contents for cloudy canning liquid, rising air bubbles or unnatural color. Do not eat or sell any suspect product. See Safely disposing of unsafe home canned good article here
  • Use overripe or diseased produce.
  • Don't take shortcuts.
  • Don't add extra low acid ingredients such as onions, chilies, peppers, celery, etc.
  • Don't use a larger jar than indicated in the recipe.
  • Don't re-use metal lids for canning purposes.
  • Don't move or cover jars while they are cooling.
Can I re-use pickling brine?

According to a National Center for Home Preservation's blog post ( June 26, 2018 ), y ou can sa ve and re-use pickling brine (vinegar, salt, sugar, water solution) if it was not combined with the vegetables you are pickling. However, do not re-use brine mixed with vegetables. The vegetables soak up the vinegar solution making them acidic while making pickling solution less acidic. For safety sake, do not use leftover brine that previously held vegetable for another recipe. Remember, fresh is always best.

Do tested standardized canning recipes require lab testing?

If you use a tested standardized canning recipe, food product testing by a lab is not required to demonstrate non-potentially hazardous status of the product. Be sure to:

* Follow the recipe exactly.

* Retain recipe and source as
* Test final pH of salsa, pickles or other 
   acidified food. Test the pH of one jar
   per batch, 24 after processing. To save
   product, process a 4-ounce jelly jar as
   your test jar.
* Document pH test results.

However, if you use a non-standardized recipe or if altering a standardized recipe, you must have the product tested by a lab to validate NPH status pH (≤4.6) or water activity (≤0.85). Keep lab results as documentation.  


Dana and Kristine Steenburg
Angry Tomato Salsa 

By Heidi Haukos, Dietetic Intern

Dana Steenburg started making salsa when he was a marketing major at Sain t C loud State University in the 1990's. He started winning salsa contests gaining confidence in  his product from those he shared it with and the  awards he won. Dana started his Angry Tomato S alsa cottage food business as an expression of his love for making good salsa and his passion for  quality, local foods.
Dana produces his salsa in his Apple Valley home. An electric canning machine and making the switch to a standardized tomato source has revolutionized his production's safety and consistency. Dana struggled for some time to find consistently high quality tomatoes in the quantity he needed. Finding a standardized tomato source has made all the difference in the world for him, making his product safer and more consistent in flavor. He also invested in some electric canning machines. The automation provides a safer, more consistent product; taking the monitoring and controlling of the canning process out of Dana's hands. The electric canners and using standardized tomato sources allows him to produce more salsa at a time to meet the demand for his products. Even with this higher production rate, Dana still makes his salsa fresh each week in the evenings at home after working days at markets.

The most rewarding thing about his Angry Tomato Salsa cottage food business are the connections, relationships and support from his community. This has been two-fold for Dana. Fellow  vendors have provided priceless advice and feedback. Interacting with his customers and forming relationships with regulars keeps him motivated in his business. Because of this su pport, Dana is taking his salsa beyond cottage foods. He is exploring licensing options to sell his salsa products at small local businesses.    
If you are interested in trying Angry Tomato Salsa, Dana recommends his top seller-the Italian Olive Salsa. It is a top selling salsa because of its' tasteful flavor combination, reminiscent of both salsa and bruschetta. You will find Angry Tomato Salsa at farmers' markets in the Central MN area Tuesdays through Saturdays. If you're looking to find him at one, check out his Facebook page Angry Tomato Salsa.


Food Preservation Mini Modules 

If you preserve food, check out the 21 short educational videos from pickling 101 to jams and jellies.Videos contain the latest and safest preservation methods. Check them out here.

Local Food Advisory Committee 

The Local Food Advisory Committee meets quarterly working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Dairy and Food Inspection Divisions. Issues relating to local food and meat are raised and discussed. Information is shared and problem-solving takes place between regulators and the local food community.
If you have a concern or you've spotted an issue in local food production, distribution, and marketing which interacts with state regulations, send your comments anonymously using the form here.  


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