We have answers to your process questions.

Do jams and jellies need to be processed in a boiling water bath canner?

Yes, because of possible mold contamination, paraffin or wax seals are no longer recommended for any sweet spread, including jellies. Even though sugar helps preserve jellies and jams, molds can grow on the surface of these products. Research now indicates that the mold which people usually scrape off the surface of jellies may not be as harmless as it seems. Mycotoxins have been found in some jars of jelly having surface mold growth. Mycotoxins are known to cause cancer in animals; their effects on humans are still being researched.

For more information, tested recipes and step-by-step processing information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Can a Cottage Food Operator serve samples?

Yes. A cottage food operation may offer samples either by preparing prepackaged samples in the kitchen of the cottage food operation, or by obtaining a sampling certificate from the Local Health Department and preparing samples on the spot at the event. Certificates are valid for 3 years.

See Where Can I Sell? For more information or visit Illinois Department of Public Health

What does pH mean, and why is it important in non-potentially hazardous foods?

"pH" is a symbol, which is a measure of the degree of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution or food. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The value for pure distilled water is 7, which is considered neutral. The lower the number the higher the acid content of the food, which starts at less than 4.6 for acid foods. The Illinois Cottage Food Law makes clear divisions of some foods based on the pH value. Acidic foods naturally prevent the growth of many foodborne microbes. All jams and jellies, salsas, pickles and all other home canned foods sold under the Cottage Food Law must have pH equilibrium of 4.6 or below.