glossary of terms (m-z)

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Microorganisms - Independent organisms of microscopic size, including bacteria, yeast, and mold. When alive in a suitable environment, they grow rapidly and may divide or reproduce every 10 to 30 minutes.

Therefore, they reach high populations very quickly. Undesirable microorganisms cause disease and food spoilage. Microorganisms are sometimes intentionally added to ferment foods, make antibiotics, and for other reasons.

Mold - A fungus-type microorganism whose growth on food is usually visible and colorful. Molds may grow on many foods, including acid foods like jams and jellies and canned fruits. Recommended heat processing and sealing practices prevent their growth on these foods.

Mycotoxins - Toxins produced by the growth of some molds on foods.

Open - Kettle canning A non-recommended canning method. Food is supposedly adequately heat processed in a covered kettle, and then filled hot and sealed in sterile jars. Foods canned this way have low vacuums or too much air, which permits rapid loss of quality in foods. Moreover these foods often spoil because they become recontaminated while the jars are being filled.

Pasteurization - Heating of a specific food enough to destroy the most heat-resistant pathogenic or disease-causing microorganism known to be associated with that food.

pH - A measure of acidity or alkalinity. Values range from 0 to 14. A food is neutral when its pH is 7.0: lower values are increasingly more acidic; higher values are increasingly more alkaline.

Pickling - The practice of adding enough vinegar or lemon juice to a low-acid food to lower its pH to 4⅗ or lower. Properly pickled foods may be safely heat processed in boiling water.

Pressure canner - A specifically designed metal kettle with a lockable lid used for heat processing low-acid food. These canners have jar racks, one or more safety devices, systems for exhausting air, and a way to measure or control pressure. Canners with 20- to 21-quart capacity are common. The minimum volume of canner that can be used is 16-quart capacity, which will contain 7 quart jars. Use of pressure saucepans with less than 16-quart capacities is not recommended.

Raw pack - The practice of filling jars with raw, unheated food.

Acceptable for canning low-acid foods, but allows more rapid quality losses in acid foods heat processed in boiling water.

Spice bag - A closeable fabric bag used to extract spice flavors in a pickling solution.

Style of pack - Form of canned food, such as whole, sliced, piece, juice, or sauce. The term may also be used to reveal whether food is filled raw or hot into jars.

Vacuum - The state of negative pressure. Reflects how thoroughly air is removed from within a jar of processed food--the higher the vacuum, the less air left in the jar.

Yeasts - A group of microorganisms which reproduce by budding. They are used in fermenting some foods and in leavening breads.

======================================================= === * USDA Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539 (rev. 1994) * Meal-Master format courtesy of Karen Mintzias

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