More than three weeks ago, I asked for your burning canning questions. I intended to be a good canning blogger/teacher and respond right away to those queries, but then life intervened and I’m only now finally circling back around to get you some answers. So here we go…
Jewel asks: I have a few sauce, chutney, and jam recipes that are not specifically meant to be canned, but that I would love to put up. In most cases I believe that the sugar content is high enough for water bath canning, but I want to be safe. Is there a way to tell if a recipe is appropriate for canning? Can you point me in the right direction?
Answer: The best way to determine if your recipes are safe to canning is to look for comparable recipes that have been designed to be canned and determine from there whether the proportions of fruit, sugar and vinegar (in the case of chutneys) are similar to your recipes. I know I always mention it, but my favorite volume for this type of comparison research is So Easy to Preserve.
If you can’t find a similar recipe but are determined to water bath process your recipes, Steve Dowdney includes instructions in his book Putting Up that can walk you through the steps of checking the pH level in your product, in order to determine whether they’ll be safe for water bath processing.
Deb asks: I made applesauce recently. All the jars sealed very well, in a couple the applesauce came up and out of the jar a bit before sealing. I imagine there is applesauce caught in the lid seal area. I can pick the jars up by the lid edge, so they are very tight, but are they really ok?
Answer: It is totally normal to have some siphoning (the technical canning word for when some of the contents of the jars seeps out during processing) with applesauce. However, as long as the jars seal post-processing, they are still safe and shelf-stable. When filling the jars, make sure that you leave 1/2 to 3/4 an inch of headspace, as it will help prevent the siphoning, but rest assured that your applesauce will be perfectly safe for storage in your pantry (or, in my case, the back of my coat closet).
Tracy asks: Tiny bubbles appeared in my applesauce a day or so after canning. Is this normal?
Answer: Yep, totally. I also find that I get tiny bubbles in my processed sauerkraut and in less juicy whole tomatoes.
More q&a after the jump…
Jaime asks: I was wondering if you have any handy tips about adjusting processing time if using a different sized jar than called for in a recipe. Is there a rule of thumb on this?
Answer: Unfortunately, I’ve learned that there’s no specific formula you can depend on to adjust processing time. Typically the processing time will be 5-10 minutes more for a quart sized jar than a pint, but you can’t always assume that. When it comes to processing half pint jars, the rule of thumb is to process them just as long as the recommended time for pints (if the recipe calls for small jars and you want to can it in larger jars, look around for a different recipe or suck it up and use the recommended jars). Again, I recommend looking for similar recipes and extrapolating from there.
Lo asks: How do I can my own creations? That escabeche I love so much? The salsa I can’t get enough of? Aren’t there worries over having ENOUGH acid or somesuch? What about my favorite marinara?
Answer: Like I said to Jewel above, the best place to start is to look for comparable recipes that have been designed for canning. However, some recipes just don’t take to canning well. That fresh salsa that you make during the summer and love so much? There’s no way to can it and have it taste anything like what it does when it’s fresh. As far as the escabeche goes, there are lots of recipes out there that are designed for canning. Take a look at them, and if they line up fairly closely to yours (particularly when it comes to the amount of vinegar) you can use your recipe.
Jessica asks: I was just told that if a canning recipe calls for lemon juice I should always use bottled lemon juice for acidity control. Is that true? I’ve always just used real lemons and wasn’t aware that was a problem.
Answer: It is recommended that you use bottled lemon juice because it has a consistent and dependable level of acidity. This is particularly true when you’re using lemon juice to ensure a safe level of acidity (when canning tomatoes, for example). However, when it comes to recipes where the level of acidity isn’t crucial (for instances, when you’re adding lemon juice to a batch of jam to balance the sweetness), you can use fresh lemons.