But if you do here’s a few tips!
Canning is fun! Once you get the hang of it you just cant stop – but there are some things that can happen that can frustrate even the most tolerant of us! However, with canning there is a world of people that have gone before us that have experienced every possible thing imaginable and provide us with gems that you just have to collect and go back to when ‘bad things happen’. Thanks to this one dedicated woman who has shared her experience of canning with us, we can learn so much to make our canning experiences a joy. Here is an excerpt from Jackie Clay-Atkinson’s blog which is a mix of her family antidotes and her wisdom that we can all share in…(thanks Jackie!)
Check out what to do when…
The pressure canner blew up!
There’s always a story floating around that someone’s mother, aunt, or neighbor had a pressure canner that blew up in the kitchen, blowing food and glass everywhere. All I can say is, “Yeah, right…” I hear this all the time. It’s the most frequently-given reason why folks don’t want to try pressure canning.
Let me say here and now that it is nearly impossible for a modern pressure canner to blow up. Modern pressure canners (those built within the last 40 years or so) are equipped with at least one fool-proof safety device— a petcock. The petcock releases steam and pressure when it gets over 15 pounds and has a hard rubber plug that pops out if the pressure gets too high. In addition, many canners, such as the All American, come with both a dial and weight. If the pressure gets too high, the weight jiggles and releases steam and pressure. No blowing up.
You do need to monitor your pressure canner while it is building pressure and during processing. Like a deep fryer, you don’t just fill it and go in the other room or outside while it is doing its thing. (A long time ago, my oldest daughters decided to make French fries, so they put the potatoes in the deep fryer and went outside to sunbathe. Needless to say, they ended up having to call the fire department.) You need to monitor your canner’s pressure— stay in the same room! If you want to ready another batch of food to can, that’s perfectly fine. But check often to make sure the pressure isn’t climbing past the pressure you are processing your food with.
As an added safety precaution, be sure to always check your petcock and steam vents before you can. Run a needle through them to make sure a bit of food hasn’t blown out of a jar and gotten wedged in the vent. In the past, this is usually what blew up the old canners without safety features. The plugged vent let the steam pressure build up until the lid blew off. Again, with modern canners, this is nearly impossible.
How about when the bottoms break off the jars!
This commonly happens during water bath canning. The reason is simple: hot jars put into a cool canner or cool jars put into a boiling canner make the bottoms of the jars crack and break during processing. Always make sure your jars are hot and the canner a little below boiling before you put them together. You can hold your jars in another canner full of boiling water or even hold them in a sink full of hot water so they stay reliably hot. Then pack them quickly and put them into a very warm canner. Even when pressure canning, I always take the time to heat my canner a bit so I’m not putting hot jars of food into a cold canner. By doing this simple step, I have no jar bottoms break during processing.
Another cause of broken jars is setting your jars of hot, processed food directly on a kitchen counter or table to cool. Setting them near an open window with a cool breeze blowing on them will also cause breakage. So will canning outdoors and putting the hot jars, right out of the canner, on a table in a windy area. Make sure there is no wind or breeze, and always set your hot jars on a clean, dry towel and they will cool safely … in one piece!
Tunking jars together while very hot can result in broken jars. The jars should also have enough space between them to create a good airflow. A good airflow results in a good seal.
Ever had liquid blow out of jars? Why this happens…
Liquid blowing out of jars during canning can happen for a couple of reasons. The first and most common reason is letting the pressure vary during processing. Let’s say you are canning at 12 pounds pressure but it slips up to 15 pounds before you notice it. If you quickly turn off the heat and let it go to 12 pounds, then turn the heat back on a couple of times, this can cause liquid to blow out of the jars. It is better to slowly bring it back to the right pressure.
Opening the canner too soon after processing or bumping the weight a couple times to “hurry” things up will also cause liquid to blow out of the jars. Once the pressure goes back to zero after your batch of jars has processed fully, wait five minutes or so. Then release any steam and remove the lid of the canner. Don’t try to save jars by over-packing food. Filling the jars past the recommended headspace will also cause liquid to blow out.
Although unsightly, the food in jars with a low liquid level is perfectly good to eat. A low liquid level does not affect the shelf life or the taste of the food.
How about when the seals just don’t seem to work:
Having a couple of jars that don’t seal in a big batch of canning is nothing to be concerned about. Reprocessing it is easy. Just reheat the food, check the jar rim for nicks or food particles, use a new, previously-simmered lid, and re-process within 24 hours. Or, you can just refrigerate it and eat it.
However, if more than one or two jars fail to seal, there is a definite reason. And the most common reason is not reading directions. Canning is definitely not rocket science, but you do need to follow tested recipes and the directions for every food, every time you can it. Never rely on memory. Even with all my experience, I always open my canning book and read the directions before I can that particular food. It’s a good habit to get into. And you’ll have fewer failures along the way if you do.
Examine every jar before you fill them to check for nicks or cracks in the rim of the jar. Always be sure to wipe the rim of your filled jars with a damp, clean cloth to remove any food bits or grease before putting on your lids. When they are done processing, do not wipe the jars and lids before they are cooled. If you have minerals in your water, your jars may have a whitish film on them after they come out of the canner. This film is nothing to worry about, but some folks take a towel and wipe it off before the jars have cooled. The lids will not seal properly if you do this. Wait until the jars have cooled completely, then you can take off the rings and wash the jars thoroughly under warm, soapy water with no ill effect.
When your batch of jars are through with their processing time, let the gauge return to zero or let the canner cool so there is no remaining steam if using a weight only. But do not leave the lid on the canner overnight and assume that the jars will seal just fine. Sometimes they appear to seal, but in storage, the seal releases and the food spoils. Again, read the directions and follow them. When the book says “let the gauge return to zero or allow the canner to cool naturally then remove the lid and remove the jars,” do just that. It does not say to leave them for several hours in the cooled canner!
Did your sweetcorn turn brown when you were canning?
There are a couple of reasons why corn turns an unappetizing brown after processing. The most common is that the corn is one of the newer super-sweet varieties. Plant or buy a variety of corn that is not “extra sweet” or “unbelievably sweet.” One popular variety sold is Kandy Korn, a super-sweet best seller. It is very good, eaten fresh. But it is a poor choice to can. I’ve done it with mixed results; some batches are fine, others turn brown.
Another possibility is that the corn was processed at too high a temperature. This often happens when a person fails to monitor the pressure gauge while the corn is processing. If you should be processing at 10 pounds pressure, don’t assume that 15 will make it “better.”
Make sure that water covers the corn well and that you use the correct headspace recommendations.
If you do end up with unappetizing brown corn, it is fine to eat.
Jelly Not Setting?
This just happens sometimes, even with the most experienced jam and jelly preservers, me included. Personally, I don’t worry about it and just use the unset spread as syrup over pancakes or ice cream. It’s sweet, fruity, and thick enough not to be runny.
I think the most common reason it doesn’t set is from tweaking the recipe in your canning book. Don’t add extra fruit juice to your recipe, thinking that you can get away with adding a little more sugar. It never works out and you’ll be disappointed with unset spreads.
Whether you use a recipe with pectin or not, don’t hurry the boiling of your spread. If your recipe calls for added pectin, add the full amount. Never double a recipe. It often does not turn out well; either it doesn’t set up or it scorches.
If you’ve done everything right and the preserve still doesn’t jell, you can save it and remake it again to get a firmer product. Before re-canning, just remember, some fruit preserves and jellies take up to two weeks to set up. And some fruits, such as chokecherries, are a bugger to set. Whenever I start to cook down my chokecherries, I use apple juice as a liquid, not water. The apple juice is high in natural pectin and helps the chokecherry jam or jelly to set. I also add powdered pectin.
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