Selling Pepper Jelly

Asked August 2, 2019, 5:28 PM EDT

I have read and have been told according to the Cottage Food law, you cannot sell pepper jelly because of the acidity. My question is: If you are following a recipe (Like from Ball in their canning book) and the recipe uses vinegar (for the acidity), then why is it considered not safe? What has to happen in order to be able to sell Pepper Jellies? Can I pressure can it in order that it is considered safe? Does it have to be made in a "cannery"? A commercial kitchen? I have been making it for over 20 years. No one in my family or friends has EVER gotten sick. Its ridiculous that these recipes are in a Ball Canning book but bottom line considered unsafe.

Hamilton County Ohio

1 Response

You are correct, pepper jelly is not a cottage food. There are two issues you raise: the definition of what you can make and sell as cottage foods and what makes pepper jelly safe. In Ohio, the cottage food law specifically lists products that qualify for the exemption. This list is risk-based, but practically speaking, if it's not on the list, you can't produce it in a home kitchen for sale. There is no way to produce pepper jelly as a cottage food, regardless of process or recipe source. If you wish to prepare and sell pepper jelly, you must make it in a licensed kitchen facility. You can obtain a license for your own facility or rent time in various shared-use operations.

As for safety, the addition of vinegar and other acidic ingredients is the control for Clostridium botulinum (botulism), as you suggest. However, ensuring that a sufficient ratio of high acid to low acid ingredients is used (based on a combination of amount, degree of acidity, and buffer capacity of all ingredients) is what inhibits germination of those bacterial spores and controls safety. Using a recipe from a reputable source, like the National Center for Home Food Preservation or an OSU OhioLine factsheet that have been tested for safety for home use helps ensure you will have a sufficient ration of high acid to low acid ingredients. There is a higher burden for controlling the factors that dictate food safety in commercial operations to protect public health. Home canned foods have been associated with outbreaks of botulism, so for this reason, acidified foods like pepper jelly do not fall under the Ohio Cottage Food Law.

Finally, the use of recipes from an approved source that have been validated for safety is how you, as a home processor, would ensure safety. The fact that you have made a recipe for years and not gotten anyone sick is not a strong indication of the safety of the process. Continue to use validated recipes in home processing, and consider looking for commercial space to rent if you wish to sell these products in the future.

Best of luck