FAQ Canning Questions

What’s The Difference Between A Boiling Water Bath Canner And A Pressure Canner?

For the purposes of home canning, foods are divided into two distinct categories.
• High Acid Foods
• Low Acid Foods
High acid foods are those foods which have naturally occurring acids. Most fruits and most tomatoes are considered to be high acid foods.

Foods like pickles, sauerkraut and other foods to which vinegar or lemon juice has been added to, are also considered to be high acid foods.

2 Water Bath Canners On A Camp Stove

2 Water Bath Canners On A Camp Stove

Low acid foods are those foods, which have little naturally occurring acid. All common vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, mushrooms and milk are all considered to be low acid foods. The only dependably safe method to home can low acid foods is with a tested recipe and a pressure canner in good working order.

Pressure Canner

All-American 915 Pressure Canner

It’s the level of acidity in food that determines whether or not certain harmful organisms can survive and reproduce in a sealed canning jar.
With high acid foods, bacteria can be dependably killed at 212º F in a water bath canner.




However with low acid foods, bacteria cannot be killed at 212º.
For all low acid foods the temperature MUST reach at least 240ºF. into the inner core of the food for the recommended amount of time for the particular food.

Boiling water can never reach that temperature. It is steam under pressure that drives the temperature to above the point of boiling water.

What’s A Mason Jar?
A Mason jar is the vernacular term for a glass jar made especially for home canning. It is a brand name of sorts. The term comes from a type of glass jar that was patented by John L. Mason in 1858. There are many other brands of jars – Atlas, Ball, Sure Pak, Kerr – just to name a few. Mason jar is to canning jars what Kleenex is to facial tissues.

Is It Safe To Can Food Without Salt?
Yes. Salt is use only to enhanced flavor. I fact one of the great bonuses of home canning is the ability to custom design foods for people who wish to restrict their sodium intake. Commercial canned food product have a tremendous about of salt added to them. What’s more, over the last 20 years there has been a significant rise in the amount of sugar and corn syrup that is added to commercially canned foods. The salt sugar and corn syrup is added to conceal the taste of inferior quality food.

Grandma Didn’t Use A Pressure Canner And Nobody Got Sick. Why Should I Use One?
Your grandmother was lucky. The fact of the matter is at one time low acid foods were processed without a pressure canner. The way it was done back then was that the food was cooked until it was almost mush. In those days canning jars were filled and placed in a boiling water bath canner for 3 hours. The resulting food was of poor quality but it was a whole lot better than starving to death during the winter months.
In those days the risk of botulism was ever-present and I’ll bet your grandma can recall stories of entire families and church socials being sicken by botulism.

Tomatoes In A Water Bath

Tomatoes In A Water Bath

The risk of contaminated food is the reason you can still find canning recipes that recommend that all home canned foods be boiled for 10 to 15 minutes at a full rolling boil and caution feeding spoiled food to animals. That’s because botulism can sicken or kill Fido just as fast as it can sicken or kill you. Using a pressure canner properly absolutely will give a 100% bacteria kill in low acid foods.

Why Is Liquid Sometimes Lost From Glass Jars During Processing?
The loss of liquid from jars during processing occurs for a few different reasons.
Liquid can be lost because the temperature in the pressure canner was fluctuating. Liquid can also be lost if the jars were packed too full, if the food was not heated before packing, air bubbles in the jar or if the pressure was lower too suddenly. Sometimes starchy food, such as corn, will absorb the liquid in the jar. It is not necessary to replace the lost liquid.

Loss Of Liquid

Notice The Slight Loss Of Liquid In The Canned Sweet Corn

Sometimes the food will darken in the jar but it is still safe to eat.
Must Glass Mason Jars Be Sterilized By Boiling Water Before Canning?
No. The jars only need to be clean.

Why Do My Peaches Float In The Jar?
Sometimes fruit will float in a jar if it was packed too loose or the syrup was too heavy. It is also possible that air has remained in the cell tissues of the fruit.

Can I Use My Pressure Canner For Processing Fruits And Tomatoes?
Yes. You can do it one of two ways.
Yes. You can do it one of two ways.
Method 1
If your pressure canner is deep enough, you can use it just like a water bath canner. The important thing is that the water completely covers the tops of the jars by at least 1″- 2″. With most models of pressure canner this is easily done with ½ pint and pint jars. If your pressure canner isn’t deep enough to use like a water bath canner you can still use it. Process both pints and ½ pints for 40 minutes
Method 2
You may use a pressure canner to process fruit and tomatoes at 10 pounds of pressure for altitudes at 1,000 Sea Level or lower. See the altitude charts above for adjustments for altitudes higher than 1,000 ft. For both tomatoes and fruit process both pints and quarts for 10 minutes. For tomatoes always add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to every quart and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to every pint.

I Opened A Jar And There Are Black Spots On The Underside Of The Lid. Is The Food Safe To Eat?
Yes. Sometimes naturally occurring compounds in the food will leave a deposit. It’s harmless.

How can I tell if a jar has sealed?
If you are using a modern 2-piece lid and band closure, the lid will pull pulled down tightly on the jar. A sealed lid will have a slightly concave profile to it. You can test the lid by pressing your finger into the center of the lid. There should be not give to it. It the lid spring up and down the jar has not sealed.
You can also test the seal by lifting the jar by the rim.
The food in a jar that has not sealed should be eaten promptly, frozen or reprocessed again for the full amount of time.
When I have a jar that doesn’t seal, I usually just freeze it and don’t bother to reprocess it again.

Why Didn’t My Canning Jar Seal?
There are a few different reasons why a jar won’t seal.
Sometimes there is a small hairline crack in the jar or a nick around the rim of the jar. In either case the jar cannot maintain a vacuum. Sometimes if food is very greasy or if a bit of food gets between the lid and the jar rim, the jar will not seal.

Tomato Seeds On Rim Of This Canning Jar Prevented It From Sealing

Tomato Seeds On Rim Of This Canning Jar Prevented It From Sealing

Certain foods tend to give more trouble than others. I never have problems with meat, poultry and most vegetables. But every once in a while tomatoes, chili and bean soup will give me trouble. With tomatoes seeds sometimes get under the lid and with bean soup I think the fat from the salt pork is the culprit.

Can I Reuse Canning Lids?
No. It’s not recommended to ever reuse “one trip” lids. That said some people do reuse the “one trip” lids with a varying amount of success. If you do reuse one trip lids expect losses due to improper sealing.

Two Piece Tattler Canning Lid

Tattler 2-Piece Reusable Canning Lid System

There are canning lids that are made especially to be reused. The brand is Tattler and I recommend them. They are much more expensive but will pay for themselves over time.

You will need to follow the special instructions when using the Tattler lids because they are applied a bit different from regular “one trip” lids. Tattler lids work like old-time bail jars and rubbers.

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