Canning in a Boiling Water Bath

Almost every local eater in the Northeast is going to want to ‘preserve the harvest;’ pack away the bounty of the growing season at it’s peak of freshness and flavor, and store it against the coming winter.  Even if you are lucky enough to have a convenient winter farmer’s market near you, homemade preserves break up the monotony of a winter diet and it’s also the most economical way to eat – strawberries, blueberries & tomatoes might be $2/pound in peak season, but winter berries are notoriously expensive ($6 or $7 for a pint or half-pint) and winter tomatoes are expensive and tasteless. 

There are many ways to preserve the harvest: freeze, dry, ferment, root cellar, pickle and can.  Here I’ll offer basic instructions for boiling water bath canning, taken directly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (a worthwhile investment if you get serious about canning).

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Canning in a Boiling Water Bath (BWB)

FOODS

Not all foods can be safely preserved by boiling water heat processing. The safest bet is to follow trusted recipes.  The basic rule of thumb is that highly acidic foods, such as fruit and pickles, are safe to can in a boiling water bath.  Low acid foods, such as green beans, carrots and spinach, or neutral foods, such as peas and corn, MUST be processed in a pressure canner or you run the risk of botulism poisoning. (I do not personally own nor use a pressure canner, so I will not discuss those techniques here.) Anything with meat (chicken soup, chili) must also be canned in a pressure canner.  Tomatoes fall into the middle of the “acid” category and so are always canned with extra acid (lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid) in order to ensure food safety.  The best way to ensure safe home-canning is to stick with tested recipes, especially when you are starting out.

SAFE to Can in BWB: All fresh fruit, any type of pickles, salsas with sufficient vinegar, tomatoes & tomato sauces with added acid. 

NOT SAFE to Can in BWB:  Most vegetables, anything with meat or fish, pureed pumpkin, basil pesto, anything with added oil or butter (a slight amount of oil or butter can be used in canning fruits to reduce foaming).

EQUIPMENT

For my first canning experiment, homemade tomato sauce, I used nothing more than pint-sized Ball jars and my stockpot (with a kitchen towel in the bottom to prevent the jars from rattling).  This works fine, but if you find yourself doing a lot of canning, the following equipment will really help to streamline the process. Generally you can find all of the below at any well-stocked hardware store and in larger supermarkets.

  • Canner.  Make sure you get one that is at least 2, preferably 3 inches higher than the largest jar you intend to use and has a rack for holding the jars away from each other. Jars must be covered by 1 inch of water, and the additional space is to allow room for a vigorous boil during processing.
  • Glass canning jars.  A.K.A. “Ball jars” or “Mason jars” – easy to find in your local hardware store. The gasket-and-lid type of jar is not recommended by the USDA as it is more difficult (though not impossible) to tell whether or not you have achieved a tight seal.    There are also cool (and spendy) German Weck jars and Leifheit jars, Italian Fido jars and Quattro Stagioni jars and vintage jars all over eBay.  These jars are all a bit more finicky to use than the standard, hardware store Ball jars, so beginners should stick with standard Mason jars with 2-piece metal lids until comfortable with the process.  You can get jars, lids, rubber gaskets and other hard-to-find canning supplies at Lehman’s.
  • Funnel. For filling jars.
  • Jar lifter.  As the name implies, for lifting jars. With the 8-oz jars, I often simply use kitchen tongs, but a jar lifter comes in handy for pint jars and is a real necessity for quart jars.
  • Kitchen tongs. Indispensable in any kitchen!
  • Ladle.
  • Kits, with canner or without.  You can also find ‘beginner’ kits that may give you a deal on a canner plus other equipment.

METHODS

  1. Examine jars for any nicks, cracks, uneven rim surfaces or other damage – do not use damaged jars. Wash jars, lids and screwbands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and drain. 
  2. Place required number of jars into canner on canner rack (if possible I always include 1 or 2 extra jars, as yields vary).  Fill with filtered water (hard tap water can cause a white residue to coat your jars) or spring water to at least 1 inch over the top of the jars.If you must use unfiltered, hard water, a little vinegar (2-3 tbsp) added to the water will prevent the white film of mineral deposits from collecting on your jars.  Bring to boiling on high heat, then either turn the heat to low and keep the water simmering or boil for 15 minutes to sterilize jars.  A 15-minute bath in boiling water, prior to filling, will sterilize jars (I always do this step even though the Ball book says it is not necessary).  Time this such that the jars will be ready upon completion of your recipe.
  3. Place the jar lids, but not the screw bands, into a small saucepan filled with water.  Bring to a low simmer, but do not let boil.  Set screw bands aside. Place funnel and ladle in the simmering water in this pan.
  4. Prepare recipe.
  5. While recipe is cooking, set up your canning area; I clear a good spot on the countertop, place a cutting board topped with a kitchen towel, and line up a wooden spoon, regular teaspoon, clean paper towel, tongs, screwbands and potholders. 
  6. Fill jars: Working one jar at a time, remove a jar from the canner, pouring hot water back into the canner (keep the heat beneath the canner on low, so as to keep the canner water at a low simmer while filling jars).  Place the jar on a cutting board or heat-proof work surface (or hold in your hand with an oven mitt or potholder).  Place funnel in the top of the jar with tongs (try to minimize touching anything with your hands that will also touch the food, lest you contanimate the jars). Ladle the prepared food into the jar, leaving the amount of headspace specified in the recipe (usually 1/4 or 1/2-inch).  Keep a clear plastic ruler for use in the kitchen if you are bad at judging lengths.  Headspace is the space between the top of the jar and the top of the food. If possible, keep the recipe on low heat throughout the filling of the jars; if the recipe will burn, periodically re-heat the food if the canning takes a while, or if the food is no longer steaming hot.
  7. Tap the bottom of the jar on your work surface a few times (this is where a kitchen towel or wooden board comes in handy) to pack the food into the jar. Slide a non-metallic utensil, such as a wooden spoon handle, down between the food and the edges of the jar, moving the handle up and down as you rotate the jar.  This releases any air pockets that may cause seal failure; adjust headspace if necessary.
  8. Dip the edge of a paper towel or clean kitchen towel into the simmering lid water; wipe the jar rim and threads. Any food remaining on the jar rim will interfere with achieving a tight seal.
  9. Using tongs (or a magnetic lid lifter), lift a lid out of the simmering water and place on the jar.  Seat the lid on the jar top but try not to handle with your hands.
  10. Place the screwband on the jar and tighten until it is just fingertip tight (if it is too tight, pressure built up inside the jar from the boiling food will not be able to release).
  11. Using tongs or a jar lifter, return the jar to the canner pot.  Repeat the process until the food is gone, or until the food remaining will not completely fill a jar.  Do not process jars that are not completely full (with recommended headspace); store this food in the fridge and use within a few weeks.
  12. Once all jars are full and loaded into the canner, replace the canner lid and turn the heat up to high to bring the water back to a full boil.  Once boiling, start your kitchen timer and process at a rolling boil for the time specified in the recipe (often 10 or 15 minutes for jams, chutneys and salsas, longer for tomatoes and tomato sauces.)
  13. When the timer goes off and the jars have processed for the prescribed time, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the canner water for 5 more minutes.  Then, using tongs or a jar lifter, remove the jars from the hot water, being careful not to tilt the jars excessively (at this point you do not want any food to touch the jar lid, as it may interfere with the jar producing a tight seal). Try to pull the jars out of the canner straight up, and place on a kitchen-towel-lined cutting board or work surface.  You should start hearing the “ping” that signals a jar lid sealing within minutes, but for different recipes, it takes different amounts of time.  Allow the jars to rest undisturbed for 24 hours; if at this time the jars did not produce a tight seal (evidence by the jar lid pressed downward, into the jar – you cannot move it by pressing on the lid), then either put that jar into the fridge and use within a week or two, or re-process (in a clear jar, with new lids, etc).
  14. After the 24 hour rest, label your jars with the contents and the date and store in a cool, dark place.  (Light will tend to discolor the food over time; a standard kitchen cabinet is perfect storage.)

If this all seems like far too much work and far too many details to remember, it’s simply because I’ve written down very complete, step-by-step instructions.  In reality, once you get used to it, the process is more like: Heat jars. Make food. Fill jars. Process.  The first few times I canned anything, it took forever, I got several burns and it seemed like a ridiculous expenditure of energy for a few jars of tomato sauce.  But, surprisingly quickly, I got used to the whole process, and now it is simple, almost automatic.  I recommend starting with an easy recipe – tomato sauce or salsa is a good place to start, and don’t worry if it takes a long time or you make mistakes.  Even in my first canning attempt, the jars sealed, the sauce lasted and I was ridiculously proud to open a jar of that sauce in the dead of winter.  That feeling alone is worth the effort of learning to can, and once you do, the “process” is nearly effortless.

The above is exactly the process I use, every time I can.  I’ve never had a jar that did not seal, never had food mold or otherwise spoil and certainly never had any issues with botulism, salmonella, or other dangerous food-bourne illness.  I’m pretty anal about cleanliness and preventing contanimation and some people would likely say that all of the above steps are not necessary – but given the potential consequences, the least of which is wasting the time, money and hard work of preserving the harvest in the first place – I think it’s worth it.

TIPS & TRICKS

A few things learned in my 4+ years of canning.

  • As noted above, a little white vinegar in the canner water will prevent a white, filmy residue (hard water mineral deposits) from collecting on & in your jars.  Filling the canner with water and letting it sit overnight is also effective.
  • The standard, 2-piece lid Ball jars are a cinch to use: they seal easily, are a cinch to move in & out of the canner, are designed to work with US equipment. I love using a variety of jar types: but some of them can be tricky. 
    • Weck jars seal beautifully; I’ve never had a problem. But the larger ones can be a bit unwieldy to lift in & out of the canner, and they don’t fit the canner rack dimensions very well.
    • I’ve had trouble getting a good seal with Quattro Stagioni jars; the instructions are a bit convoluted (translation issues, I assume) but they instruct you to fill room temperature jars with room temperature food, then process, then let the jar sit until the water cools.  I usually fit hot, sterilized jars with hot food, then let the jar sit in the water bath until cool.  The last few times the jars have sealed.  I typically only use 1 or 2 of this type of jar per batch, however, in case the seals fail.
    • When using a Ball, Fido or Leifheit jar with a rubber gasket, move the little rubber tab away from the sealing clamp in the bail, such that you can see it easily (the rubber tab should point slightly down if you’ve achieved a good seal) and so that it is easier to open the jars when it comes time to enjoy your preserves (pull lightly on the tab, away from the jar, and the rubber gasket will release, releasing the lid).
    • While a seal generally happens within minutes (or seconds) of removal from the canner, jars can take up to 24 hours to seal. Try not to disturb jars, especially those of jams or jellies that need to ‘set’ for about a day. If a jar does not seal, you can stick it in the fridge and use within a month, or re-heat the preserve to boiling and process again in clean, sterilized jar.
  • Do taste your preserves prior to canning; I often forget this part and then wish I had added a pinch of salt, a bit of cayenne pepper, or a splash of lemon.  Taste as you go, remembering that as preserves age, certain flavors mellow & blend, while others will come to the forefront. It’s always interesting to me to see how a preserve changes over time; I’m always learning.
  • Once you’ve established a good seal, do protect your preserves from light while in storage. Light will leach the color out of many bright jams, salsas & chutneys which leaves them looking surprisingly unappetizing.
  • Always, always label & date, even if it is just a scrawl on masking tape. I often find myself making a small batch, 1 jar maybe, and sticking it in the fridge, only to come across it (some unspecified amount of time later) and have no idea what it is or when I made it.

STORE

As mentioned, a cool dark place is the best for storing your canned jars.  Try to use home-canned food within one year (hence dating the labels is key).  While I do have some jars on my shelf that are older than a year, I definitely do not keep them 2 years; home-canned foods are not heated to the high temps of industrial foods (250 degrees F) and are not intended to last forever.  Remember, you are preserving the harvest against the coming winter, not stocking up for nuclear winter.

SEASON

You can can (ha!) year-round, but most canning happens between June-October, following the harvest as berries, peaches & plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples and other goodies ripen and mature.

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166 comments

  1. Pingback: Canning Vegetable Soup « This Dame Cooks Blog

  2. wurdbird

    I’ve canned strawberry jam (for the first time), using certo. I did not put the jars back in the canner. I just filled the sterilized jars, put the sealing lids and rings on and waited for the pop or ping when the jar sealed.
    A friend told me to do it this way; she says she’s been doing it like this for several years and no one has got sick yet.
    What do you think?
    Thanks,
    Laurea

    • Well, the bacteria that exists today didn’t exist back when your grandma used to can. using a boiling water bath canner for at least 10 minutes pushes out all air and airborn germs/fungi. you need to get the contents boiling for at least 10 minutes and then when it cools, there will be a complete vacuum inside the jar. you don’t want to simply pop the lids, you want to seal the contents from contamination.

      one way to seal the contents is to shave some parafin wax and put a tablespoon of that in the bottom of each jar before filling and the temperature of the liquid will melt the wax and it will float to the top sealing the jelly from the air.

  3. localkitchen

    Well, that’s the way the used to do it ‘in the old days.’ There are various arguments out there as to how “my Grandmother canned this way for 87 years and no one died.” Strawberries, like most fruit, are pretty acidic, ranging from 3.0 – 3.9 pH. The safe canning limit is a pH of 4.6 or under, so presumably, botulism should not be growing in strawberry jam, regardless of a boiling water bath. However…

    I am probably conservative in this regard, but I always process my jam, for the following reasons:

    1) The USDA has scientists that test these things. Being a scientist myself, I have faith in data. While I’m sure the USDA leans toward the conservative side of safety, who doesn’t want to be extra safe when it comes to botulism?

    2) The pH of foods fluctuates with seasons, growing conditions, variety, etc. The pH of tomatoes has increased over the years, especially with newer varieties, which is why your grandmother could safely can tomatoes without added lemon juice, but we cannot.

    3) I give a lot of my jam and other canned goods away as gifts, and to a lot of families with small children. I can’t imagine how horrible I would feel if one of them got sick, or even died, because of a badly canned jar of my food. It definitely makes me a bit more careful than if I were simply preparing it for myself.

    4) It’s just a good habit. I sterilize my jars in the canner; the water is already hot – it doesn’t take much effort to pop the jars back into the canner for 10 minutes. The jam has already cooked for a while, so it’s not like I’m compromising freshness of the food (I can understand this argument with pickles). On the off chance that I do not manage to use up my jam within a year, I have the extra security of knowing that the jars were processed and that nothing should be growing. I guess in the end, it is just a risk-benefit scenario; the potential risl of contracting botulism is fairly low, but it exists. The cost of in effort of processing the jam for 10 minutes is low – and worth it to me, for the added security.

    For your current batch of jam – it’s probably fine. I would definitely try to keep it in a cool spot and use it within a year. Last year I canned some tomatoes and forgot to add lemon juice; I thought they were probably fine, because I use old, heirloom varieties; but I ended up storing them in the fridge anyway, just in case. Again – why take chances with botulism?

    • Cindy

      If the BWB wasn’t initially used, can you still do so a day or two later with set jam in the jars? Will it affect your jam? I had to re-do my jam, but didn’t re BWB the jars; however the lids sealed.

  4. janice

    I make a lot of homemade soups, and I want to can some of them. If I make a large pot of chicken corn soup–how do I can it in canning jars? And the same with homemade veg. soup. I would like to have some of this on my shelves this winter. I will be waiting for your quick reply.

  5. localkitchen

    Hi Janice,

    Unfortunately almost all soups must be canned in a pressure canner. The vegetables, stock, etc. in most soup recipes are low-acid foods and require pressurization to be heated up to 240 degrees F in order to kill all potentially harmful bacteria.

    Presumably you could make a soup base that was mainly tomatoes, with acidification (lemon juice, vinegar) etc., and a small amount of low-acid veggies (onions, peppers, etc) and safely can that in a boiling water bath; this could then be added to stock for ‘instant’ soup. However, I do not have a recipe for such a soup base and it is very important to either 1) follow an established safe recipe for home boiling-water bath canning, or 2) be able to accurately measure the pH of your final product – a pH of 4.6 or below is considered safe for home canning in a BWB.

    If you do want to explore pressure-canning, the National Center for Home Food Preservation has some good tips:

    http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_press_canners.html

    And Doris & Jilly http://dorisandjillycook.com/ have a lot more experience than I in this particular area.

    Good luck!

  6. wurdbird

    localkitchen..
    Hi and thanks for your reply. I JUST saw it. I thought I’d be notified by email when and if you replied. (obviously I didn’t check the ‘notify me’ box) Anyway, I searched the internet for answers and came up with the same advise you gave me. I’ve made several batches of jam since and all have been processed for the reasons you suggest.
    Thanks again!
    Laurea

  7. Sean

    Hi…the canning bug has bit me. I bought a water bath canner which came with a rack. I bought ingredients for a simple apple/cinnamon jam. I bought 8oz jars for this adventure. I washed the jars and the lids. Right when I got to the point of starting I realized the bath canner rack was for bigger jars. Is there an alternative? Is there a rack I need to buy to use solely for smaller jars?

    I am a 34 yo male..and have no idea what the heck I am doing. lol I appreciate any response.

  8. localkitchen

    Hi Sean,

    If you bought a standard canner & rack (mine is a speckled blue with a metal, 6-space rack with one additional spot for a jar in the middle), then no, that is the rack whether you are using 4-oz, 8-oz, 16-oz or quart jars. Since it is designed to fit up to a quart jar, a smaller jar will not fit snugly, and may tilt a bit in the water. Once the jar is full (of jam, salsa, whatever) usually it will stay upright. The purpose of the rack is mostly to keep the jars off the bottom of the canner, such that they do not rattle against the bottom while the water is boiling, which can break the jars. If you’re canning a small amount, this can also be accomplished without any rack at all; the first time I canned anything (tomato sauce) I used a soup pot and a kitchen towel in the bottom of the pan, under the boiling water, to prevent breakage. Don’t worry if the spaces for the smaller jars seem too big; try to tilt the jars slightly up against the wall of the canner if it seems like they willtip over.

    Good luck! And feel free to post any more questions you may have. Happy canning!

    Kaela

  9. jayne

    Hi
    I canned some pears 3 days ago in thyme, sugar, pear juice and dry sherry. It was my first solo canning venture (I watched my mother can some peach/brandy jam 2 days earlier). I realized yesterday with horror, that I forgot to sterilize the jars! Do I need to throw out my pears?

    jayne

  10. localkitchen

    Hi Jayne,

    How long did you process the pears for? The sterilization step is not ‘officially’ required by the Ball Book process, since the processing time should kill any bacteria remaining in the jars; therefore, if you had sufficient processing time, you should be OK. Also, how much thyme did you use per jar? Since thyme is non-acidic, any more than a small amount of fresh thyme (one sprig I would guess) could be too much for safe canning.

    If in doubt, you can always store them in the refrigerator and use sooner rather than later.

    Kaela

  11. Hi,
    I just realized I didn’t process my grape jelly after I filled my jars yesterday. Can I still do it, even tho’ they are all at room temperature, or will it ruin my jelly or not work? I used Certo light.
    Thanks for any input,
    Natalie

  12. localkitchen

    Hi Natalie,

    Honestly, I’m not really sure. You can certainly re-process jams & jellies that have not set by opening all the jars, heating up again to boiling in a stockpot, and re-canning in sterilized jars. I don’t know about just processing jars of jelly that has already set; you might destroy the set and not get it back again. Did the jelly set? (ie, form a solid?J If not, it would be best to open the jars, pour the liquid jelly back into a stockpot, bring to a boil, add more Certo, and then re-can, with a 10-minute boiling water process.

    Did the jars seal? If the jars were sterilized, and they sealed, you are likely in good shape. I would still store in the refrigerator to be absolutely safe, but grape jelly should be acidic enough to prevent bacterial growth.

    If the jelly did set, I would store it in the refrigerator and use it within 6 months. I can’t find any good advice for reprocessing jelly that has set.

  13. I came across a recipe for Banana Nut Bread Spread- and then found this step by step guide…Thank You for making my first attempt at canning a success! It was satisfying to hear the “pings”- one after the other…knowing I did it right. Thank you again.-’Chelle

  14. localkitchen

    Hi Chelle, and welcome!

    I’m so glad that you found the canning instructions useful. I could not in good conscience including canning recipes on the site without a detailed explanation of the process (although it was a bit of a pain!). So I’m glad you’ve gotten some use of it.

    I would caution you, however, to make sure that your Banana Nut Bread Spread recipe is from a reputable source if it suggested home canning. I only mention it because I rarely hear of home-canned bananas (probably because they do not grow in this country), and bananas are, like tomatoes, right on the edge of “safe” pH in terms of boiling water bath canning, with a reported pH of 4.5 – 4.7 (safe is 4.6). The USDA is usually my go-to source for these types of questions, but they do not have any information on canning bananas. Remember that, even if the jars sealed, if you canned a low-acid food by boiling water bath it is NOT safe, and could potentially develop botulism. Some acidification in your recipe (lemon juice, vinegar, etc) could ensure that the recipe was safe to can at home.

  15. Pingback: The Wooden Spoon » Strawberry – Black Pepper Jam

  16. Fantastically helpful post!

    Some follow-ups:
    1) The question of whether or not to “process” your jams/jellies is more about the seal than botulism. If you’re looking at a jar of fruit and sugar, it’s not going to get botulism–but the question is whether you’ll get a good enough seal just using hot jars and hot food w/o a hot water bath. If you don’t have a seal, other bacteria (not necessarily botulism) can get in. I used to skip this step, but found that, fairly regularly, only about half of my jars sealed. Now I suck it up, do a 10 minute water bath, and everything seals, and I don’t have to worry about finding an unsealed jar in my basement four months later.

    2) The Ball web site says don’t both sterilizing if you’re processing more than 15 minutes. Makes sense to me.

    3) Ah, pressure cooking. Really, it’s not so scary once you get used to it, assuming you have the proper equipment. I’ve got step-by-step instructions, with pictures, here:

    http://dorisandjillycook.com/2009/02/18/canning-chicken-stock/

    Happy canning!

  17. Kel

    This is great! I was wondering if you would take in a student, and now I can just read your thoughts here :)
    Great post!

  18. Kaye

    I tried to can pickles tonight and I believe I messed them completely up. My jars cooled off while I waited for my water to boil. When I put them in the boiling water, it cooled my water off. I took them out after about 8 minutes (it called for 5 minutes) but the water still wasn’t boiling.

    I took the temp of the water and it was around 210.

    I heard one seal ping shut, but none of the others. Some of them seem to have a seal, but most of them are too hot to really check.

    If they seal, are they okay?

    If I have to reprocess, do I bring the cucumbers and liquid to a boil or do I drain the juice, boil it and pour it back over the cucumbers (new jars of course)?

    Thank you!

  19. Pingback: The Wooden Spoon » Seedless Raspberry Jam

  20. Curious

    Once the green beans have been processed, used hot water bath method, the thing is I thought I only processed them for 25 minutes last year. Found out later, 24 hours later that I processed them for 2 hours. Can I change lids with new ones then re-process them for the 2 hours ?

  21. Hi Curious,

    Green beans are a low-acid food, so unless you are pickling them in vinegar, they are not safe for water-bath canning. Two hours sounds like a REALLY long processing time (never heard of one that long for water-bath, actually) so you may be using an out-moded recipe.

    If they’ve only been at room temperature for 24 hours, they are probably still viable; you could remove them all from the jars, rinse off well, and then pickle them (try this three-bean pickle recipe from Ball) or you could pressure-can them. Check out Doris & Jilly’s blog for pressure canning info:http://dorisandjillycook.com/ .

  22. Hi Kaye,

    Sorry I missed your comment while I was in the wilds of South Africa.

    I’ll try to answer your questions:

    -Sometimes if you place cold-packed jars into the water bath canner, it can take quite a while (15 – 30 minutes) to bring the water back to a full boil. This is why most recipes tell you to start the ‘clock’ of your processing time once the canner has returned to a full boil; THEN start counting your 5 minutes.

    -Alternatively, since pickles are basically swimming in a bath of vinegar, there is no real danger of botulsim; the processing is done to effect a good seal. I sometime do not process pickles at all, but simply pour boiling brine over room temp pickles packed into a hot, sterilized jar.

    If your jars sealed, they are fine.

    If you want to reprocess (although, by now I assume the point is moot!), you can replace the lids and reprocess the room temp jars in a water bath, making sure you start the clock once the bath comes to a full boil (which can take a LONG time), or you can drain out all of the brine, bring it to a boil, then pour back over the cucumbers, affix new lids, then either water bath process or simply allow to seal at room temp.

  23. Pingback: The Wooden Spoon » Apricot Nectar

  24. Nia

    hello! i’m glad to have found this thread as I have a question.
    i made two batches of jam last night (apricot and plum) and, in haste, forgot to process the jars after i put the lids and rings on. i had sterilized the jars in boiling water for at least 15 minutes beforehand, and put boiling hot jam in each jar.
    all the jars “popped’ last night and this morning i pressed all the lids to see if they had sealed and they did.
    from reading a few posts in this thread, it seems that because the lids all sealed and i poured the hot jam into hot-and-ready boiled jars with lids that i might be okay not re-processing them. thoughts?
    also, i used a low-sugar pectin so the sugar level in the jams is less than what a typical recipe calls for.
    any advice?
    thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    Nia

  25. Hi Nia,

    Since you packed hot jam into sterilized jars, as long as you got a good seal, I think you are fine. Certainly there is no danger of botulism with an acidic fruit jam; your shelf life may not be as long as it could be, especially with reduced sugar, so if you wanted to be doubly sure of a long shelf-life (>1 year) you could re-process to be on the safe side.

    USDA would tell you that “flip-and-seal” (essentially what you did – packing hot jam into clean jars and allowing to seal without a water bath) is unsafe, but there is very little risk of spoilage using sterilized jars & boiling jam, and the only risk is mold, not botulism.

    Hope that helps!
    Kaela

  26. Samantha

    Hi! Thanks for all the info! I have never canned anything before and want to make some tomato-based chutney for family members for Christmas. I am having a lot of trouble finding information about using twist-off jar lids, like the ones on a lot of commercial products. (Like this: http://www.jamjarshop.com/shop/product.asp?catid=7&pid=8). How do you seal these properly and can I do it with a water bath if I am making this recipe? http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1158/mary-berrys-christmas-chutney Thanks so much in advance, I don’t want to poison my relatives but also don’t want to have to buy expensive equipment just starting out!

  27. Hi Samantha,

    Welcome! Glad you’ve found the post useful. As for your twist-off jar question: unfortunately your jamshop link defaults to the front page of their site, but I assume you mean something like this: http://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=16

    The problem with these types of lids is that it is not always easy to tell if they are suitable for water-bath canning. I can understand if you want something prettier than your average hardware Ball jar for your Christmas presents, but, especially as you are a begginer canner, to ensure a good, tight seal, I would really recommend going with a 2-piece band & lid jar, the Jarden brand that you can find at most hardware stores. These are quite economical, usually about $8 – $10/dozen. If you really want to use a screw off lid, Quattro Stagioni makes some that are safe for a water-bath:http://www.amazon.com/Bormioli-Rocco-Quattro-Stagioni-Canning/dp/B000V9ZRG2 (although I have had difficulty in achieving a good seal with these).

    As for the chutney recipe: on first glance, I would worry about the level of acidity. There is a high proportion of low-acid ingredients (onions, peppers, etc.) to tomatoes & vinegar. But it seems that many people in the comments have made this chutney and it has stored well. Make sure that you do not reduce the amount of tomatoes or vinegar in the recipe (or increase the amount of onions or peppers). For safety’s sake, I might consider upping the vinegar to 350 mL.

    Happy canning!

  28. firsttimer

    Hi there. A friend and I made b&b pickles tonight and after we had gotten all of the ingredients cut and ready we realized that another friend has our water bather. We brought brine and cucumbers just to a boil (there was also onion and green and yellow bell pepper) then packed into sterilized jars, wiped rims and put on sterilized lids. We have them on the counter and are hearing them pop. Is this properly sealed or will we need to store them in the refrigerator? Thanks for your help!

  29. Hi Firsttimer,

    The water bath for acidic foods likes pickles and jams is essentially designed to *ensure* a good, long-lasting seal (in case the contents when loaded into the jar are not hot enough to drive out all of the air in the headspace and create a good vaccuum). I will admit that sometimes I skip this step, especially for pickles, if I want them to remain super-crisp; your jars are perfectly safe as long as you have a good seal. (I should point out that the USDA does not recommend this type of seal, but it is done safely in many other countries around the world).

    Although I have not yet had this happen to my jars, I’ve heard that jars sealed without a water bath have a higher fail rate, so be sure to store the jars without the screwbands on them; then if the seal fails it will be easy to notice because the lids will pop off your jars.

    Hope that helps,
    Kaela

  30. cfox

    What a helpful post! I tried canning for the first time last month, and it seemed to be a success. However, when I removed the jars from the water bath, there was still a pool of water on the lid; do I just leave that there until they seal or is there a way to remove the water without disturbing the integrity of the sealing process? I haven’t been able to find this addressed anywhere so any insight you can provide would be appreciated.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Cfox,

      Yes, the little pool of water is pretty standard. In fact, it shows you did a great job in getting your jars out of the canner without too much tilting! Sometimes, I will sort of jog the jar back & forth over the top of the canner, without tilting (and being careful not to disturb the contents) to get some of that excess water off, but there is really no need. It will usually evaporate overnight as the jars cool & seal. However, if it bugs you, you can always gently lay a kitchen towel over the tops of the jars; allow the water to soak in without pressing down on the lids (although once the lid has pinged you can press *gently* without fear of disturbing the seal).

      Happy canning!

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  33. Frances Reichard

    Can someone please tell me how long I leave spinach in the hot bath canner after steaming and filling jars ?

    • Hi Frances,

      Spinach cannot be safely canned in a hot water bath, unless you are making pickled spinach (adding enough vinegar for safe acidity).

      Spinach can be safely canned in a pressure canner, but I don’t have one so I’m not familiar with those procedures.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

  34. Pingback: Apricot (or peach) Mustard « Grow, Gather, Nourish

  35. Jo

    I read instructions incorrectly and did not totally immerse the jars in water during processing. The water was to the rimm of the jars. I processed for the time called for in the directions and they all sealed. Is this OK? I did this for both peach jelly and peach butter.

    • Hi Jo,

      It’s not ideal, but as long as the jars sealed, you should be fine. The seal might not be the strongest, so you might want to move those to the front of the pantry and use them sooner rather than later, but as long as the seals holds they will be fine for room temp storage.

      Cheers,
      Kaela

  36. Margo Grace

    I am so happy to have found this page. Seeing some of the posts makes me feel not so uncanned. I have been canning Jams and Jellies for a few years and have used liquid pectin. This year I have had a batch of strawberry rhubarb not set and found this way to fix. It is not the same as the one I keep finding on all sites I have visited today ( it worked). I have 6 batches of concord grape jelly that has not set ugghhhh. What am I doing wrong? The only difference from years past is the grapes were harvested before the first frost. Thanks for any info.

    • HI Margo,

      The natural amounts of pectin in fruit can fluctuate according to differences in the growing season: amount of sun, rain, etc. Usually underripe fruit has more pectin; overrripe fruit less. It sound like you harvested your grapes earlier than usual, but did they seem quite soft and/or overripe to you? That could be part of the reason. I don’t use a lot of commercial pectin, but I’m a big fan of using a thermometer (the set point is 8 degrees above the temperature of boiling water, or 220 degrees on an accurate thermometer at sea level), or other methods to test the set, like the frozen plate test or frozen spoon test. You can also try letting those Concord grape jars sit still for a week or two; sometimes the set can take quite a while to form: they may surprise you and set up eventually.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

      • Margo Grace

        Kaela,
        thanks for getting back to me. The grapes were fine except for an earlier harvest than usual. They tasted so yummy. I am going to let it sit and see what happens they are sealed so I can try to thicken at a later time if it doesnt set. Just so disappointed I never have had this problem until this year. The kitchen is like a science class never exact.
        thanks again
        Margo

        • Margo Grace

          Kaela,
          To my surprise the grape jelly has finally set. It is a very soft set but still the same. Ater it has been in the refrig it jells right up nice. Thanks for telling me to wait it out.
          Margo

  37. April

    i boiled jars befor pickling and a day or two after i noticed a thin milky white film on the bottom inside the jars.what is this,is it harmful and should i throw out the pickles?

    • Hi April,

      No worries, it’s perfectly safe: that white film is hard water deposits, caused by minerals in your water supply precipitating our of the water upon boiling. You can eliminate this by adding a tablespoon or two of white vinegar to your canner water whenever you heat jars or can.

      Kaela

  38. Laura M. Ford-Marchelos

    Help! I’m officially freaking out. I had a large batch of ping pong ball sized glden tomatoes (our garden went kind of berzerk (sp?) this year) as well as a nice big butternut squash that needed to be used up, as it was hogging my counter space. So I whipped up a yellow tomato sauce, incorporating both the butternut squash and onions, celery, seasonings etc. I added some white wine as well, and canned the batch using a hot water bath as per the instructions in the Ball cookbook. Yes, I added two tablespoons of store-bought lemon juice, sterilized the lids etc. Now I’m reading on some web sites that it’s unsafe to can anything other than plain tomato sauce, and other sites have me concerned about canning squash without using a pressure canner. What to do? My sauce tasted great and I put an awful lot of work int it. Please advise. I’ve just started canning the past couple of years with a heavy emphasis on tomatoes, and now I’m completely scared! Laura

  39. Laura M. Ford-Marchelos

    Oops, a clarification: That would be two tablespoons of lemon juice per quart-sized jars, as per the Ball Book directions, processed for 40 minutes once the water got back to a boil. Sorry about the typos to.

  40. Hi Laura,

    Sorry to say that your sauce is likely unsafe for water-bath canning. If you know the amount of low-acid ingredients (squash, celery, onions, etc.) as compared to the amount of tomatoes, you could compare to a tested recipe to determine if your sauce is safely acidic. Here is a recipe to look at: http://localkitchenblog.com/2010/08/25/garden-vegetable-tomato-sauce/

    However: according to the USDA, there is NO safe method for water bath canning of winter squash. The only approved method is pressure canning of chunks. This is a density issue: winter squash is dense and heat takes a long time to penetrate either cubes or puree. Since the squash is low acid and too dense for heat to penetrate in a water bath, it would be considered unsafe by most standard canning practises.

    If your butternut squash is cubed, and did not break down into a puree during the cooking of the sauce, you could likely can the tomato sauce safely in a pressure canner if you have one.

    If the jars have been at room temp storage for only a day or two, my recommendation would be to pop all the jars, bring the sauce to a full boil and boil for 15 minutes or so (this should kill any botulinum toxin that may have developed in that time, although it will not destory the spores themselves); then re-package and store frozen.

    If the jars have been at room temp for a week or longer: sorry to say but I would dispose of the sauce. :( Do not put in compost and make sure to dispose where animals cannot get at it.

    Hope that helps. Please let me know if you have further questions.

    Kaela

  41. Margo Grace

    I have got to tell to you all I love this page. I haave learned some things and just dont feel so alone in canning (which is a lost art). While reading a couple things today I am now wondering have I been playing with fire? I have been canning 5/6 years do mainly jellies but have done seasoned stewed tomatoes (tweaked this a bit) and I hot boil pumpkin puree, and sour krout, there are other things but these are a winter staple in our house. I even make pumpkin bread in canning jars. I did not realize there was a ratio of acid to low acid. I usually follow recipes from the ball book or The New York Times Cook Book from 1961, and a few others. But the canned pumpkin is from a collection of recipes from the Lancaster County Amish Recipes its not an acual book. We are still alive and have never gotten sick. Should I post the recipes? If anyone is interested. Margo

  42. Hi Margo,

    Canning safety recommendations change over the years, as we learn more about the types of bacteria that can make us sick, and as industrialization of farms has changed the nature of the produce we put-up. For instance, one of the main reasons that it is now recommended to add extra acid (lemon juice) to tomatoes or tomato sauce is that the types of tomatoes mainly grown & sold today are less acidic than heirloom varieties grown 40 or more years ago.

    As for the pumpkin and pumpkin bread: the USDA takes a hard stance on pumpkin and winter squash, and considers no pumpkin safe for canning in a water bath (other than pumpkin pickles, with added vinegar brine) and no pumpkin puree safe for canning at home, even in a pressure canner. The reason for this is that pumpkin puree is both low acid (with a pH of about 6.0, while safe pH for water bath canning is below 4.6) and too dense for the heat of a water bath or pressure canner to penetrate all the way to the center of the jar. Other countries do not take such a stance on pumpkin, but you generally see it combined with lemon juice or other acidic ingredients in order to make it safe for canning in a water bath.

    I really do suggest that you check out a more recent book on canning and take a look at the recommendations. It may be that your recipes are perfectly safe: perhaps you already add lemon to your pumpkin puree, and leave it thin enough for adequate heat distribution; but it may also be that you’ve been lucky so far. We all want to preserve the thing that we want, the way we want them, and I’ll be the first to admit that at times I think the USDA’s recommendations are overly conservative: but no one wants botulism. I think the key is to educate ourselves and learn how to can the food we want deliciously and safely.

    Kaela

    • Margo Grace

      Kaela,
      thank you so much for your info. Fire is not a good thing to play with. I think it might be time to invest in some good containers for the freezer. A trip to a book store might not be a bad idea either.
      The pumpkin does not get vinegar. It is just puree and you boil in jars for 3 hours. So fire or freeze? I think its 3 hours less work and piece of mind.
      thanks so much for all you helpful info.
      Margo

  43. vanessa

    I canned salsa using a boiling bath method. I just realized that I don’t remember adding the vinegar. THe jars have been sealed and at room temperature for 5 days. Is it safe to eat or is there anything that I can do to salvage it?

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Definitely not safe to eat as it is. The conservative approach is to assume the salsa has been impacted, that botulism may be present, and to discard accordingly: do not throw in compost, but double-bag then put in your trash where animals cannot access. However, I will admit, that I would probably, after only 5 days, do the following: pop alll jars, dump salsa into one large pot, add vinegar, bring to a boiil and boil at least 15 minutes (this should destroy any botulinum toxin that may have been produced, then can as per recipe instructions. Please understand that this would not be considered ‘safe’ by USDA standards, but is based upon the assumption that relatively little botulism, if any, should be produced in 5 days, and any that would be produced should be destroyed by a 15-minute boil.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

    • And I should have added, if you are not *sure* that you added vinegar, but you might have done so, you could purchase a pH meter, puree one jar of salsa, and check the pH. A safe pH will be below 4.6 (I would feel comfortable with about 4.2 or so, to account for variability); anything higher than that needs to be tossed or boiled, acidified and re-processed.

  44. Pam Wilson

    Hello I am new to this canning stuff. I want to make sure my home made bbq sauce is ok for a boiling bath method. It calls for ketchup, worcestershire sause, brown sugar, mustard, and pepper. I guess i would like to know if it would be a hight enough acid. What do you think? Please help, Pam

    • Hi Pam,

      Pepper as in black peppercorn, or pepper as in fresh bell peppers? If it is black pepper, your recipe should be fine, but just to be on the safe side, I might add in a bit of cider vinegar to be absolutely sure it is acidic enough. The amount would depend upon how much BBQ sauce you are making.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

      • Pam Wilson

        Thanks for the quick reply. My recipe makes three 16oz mason jars so how much cider vinegar would you suggest? And do you think it will change the flavor of the sauce very much? Pam

        • Most BBQ sauce recipes include vinegar, because you need to safely acidify the tomatoes. Ketchup generally has vinegar as well, but if it is commercial ketchup, it was likely pressure canned at very high temperatures, so we can’t be sure that the acidity is high enough for safe water-bath canning. My homemade ketchup recipe makes about 7 cups and calls for 1 and 1/2 cups of cider vinegar. That would be my recommendation for your BBQ sauce recipe. The vinegar will make the sauce more tart, so you may want to taste and increase the amount of sugar to your liking.

          Kaela

  45. Pingback: The Tale of “Berry Back” and Vanilla Bean Jam | Edible Finger Lakes

  46. I made your lemon-lavender marmalade recipe and immediately after closing the lids on the jars, I realized I had forgotten to bang the jars to get rid of air bubbles. I opened them, did the banging, and re-closed them using new, sterilized lids. I then put the jars in the processing, boiling bath for 15 minutes. I did not change the jars — only the lids. Will the marmalade keep? The jars did their little “ping” but now I’m worried my jars may not have been sterile enough for long-term storage. (Thanks a lot!)

    • Hi Andree,

      Your marmalade will be fine. Marmalade is so very acidic that even if you had not bothered to bang the jars to remove air bubbles, you would be fine: there is no way botulism or mold is going to grow in a marmalade. I’m not sure if when you opened the jars, they had already sealed? If not, there was no reason to use new lids, FYI. You only need new lids once they have been processed in a water bath, or self-sealed from the heat of the jar, since the red rubber ring on the inside of the lids is only designed to form a seal once. At any rate, your marmalade is perfectly safe.

      Kaela

  47. Wow, a helpful post as well as comment section! How kind of you to help so many and to keep answering questions through the years!

    I just did my first hot water bath canning of apricot jam. I am going to use your tip of vinegar in the water next time, as the jars are covered inside and out with hard water residue.

    I also have plenty of bubbles at the bottom of the jar, even though I did poke a bubble popper inside each jar.

    And last, I burnt my jam. But, despite a few black flecks, it still tastes delish. I canned it anyway, this should be fine, yes?

    Thanks so much! I’ve only recently found your blog and have enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • Hi Paige,

      I’ve burned many a jam over the years (in fact, there is a recipe for “caramelized” pear jam on the site, because I ended up loving the way it came out!), so yes, yours will be fine. Also, small bubbles are normal and fine – it’s not always possible to get them all out. Sometimes they’ll settle over time, sometimes not: as long as the jars are sealed correctly, your jam is perfectly safe.

      Enjoy your canning!
      Kaela

  48. Chris Banville

    Unfortunately, I made Bread & Butter pickles w/o boiling my jars. I had washed them thoroughly & filled them while they were very hot from the faucet. They are then stored in the refrigerator & will be eaten soon. OR, should I throw that batch out ??!! Help – new to canning…..

    • Chris,

      You made what is known as “fridge pickles.” They will last for months refrigerated; most pickle brine is so acidic that nothing (mold, botulism, etc.) can grow within, especially at refrigeration temperatures. So – enjoy your fridge pickles – they are perfectly safe.

  49. Georgie

    Hi there, thanks for your site! I just canned my first batch of tomato juice last night. At the end of the processing time, during which I had an inch and a half of water over the jars and the water was at a rolling boil the whole time, I re-read the recipe which said, “Remove the lid on the canner and…”, which is when I realized that I hadn’t put the lid the pot on for the processing time. Does this mean that the correct temperature might not have been reached reprocessing is required? The lids have all popped and things otherwise look as I expected. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Georgie,

      The lid on the canner is there primarily to keep the water at a full boil throughout the processing time (although, of course, it also helps to prevent water evaporation). As long as the water maintained a full boil, and the jars were still covered with water at the end of the processing time, your jars are fine.

      • Georgie

        Whew, thank you! When you’re new at something, you don’t know what’s essential, and what just keeps your stove top from getting splashed on. I’ll put the lid on next time though!

  50. Carolee

    Canned qt. jars of tomatoes in water bath canner, but used an older canning book and only canned them for 15 min after water boiled….are they safe to use?

    • Hello Carolee,

      I’m afraid that 15 minutes is not enough time for processing regardless of how you treated your tomatoes; according to the NCFHP, the minimum time for quarts of crushed tomatoes is 45 minutes in a water bath. Whole tomatoes packed in their own juice should be processed for 85 minutes. The current recommendations (which may not be in your older canning book) also call for acidification of tomato products: you can safely acidify quart jars by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%203%20Home%20Can.pdf

      If your jars have not been sitting too long (ie a few days) I would pop them open, add them all to a large kettle, bring to a boil and boil briskly for at least 15 minutes, in order to destroy any botulism toxin that may have potentially formed. Then you can re-can (using fresh lids) and process for the appropriate length of time.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

      • Carolee

        Thank you so much for getting back to me…however the news is not what I had hoped for….They were canned in september..so I will toss them and learn from this lesson! Thank you, Carolee

  51. It is my first time canning, I was wondering, since I had to slow boil once all the strawberry jam was in the jars with lids on etc, will the jam still be good to eat? The pot I used was just a tid bit too small and had the water up to the brim with the jars just barely submerged. If i would have rapid boiled, water would have gone over the rim. I think I let it boil for like 15 min or so. Jars seemed sealed, they dont pop up when I press down. So I got that at least! Help!

    • If it’s a plain strawberry jam (no herbs, or anything else low-acid added) you should be fine; for a high-acid jam, the waterbath is really just to ensure a good seal on your lids and to prevent mold. Prevention of botulism is ensured by the acidity of your jam. So if your jars sealed, you are all set, but in future, I’d try to use a taller pot so you can get the water to a good rolling boil, else you run the risk of heat not penetrating all the way to the center of your jars.

  52. Erica

    I am pickling beets by canning them in pint jars. One of the jars tipped over at the end of the water bath processing because the canning rack handle fell on it and knocked it over. Some of the liquid from inside the jar seeped out into the water. I tightened the lid a bit on this one jar and reprocessed it for another 30 minutes. Do you think this will be okay? Also, when something happens like this and you catch it right away, do you have to process it for the full time again? In other words, could I have processed it this second time for just 10 minutes? I also did not remove the lid, wipe it, add liquid, and put the lid on again. I simply unscrewed the screw band and then re-tightened it (not much liquid seeped out). If the jar doesn’t seal in 24 hours, then I will reprocess it again. Is there harm in doing this 3 times or should I just put the jar in the fridge instead? The directions I was following said to store it in a dry/dark place for 3 weeks before opening and putting in the fridge. If this doesn’t seal properly, will they still do their pickling thing if I store the jar in the fridge for 3 weeks? Thanks for your expertise!

    • Hi Erica,

      I’ve never pickled beets, but let me try to tackle your questions one at a time: 1) I’m sure your jar will be OK, safety-wise. If it does not seal, I would put it in the fridge. At this point, following a water-bath, the 3 week waiting time is simply to allow brine and vegetables to infuse each other and for the vinegar ‘bite’ to mellow a bit. In other words, it’s for flavor (not fermenting or anything to do with safety) so you can easily eat them before the 3 weeks is up: just taste one and see if it tastes good & pickly to you. 2) If I had caught it right away, as in within about a minute, I would have just stood the jar up again without doing anything else, and let it finish the processing time: no need to add another 10 minutes as siphoning (when interior liquid seeps out) is common and not a great cause for concern. As long as the vegetables are still mainly covered by brine (there’s almost always a little bit of floating), and the jar seals, the beets will be fine. The concern is that small particles of food may have seeped out with the brine and will prevent a seal: however, if this happens, as I said, I’d just stick the beets in the fridge. The reason I would not recommend a re-process for 30 minutes is that the texture will suffer (ie get mushy). That said, there’s no harm, safety-wise, in re-processing with fresh lids if you are determined. 3) If you had opened the jar and added fresh brine, *then* you would need to re-process for the full 30 minutes again (as you’ve potentially introduced new bacteria by opening the jar).

      I hope all that helps. Let me know if you still have questions or if there was anything I missed.

  53. hello,
    I love your site! And all these comments are so helpful!

    I just tried canning my strawberry jam for the first time last night – no pectin (strawberries, sugar, lemon seeds and membranes in spice bag, and lemon juice) The first batch seemed to set up pretty well, the second is a bit soft (I may have cooked it a little under 220 degrees). They all were boil processed for 10 mins (4oz jars, but I am at 3300 ft altitude) and all popped and seemed to be properly canned. Do I need to worry that the one batch is a bit on the softer/soupier side?

    Thanks in advance!!!!

    • Hi Alice,

      Congratulations on your first foray into canning!

      First, let me address the soft-set jam concern: there is no safety issue with a softer-set jam; in fact, fruit syrups are processed in exactly the same way as jams, so there is no need to worry from a safety standpoint. Personally, I find endless uses for a soft-set or syrupy jam: pour over pancakes, ice cream or cake; use in a salad dressing or cocktail; use as a meat or BBQ glaze; whip up a cream cheese & jam cake frosting. So, I never pop & re-process a jam with a “failed set:” I just call it a syrup and move on! But if you really wanted a firmer set, you can open all the jars, pour the contents into your preserving pot, and bring everything back to the boil. Wash your jars, throw away the lids and use brand new ones, and once your jam is back to the set point, you can fill your jars and reprocess. You might consider adding half an apple (core & all) to the mix while the jam boils, as it will bump up the pectin a bit: you can then use the apple in another recipe or discard.

      Secondly, one note of caution: at your altitude, you should process fruit jams, even in the smallest jars, for a minimum of 15 minutes to ensure that you’ve destroyed all of the bacteria present in the jar. I think your current batch will be fine: if anything you run a *slight* risk of mold growth, but there is NO possibility of botulism growth in an acidic jam like this one, so that is not a concern. In future, I would recommend a minimum 15-minute processing time to give your preserves the best shot at long-term shelf life.

      Hope all that helps. Please do let me know if you have any further questions!

      Happy canning!

      • Thanks so much for your reply and advice. I learned a lot these past couple of days. I ended up emptying all my jars, adding the half an apple and reprocessing for 15 minutes. I feel like I can sleep through the night now without worrying about these darn little jars of jam! Thanks again!

  54. Kat Dressel

    Hi, so I’m relatively new to canning. My boyfriends mom introduced me the canning world last fall. Last night I canned some tomato salsa, and I did the hot water bath after filling the jars for 25 minutes, the recipe I was using didn’t call for it but I called my boyfriends mom to confirm and she told me to do it anyways. So I did, and after they came out they started popping down within minutes. The recipe also said to let them sit overnight, rather than 24 hours, and while nine of the jars are still sitting undesturbed on my counter, I did bring one jar into work to give to a friend. Do you think its safe if I moved the jar after eight hours instead of 24? Should I maybe suggest he put it in the fridge just to be on the safe side? I think he plans to eat it tonight anyways…

    My other question is that, when the jars are in the boiling water, should the contents be boiling when you remove them? Because after 25 minutes mine were not but I cant seem find any difinitive information on this… Thank you so much!

    • Hi Kat,

      Let me address a few things, one at a time:

      1. First of all, especially when canning tomatoes, you should try your best to use an up to date and canning-specific recipe; if the recipe you used did not call for water-bath canning, it may not have been acidic enough for safe water-bath canning. (I made this same mistake with my first-even canning project, my favorite tomato sauce that was definitely not a canning recipe!). This is serious stuff, because if the recipe was not acidic enough (i.e. did not contain enough vinegar or contained too many low-acid ingredients like onions, peppers, garlic, etc.) it can develop botulism over time, which will happen whether or not you achieved a good seal on your jars. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great place to get more information on the safety of canning tomatoes and salsa: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/sensational_salsa.pdf Or you can compare your recipe to this basic red salsa recipe: http://localkitchenblog.com/2012/09/06/basic-red-salsa/ If the amounts of the various ingredients are similar (or there are more tomatoes, less low-acid ingredients, or more vinegar) your recipe is safe. Your boyfriend’s mother can probably help you to determine if it is safe if she is a canner.

      2. Most salsa recipes call for a 15 minute boiling water bath for pint jars (longer for quart jars), so a 25-minute water bath should be fine. In general, the contents should be boiling when you remove them from the water, but sometimes it’s a bit subtle, not like a brisk boil. Try to make sure that when you ladle the salsa into jars, your jars are hot, your salsa is boiling and your water is very hot, near boiling, when you place the jar into the canner. Once you’ve filled all the jars, cover the canner and only start your “countdown clock” once the pot has reached a full boil.

      3. While most recipes will say as a matter of course, “let jars rest undisturbed for 24 hours,” in reality, many jars “ping!” indicating a seal within minutes. The 24-hour rest is really born out of jam recipes; when the preserve needs to set or gel, it’s best not to move it around too much lest you ‘break’ the gel. Moving a jar of salsa as soon as it has sealed is fine: it’s just a good habit to get into to tuck jars away somewhere safe and let them sit overnight.

      4. Lastly, as to the safety of your salsa for your friend: there is certainly no issue with moving the jar after 8 hours, but I do worry about the potential for botulism. I honestly can’t tell you how much botulism might be formed in a ~24-hour period if the recipe that went into the jar was not safely acidic: I assume not much, but then again, it doesn’t take much to kill you. If you can confirm that the recipe was safe, then your friend’s jar should be fine. If not, I would play it safe and tell him/her to throw it away.

      Hope all that helps. Sorry to be melodramatic, but improperly canned tomato salsa is notorious for botulism break-outs. Better to be informed and stay safe!

        • I think you should be fine: looks like your recipe was loosely adapted from the Zesty Salsa in the Ball Book (my version is here http://localkitchenblog.com/2010/08/30/9-chile-salsa/). The advice to let the jars rest is likely due to the fact that they did not call for a water bath, and were relying on the heat of the salsa inside the jar to seal the jars. Just don’t believe the comment that you can “add, subtract or change anything” except the vinegar: tomatoes are acidic, while the remaining ingredients are not, so it’s important to keep the tomato:other ratio the same (you can safely increase the amount of tomatoes or decrease the amount of low acid veg, but not the other way around).

          • Kat Dressel

            Thank you so much for your help! I think from now on I’ll just stick to recipes from more reputable sources and save myself the stress and worry.
            …Atleast until I feel a little more confident in my knowledge.
            Thanks again!

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  56. Janet

    Thanks for this website. I canned for the first time today: one batch of apricot-pineapple jam and one of just apricot. I cooked the fruit for each batch, including lemon juice, and used sugar and cooked some more. The only two things I realized I forgot to do were 1) run a plastic knife down the side of the jars to remove bubbles; and 2) to leave the jars in the canner 5 minutes after processing. Will this be a problem? Everything “pinged” as it was supposed to. One jar took a little longer since it was not full (we will eat that one first). When you don’t have enough to fill a jar, do you do a partial jar or just leave it out and eat it?

    Janet

    • Hi Janet,

      Congrats on your first canning experience! Sounds like everything went very well.

      To answer your questions: the running of a plastic knife on the side of the jars, or “bubbling” your jars as we call it, is a bit more about aesthetics than safety. But it can also affect the head space, the amount of room at the top of the jar between the jam and the lid. Ideally, in order to create a strong vacuum, head space for jams is usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch (recipes specify) and it’s important to try to be accurate with this, as too little head space and your jar may not seal, and too large head space and your vacuum will be weak and the seal is likely to fail. This is why you should never process a partial jar: just pop that remainder in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.

      As for the 5 minute rest in the canner: this is also not a “requirement” and does not affect safety, but helps to prevent siphoning, especially think, viscous preserves like mustard and pie filling. It’s not problem to skip it however, and if your jars sealed, your jars should be fine.

      • Janet

        Thanks. I’m not too worried about these particular jars as they are only 1/2 pints and I’m sure won’t last long! I’ll be giving half of them away along with the white plastic lids I bought for convenience, and my son will probably eat the rest LOL. Glad to have seen the information to store them without the rings, I didn’t see that anywhere else.

  57. Siena Van Brabant

    Hi. I have been making jams for quite a few years, and most times I don’t do a water bath and seem to have better success. I tried the water-bath method a few times, and each time, it appeared that the bath water got into the jars watering down the jams. What could I be doing wrong? Also, is it absolutely necessary to use a water bath canner to process the jars or could I use the pressure cooker as a canner?
    I thank you for your reply in advance.

    Siena

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  59. Jen

    I tried my hand at canning for the first time yesterday by pickling carrots and I have a quick question…I was eager to fit as many carrots as possible in each jar as possible and the ends of some of them are sticking up out of the brine. My recipe didn’t specifically mention that they should all be covered but I’ve since seen it mentioned in other recipes (I assume it’s common knowledge among experienced canners, lol). I’m wondering if it’s a safety issue to have some carrot ends sticking out above the brine or just a taste issue? I’m going to try to do some more this weekend so if I’ll make sure I do it correctly this time, I’m just wondering if I should toss the ones I already did? Thanks so much…I’m so glad I found your blog!

  60. Mel

    I forgot to put the lid on my waterbath canner when canning peaches, i waited for the water to bubble, then processed for 40 mins fOr elevation, but it didn’t achieve a full rolling because of the lack of lid, not sure why I missed this step…anyway, are they safe or should I throw them out? Help?!

    • If they are yellow peaches, as long as the jars sealed properly, they should be fine. I’m not sure why you processed for 40 minutes? Peaches typically require 10 or maybe 15 minutes. If they were white peaches, I might be more concerned as they are less acidic (unless you added lemon juice) and heat may not have penetrated to the middle of the jar if the bath was not at a full boil.

  61. Danielle

    Hi! I made 3 batches of pepperjelly using bell peppers and jalapeño peppers. The recipe called for 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. The first batch had a strong vinegar taste so for the 2nd and 3rd batch I decreased the apple cider vinegar to 1/4 cup. Should I be concerned about spoilage due to lack of vinegar? I used a hot water bath and all jars were sealed properly. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Danielle,

      You should be very concerned about botulism: the preserves made with 1/4-cup of vinegar are NOT safe. Bell and jalapeno peppers are low-acid foods, and hence require the full amount of vinegar (acid) in order to be safely canned in a water bath.

      I’m sorry, but I recommend that you discard the 2nd & 3rd batches (carefully, so that pets/animals/children cannot accidentally ingest.)

  62. Hi there! I’m so glad I found your blog. I’ve been working on a Bloody Mary Mix recipe with my guy, and we’d like to can it for Christmas. Neither of us have canned before, but he’s eager to try it. I have a couple questions:

    1. This is obviously a tomato-based recipe. Are we able to can this safely in a water bath, or do we need a pressure cooker or other specialized canning equipment?

    2. I have a supply of unused flip-top bottles (seen here: https://scontent-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/1521265_10153540791065618_1524142521_n.jpg), but I’m not sure if they can be heat sealed. Do you think it’s possible?

    Thank you!!

    Heidi

    • Hi Heidi, and welcome!

      1. Well, you’ve picked a bit of a tough one. Tomatoes, by themselves, are right on the edge of the safe pH for water bath canning, with a pH of 4.6. The USDA recommends adding acid (lemon juice, vinegar or powdered citric acid) to any tomato product for water bath canning in order to prevent the risk of botulism (Europe & Canada tend to disagree). However, it’s clear that tomatoes + low-acid vegetables, like peppers, garlic, onion, celery, herbs, etc., will further increase the pH and decrease the safety of your recipe, requiring more acid to bring the pH back down below 4.6. I Googled a bit, but the few recipes I could find for Bloody Mary mix for canning looked dodgy to me; vague measurements of too little acid. So, you have two options if you want shelf-stable mix: one, you could eliminate any worries about a safe pH by canning in a pressure canner (which, of course, requires specialized equipment and knowledge, but you can find good info at the NCFHP: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/using_press_canners.html); or you can modify a known-safe tomato recipe, (like this basic salsa recipe: http://localkitchenblog.com/2012/09/06/basic-red-salsa/) as a guideline for tomato:other veg:acid ratios.

      2. It’s *possible* that your used flip-top bottles could be heat sealed in a water bath, although the possibility of seal failure is high since the rubber gasket has already been used (it is typically recommended that the gasket be replaced for each use). However, the main problem with this type of bottle (which I have canned in before, but in new bottles) is that it seems impossible to check the seal. Unlike a wire-bail jar, in which you can flip the bail and the lid will still stay firmly shut, what I’ve had happen on bottles is that flipping the bail forces the lid open; so you can never really tell whether the water bath created a vacuum seal or if it’s just that the wire bail is holding the top shut.

      The easiest option of all may be to make the mix according to whatever recipe you are using, store in your flip-top bottles and instruct everyone to store refrigerated. As long as there is some acid in the recipe, and you boil the bottles before filling, it should last for months this way.

      Hope that helps! Best of luck with your project.
      Kaela

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  64. Susan

    Hi, I just canned strawberry jam for the first time. I’m a little concerned because I think I may have tightened the bands to tightly and after I pulled them out of the boiling water bath I wiped the water off the lids and they popped. Did I mess up the sealing?

    • Hi Susan,

      If you’ve done it all properly, jars typically seal within the first minute of pulling them out of the canner. If the lid button is popped down, but you’re not sure of the strength of the seal, you can test the seal by taking off the band and trying to lift the jar up by the edges of the lid. If you can pick up the jar without the lid coming off, your seal is fine.

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  66. Marla

    Hi: Glad I found this site. I have a dilemma…I made strawberry jam (40 pints) on May 10th…and just realized today I missed the last step of the 10 minute hot water bath in the Sure Jell pectin directions. All the jars sealed within minutes of me placing the cooked hot jam in the jars. I sure don’t want to loose any of this precious batch as we LOVE homemade!! What can I do or what do I need to do to hopefully be able to enjoy all 40 jars? Thanks so much for your help!!

  67. This is a great site! Thanks for all the info. We have an abundance of strawberries ( and soon raspberries) and we’re pretty jammed out. Last year I made cordials – which turned out great and made good Christmas gifts too. I’ll be making more of those this year, but want to try my hand at infusing vinegar ( maybe white wine vinegar). My question is this – all of the sites I’ve found so far give fruit flavored vinegars a shelf life of about 4 months, maybe as long as 6 months refrigerated. I don’t have a big enough refrigerator to store much vinegar and anyway that kind of makes giving them a Christmas gifts a little iffy. So, can I process them in a water bath to seal the jars and would that extend the shelf life?

    • Hi Rene,

      IMO, the information on shelf-life for fruit vinegar is related to taste, not safety. For more delicate fruits especially, like strawberry & red raspberry, the flavor fades relatively quickly; heartier fruits, like blackberries and blueberries, retain their punch for longer (I have wild blackberry vinegar that is 3 years old). I typically infuse my fruit vinegars for only a few weeks or up to a month: then I strain the fruit out, transfer the vinegar in a scrupulously clean bottle, cork & store. I don’t water-bath process vinegars: they are so acidic that nothing is going to grow in them, and botulism is not a concern. If you want to ship jars, you will probably want to process to ensure a tight seal – otherwise, they are fine to store at room temperature in pretty bottles with a simple cork closure. Just make sure that they are strained well and they should last indefinitely, though of course, the fruit flavor fades over time.

      • Thanks so much for getting back to me. Glad to know that they can’t go bad and I’ll just have to use those up sooner rather than later to get the best flavors.

  68. Franceska

    hello i have been an avid canner for many years now. i now have been experimenting with combining fruits together last yr and this yr (following tested recipes of course). my issue are that since i BWB, using qt and pt jars i am having no issues (other than time it takes to boil); but issue comes when i am doing the jelly jar size. i have the basket the canner comes with, however, the jars bump into each constantly so i take the jars out or i just skip that step-waiting for jars to pop/ seal within hrs of filling and putting lids on. i know i am supposed to process EVERY jar size but what is best way to process the smaller ones?? just made strawberry syrup, they sealed even before processed them and made strawberry jam (2 different batches) same thing happened: sealing before processed and sealing within hrs. enjoy canning and it has become a necessary part of our lives & would like to find out better way to make jars safer/ better.

    • Hi Franceska,

      Honestly, I can most of my preserves in the half-pint/8 oz “jelly jar” size, and I don’t have a problem with the jars banging together. A few suggestions: make a smaller batch and put fewer jars in the canner; turn down the heat a bit? You should process at a full rolling boil, but maybe your stovetop is super-powerful and the boil is a bit too fierce for the smaller jars? Use a smaller canning pot (a stockpot for instance) with a silicone trivet? [I have this one: http://www.amazon.com/Spice-Ratchet-16814-Multi-Use-Silicone/dp/B005FPD6VK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402409686&sr=8-1&keywords=silicone+trivet%5D.

      Lastly, although it is against USDA recommendations to say so, there is no real need, from a botulism-safety standpoint, to process high-acid fruit jams at all: in Europe the still use the invert-the-jars technique and almost never process jams in a hot water bath. Most fruit jams are high enough in acid that botulism is not a concern, so the recommendation for a boiling water bath processing step is to prevent mold or other spoilage. These are unlikely if your jars are scrupulously clean when filled, if the jam is boiling when it goes into the jars, and if you can achieve a good seal without a water bath.

      Typically, I water bath process all of my jams for 10 minutes: 5 minutes if the set is particularly finicky. But I do this mainly to ensure a good seal: I find that if I do not process, I’m much more likely to lose a couple of jars to a bad seal which pops open in the pantry.

      Hope that helps.

      • Franceska

        thank you, yes it does help. that is my main issue is my canner is so big i was afraid of cracking jars while extreme heat and time it boils for-not a concern after your suggestions. i will try and find that canner/ pot to process jelly jar sizes. have a great canning season too. today canning sugar free strawberry rhubarb pie filling 3 qts

  69. Just finished making my strawberry jam and syrup for this year-thank heavens the berries are almost done, I see them in my sleep! I have always done the invert the jars technique and it’s worked just fine. Blueberries are starting to ripen and raspberries don’t look far behind so I’ve lots more to do. I’ve changed the pectin to Pomona’s because it always sets and I can use so much less sugar. (Actually it allows you to use just about any kind of sweetener – honey, artificial, etc.) I have used 8 cups mashed berries to 2 cups sugar. My question is, should I have done water baths because there is so much less sugar? Thanks

  70. Kathy

    I’m having a wedding and my favors will be 4oz jars of jam. I want to know when I bot them in the water bath what is the most jars i can do at once, I will be stacking them, Thank you

  71. Kaye

    Just found your site & love it already. I need to find a way to preserve green chilis that maximizes their flavor. I roasted, skinned & froze them last year which did not do justice to their flavor. I buy canned ones that use citric acid as a flavor enhancer but cannot find a recipe for home canning. The only citric acid I can find on the market is for canning tomatoes. Any suggestions or recipes?

  72. Nicci

    Great site! ! I’m wondering if you know what a correct ratio of ketchup to vinegar when canning would be. My recipe calls for 3/4 cup ketchup to 2 Tbsp of white vinegar. I usually triple the recipe. I have both water bath and pressure canner. Would I be safe processing in prepared jars for 20 minutes or so?

  73. Hira

    Hi.

    I made plum jam today (10 half pint and 10 4 oz jars). I canned them but did not do the water bath. After 12 hours I opened up one of them and the inside of the lid had condensation. so, opened the second and the third and the fourth and all are the same. I will be giving them away as gifts. So, I just want to be extra cautious. Should I be reprocessing these ? If so, should I open them up, put new lids and place the jars that are in room temperature to a pot of water and bring it to boil . Time it for 15 mts and remove them? Please advice.

    P.S. I need to know this ASAP. So, if I get an answer right away that would be great :)

    Thanks

    • Hira,

      If you plan to give these as gifts, then I would process them in a boiling water bath. For an acidic jam like plum, the processing really only serves to protect against mold (from any contamination present on the jars when you filled them) and to ensure a good, long-lasting seal. In my experience, when I skip a water bath, the seal is more likely to fail within the first 3 months of storage.

      The condensation is normal: boiling jam cooled inside a closed container.

      At the very least, you should process the jars you opened. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, use new lids,add the preserves and wait until the water come back to a full, rolling boil, then boil for 10 minutes.

      • To do the waterbath, I can bring the water to boil , then put the canned jam in room temperature with new lids and bring it to a full rolling boil? My question is should iremove the jam and heat them up and put it in the jar or just only replace lids and do it?

        Thanks

        • Ideally, you would empty all the jars, bring the jam back to a boil, and then re-fill clean jars. I must admit, however, that I probably wouldn’t go through all that work: as long as you make sure the water bath comes back to a full, rolling boil before you set the “countdown” clock for the 10-minute process, you should be fine. The jam will then be hot enough inside the jars. If you want to be extra-cautious, you can tack 5 minutes on to the processing time for a 15-minute process total.

          • Miss B

            I also have a question about processing plums. I made sand plum jelly a few days ago. I used the high temp wash and sani-rinse cycle on my dishwasher thinking I was sterilizing my jars appropriately. After I filled the jars, I only waterbathed them for 6 minutes. All of the jars sealed and set up, but now I’m concerned that my jars weren’t properly sterilized. I read that unsterilized jars need to be in the waterbath for at least 10 minutes. Is my plum jelly safe, or should I re-process it?

            • In my opinion, your plum jelly is fine. The USDA would not agree with me, as the standard recommendation is for a minimum 10-minute water bath for all fruit jams/jellies. However, in Europe, they don’t waterbath fruit preserves at all; they simply fill boiling jam into clean jars and invert.

              So who is correct? The USDA’s recommendations are conservative, and at times, rightly so. But from a science-based perspective, plum jelly is safely acidic so botulism is not an issue, and jars that have been thoroughly washed in the dishwasher and filled with boiling jelly are unlikely to support any sort of bacterial/mold growth, regardless of the 6-minute waterbath (which is mostly helpful in ensuring a good seal).

              Bottom line: I would not re-process.

              Hope that helps.

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  75. George Tee

    I havea weighted pressure cooker however I lost the little vent part that goes on the outside of the lid do I have to buy a new pot or can I still use this one its the start of canning season so I really need it. On that same note I used it the other day put put up some green beans mind you I have the weights well one is missing and no Im not sure which one it is anyway I used it to can my green beans I followed the Ball direcctions however when I went to put my jars in storage I noticed a white film at the bottom of the jars what is it, I did add salt so Im wondering if it may be from the salt. but more importantly can I still eat them. Did this happen because i most likely did not use my canner properly. Thanks for you time I love this page so glad I found it I will be referring back here often.

    Harrisburg Canner

    • Hi George,

      I do not have a pressure canner and have never done any pressure canning, so I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere for answers to your questions. If it were me, I would replace your pressure canner (pressure cookers are not accurate for use in pressure CANNING as well); botulism is a very real concern when canning any low-acid vegetables and I wouldn’t want you to run the risk of using faulty equipment.

      The white film is likely hard-water deposits, which can happen in a boiling water bath as well. Adding a few tablespoons of vinegar to the canning water will prevent this.

  76. Marina Wilson

    I’m a total beginner with growing my own veg and preserving and today want to make a green tomato chutney for my first attempt at making chutneys. . I have hundreds of tomatoes, runner beans, courgettes, marrow and summer squash all ready for me to make chutneys with and 2 weeks of time so want to get it right. I’ve got all recipes, ingredients, all utensils and jars (old jam jars and Kilmer types) and have 2 questions to ask.
    1- is it ok to put a greaseproof circle of paper over the chutney before I screw on the lids.
    2- how tight do I screw on the lids before processing ( I’m doing mine in a big pot ) will do small batches at a time.

    This is great site but so many variations online which differ with what to do in processing. It’s confusing me. Any advice would be appreciated thanks. I’m in the UK.

    • Hi Marina,

      1. No, I would not use greaseproof paper: why would you want to? I suspect it would disintegrate in the boiling water bath and ruin your chutney.

      2. If you have the Ball two-piece lids (a metal screw-band and a disposable metal lid), then you tighten the lid to “fingertip tight”; i.e. not very tight at all; stop just as soon as you feel the band begin to tighten. However, I know that these types are jars are rare in the UK, so I’m not sure what kind of lid you are working with? Kilner jars have a wire & bail, and so tighten automatically. I can’t give you any advice based on “old jam jars.” Could you be more specific?

  77. R. Loeppky

    My wife makes homemade soup, puts boiling soup in quart jars with snap lids. She is adamant about letting them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. I maintain that once they have “popped” you can put them in a fridge. Can you settle this argument?

    • I’m not sure what the purpose of letting them sit until the lids pop is, if they are going into fridge storage anyway. They are not safe for shelf storage unless pressure canned: so a 24-hr hour time period left sitting out at room temperature is likely to cause some of them to begin to spoil, especially in hot weather. It would be better to refrigerate or freeze the soup right away.

  78. Ileah

    Hi there!!
    I usually can “the old fashioned way” without a hot water bath but I think after today I’m finished with it! I currently have 14 jars of cukes I did today that have yet to seal. My question: is it too late to process them in a hot water bath? At this point if I can save them by doing that I will but I’m not sure if it will work or is safe now that the brine has cooled. Any advice would be great.
    THANKS!!

  79. Kathy

    I would like to know, when I make a pot of sauce, I will put the rest in canning jars with a few meatballs and sausage. Do I have to wait until the sauce cools before I can put the jars in the freezer. Thank you.

  80. Liana

    Can I add raw peppers to raw packed tomatoes then process in a water bath canner for 45 min? The ratio is about 1/4 peppers the rest tomatoes with added lemon juice.

    • Sorry, Liana, you cannot. Adding peppers would change the overall acidity of the preserved tomatoes, therefore you would need to add much more acid to bring the total pH down to 4.6. Unfortunately, unless you have an accurate way to measure pH, I can’t tell you how much added acid would make your tomatoes safe. You could, of course, choose to use a pressure canner instead.

  81. Ellen

    today I was canning spaghetti sauce my husband bought me a brand new dozen jars I put them in the dishwasher and took them out and sterilized them prior to filling with the sauce. Went back over to the dishwasher to unload assuming the dishes were clean and realized for some reason the dishwasher didn’t run. I had already filled the jars with sauce and had them in the canner. Is it ok or do I need to take the sauce out rewash the jars and re-sterilize?

    • Assuming you followed the directions of a canning-safe recipe and processed the sauce for the recommended time, they are probably fine. The processing times of canning-safe recipes are designed to kill any bacteria present in the food or jar.

      When you say you “sterilized” them after the dishwasher, does that mean you boiled them in water for a certain length of time?

  82. rachel.borella@gmail.com

    I recently canned several quarts of tomato sauce using old canning recommendations. I did not add lemon juice. I also added half an onion and some herbs. I let the sauce simmer and boil for 3 hours and then put it in hot, sterilized jars and boiled the full jars for 15 minutes. Now I am realizing I made a couple huge mistakes. I think I just need someone with a lot of expertise to confirm…do I really have to throw these jars of sauce away? It was such an investment of time, money, and my garden…but I obviously don’t want to hurt anyone with improperly canned sauce. :( Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Sad to say, that especially with the addition of onion & fresh herbs, that your jars are at risk of growing botulism. I would definitely not eat them as they are.

      USDA would recommend that you promptly dispose of all the jars, in such a way such that the contents can’t possibly be eaten by pets, children, etc.

      It is NOT recommended by USDA, but one thing you can do is open all the jars and boil the sauce hard for at least 15 minutes; while the botulinum spores are not killed by boiling, the botulinum toxin IS killed at boiling temps (the spores produce the toxin, but they remain dormant at acidic pH of less than 4.6, which is why we add acid to jarred tomatoes).

      If you choose to do this, be very careful about not splashing about the sauce before boiling, cross-contaminating, and washing the jars very well afterwards. If the sauce does contain botulinum toxin, only a TINY amount can make you sick.

      Once the sauce has been boiled hard for at least 15 minutes, you can re-process in clean jars with new lids as long as you strain out the onion & herbs and properly acidify your jars according to the NCFHP recommendations: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can3_tomato.html

      If you’d rather leave the onion & herbs in, or they are diced and too difficult to remove by straining, then my recommendation would be to freeze the sauce.

      I just want to clarify that this is probably what *I* would do, rather than waste 10 quarts of sauce, but it is really not recommended by anyone in authority. Here, from the Mississippi extension school, are the recommendations for disposing of potentially spoiled canned foods: http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p0993.pdf

      You should trust your own judgement and do what you think is best and safe for you & your family, but please, do not use that sauce as is.

      Hope that helps.

  83. rachel.borella@gmail.com

    Thank you so much for your help! I am very novice canner (obviously!), and it has been great to get some advice from someone with a lot more experience. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me such a thorough answer. I have a lot to learn, but I won’t make these mistakes again!

    • The first time I canned tomato sauce, I just made my favorite sauce from my usual cookbook, put it in jars, and boiled them. THEN I went about doing some research and found out I had done it all wrong. :) At least we were smart enough to do the research before we ate any potentially spoiled jars, right?

      There are plenty of tomato recipes here on the blog, and I’m quite strict about canning safety & tomatoes. You can also trust the NCHFP as a guide, or check out foodinjars.com for recipes & canning 101 tutorials.

      And, glad to help. I’d always rather people ask – better safe than sorry!

  84. Debi

    I just canned 15 jars of tomatoe sauce and forgot the lemon juice, what can I do to correct this. I don’t want to lose it all. Can I empty them and recan with lemon juice. Please help

    • Hi Debi,

      If you canned them in the last 24 hours, you can simply open the jars, reheat the sauce to a boil, and re-can & process in clean jars, with new lids, adding the lemon juice to each jar.

      Alternatively, you can pop the lids and freeze the jars without any processing.

  85. Kerri

    Hi there! I just made a few batches of apple pie filling without any thickening agent tonight. I just used Mac. apples,spring water, white sugar,brown sugar and spices. I processed the jars for 20 min and all sealed shut. My question is some air bubbles did not escape like I thought they did, are my jars going to be ruined?!? I am now also afraid that all the sugar and water might have lowered the acidity level below safe. Please help! Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Kerri,

      Your jars are perfectly fine! Sugar does not affect pH, and while water can, since you added both sugar and water, you essentially canned apples in syrup, which is perfectly safe. Apples are well below the safe pH for canning, so your jars are fine. And small air bubbles are normal especially for something rather thick like a pie filling. They may resolve in time, or they might not; either way, it’s not a problem.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

  86. debbie

    Hi, have a question, why do you need a pressure cooker for meat and other items? Back in the 1800′s no one had a pressure cooker and they
    still canned their meat? Just wondering why! thanks

    • Hi Debbie,

      I’m not exactly sure that they “canned” meat back in the 1800′s. There are historical methods of meat preservation that people still practice today: drying, smoking, curing, etc. Any “canned” meat was likely salted (salting meat for preservation was quite common: salt can act as a preservative by drawing out the water that bacteria need to thrive) or pickled.. Back in the day, “cans” were not really airtight: they were crocks or barrels, and as botulism needs an absence of oxygen to thrive, it was not such a problem. Mold or rot might affect stored meat, but it wouldn’t kill you.

      The need for pressure canning meat today comes from meat being a low-acid food, and the tendency of botulism to grow in a low-acid, oxygen-free environment. While we can pickle vegetables to bring their acidity to a safe pH for water bath canning, most people don’t want to pickle meat. So we must heat jars of canned meat to 240 degrees F in order to kill botulism spores, which are not killed at 212 degrees F, the temperature achieved in a standard water bath; in order to do that, we need to use a pressure canner.

  87. Isabel Newth

    Hi there. It’s nice to see a blog where someone keeps on answering questions! Thanks. I am making mustard from seeds we have grown and I would like to preserve it by canning so that it can be given away. I am wondering whether the final stage of heating the jars in a hot water bath is likely to affect the final flavour of the mustard….I believe that if you like it hot you should mix with cold liquid initially, but will the spiciness be preserved after the can goes through the heating process. Thank.

    • Hi Isabel,

      I’ve heard as well, that for the truest mustard flavor, you should make mustard with cold water. I’ve never tried this myself; unfortunately, as I am not a mustard fan (I make it for my husband and for friends) I wouldn’t be the best judge of the taste impact of heating the mustard. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around the water bath step if you want shelf-stable mustard; if you want a spicy kick you can always add dried chile powder or infuse the marinating liquid with habanaero or another chile. If you search “mustard” on the blog you’ll find plenty of recipes.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

  88. Cyndi Blue

    Hi, I recently made a several batches of spaghetti sauce and I processed squash and onions into a fine paste and added them. I did a water bath like regular spaghetti sauce, should I have done a water bath?

    • Hi Cyndi,

      Sorry to say, I’m afraid your sauce is unsafe. The squash & onions are likely to have raised the pH of your spaghetti sauce to unsafe levels for water-bath canning.

      Depending on how long ago you canned the sauce, my sad, sad recommendation is to carefully dispose of the sauce, assuming that the contents may be contaminated with botulism toxin.

  89. Cyndi Blue

    My boyfriend is wondering since I just made this spaghetti sauce in the last two weeks (several batches so the farthest back is about two weeks, most recent about 4 days) can we just hurry up and eat some of it so we aren’t wasting all of our hard work? How long after canning does the botulism grow?

    • That’s a tough question. If you told me “I just made it yesterday!” I would say simply open the jars and freeze or pressure can. But in 2 weeks? It’s really hard for me (or anyone, really) to tell how much, or if any, botulism might be present.

      One thing you could do is buy an inexpensive pH meter (I’ve used this one in the past; it didn’t last long, but seemed reasonably accurate in comparison with calibration standards, which you’d also need to buy: http://www.amazon.com/Etekcity%C2%AE-Accuracy-Measurement-Resolution-Handheld/dp/B00FJFEB2O/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1413419382&sr=8-3&keywords=pH+meter). Pop a couple jars of the sauce: if, after calibrating your meter, the sauce reads a pH of BELOW 4.6, the sauce was safe for water bath canning. [I might not assume that ALL jars are safe at this point; but at least you would know that they are likely safe for opening and re-processing in a pressure canner.]

      The other option is to open all the jars in a big stockpot, bring to a boil, and boil HARD, covered, for at least 15 minutes. Botulism SPORES are not killed at 212 degrees F (hence the need for pressure canning of low-acid foods, to bring jars to a temp of 240 F), but botulinum TOXIN is killed by boiling, making the food safe to eat after boiling even if botulinum toxin was present in the sealed jar.

      PLEASE NOTE: this recommendation goes against everything the USDA says, and you MUST make sure that you treat the opened sauce as a potential biohazard until such time as it has been sufficiently boiled, That means take great pains not to spill or splash, clean your counters, utensils, pots, etc. in very hot water and/or with a bleach solution. A tiny, tiny amount of botulinum toxin can make you very sick, even kill you – it’s especially dangerous for pets, children, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system.

      So – while I would hate to waste all that hard work and good food, and would probably go the boiling route, I would be extra-OCD careful about it. You must decide for yourself whether you feel comfortable doing that, or whether it might be better to simply chalk it up to lessons learned and discard.

  90. Cyndi Blue

    Thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions! I have ordered the ph tester and will decide from there. i am hoping because most of the tomatoes were very green that the acid level is high enough, but I really did add a lot of squash so probably not going to be ok. Lesson learned, next year I pressure can for sure!

    • True confessions: I did the same thing my first year canning! Luckily it was a very small batch, but yeah, I dove right in, made my favorite tomato sauce (full of all sorts of veg), canned it up, THEN did the research.

      At least we’re smart enough to do the research before we eat the stuff, no? :)

  91. linda

    Hi, my husband was left to fill my jars with a tomato sauce i made and he did but he forgot the lemon he put the mix in the jars boiled the jars in the bath but only for app 15 min. They have all popped the lids that is. However Im wondering now will it spoil. can we put them back in to boil longer its been over 7 hours. he added white wine to my recipe.

    • Hi Linda,

      Without knowing your recipe, I can’t determine whether the sauce was safe to can via a boiling water bath, even with added lemon juice. It certainly is not safe to can without lemon juice and only for 15 minutes of processing time. Sealed jars simply means that you created enough heat inside the jar to create a vacuum; it does not ensure the that contents are safe from developing botulism.

      If you followed a trusted tomato sauce recipe from a reputable CANNING cookbook or site, you can simply open the jars, reheat the sauce, then re-can into clean jars, adding lemon juice, and using new lids. Process for the recommended time. If you did not follow a canning recipe, but used a standard tomato sauce recipe, I recommend storing the jars in the freezer.

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