Some Canning Questions/Answers

cranberry apple jam

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.

Related Posts:

29 Responses to Some Canning Questions/Answers

  1. 1
    Jaime says:

    Thanks Marisa! Your advice is much appreciated!

  2. 2
    Marisa says:

    I’m so happy to be helpful, Jaime!

    • 2.1
      Shannon says:

      Hello I am new to canning. I want to can a recipe but not sure where to start. It’s a spicey tomato sauce with sauted peppers, onions, garlic, and seasonings. Any ideas how and if I can even can this? Thank you very much

  3. 3
    Tara says:

    I will toss out that even though canned salsa is nothing like the fresh salsa it is still 100% better with home grown tomatoes than most salsas you can buy in the store.

  4. 4
    Nancy says:

    Is there a trick to removing foam from jams before processing? I just finished canning strawberry jam that I painstakingly removed the foam from the top, ran the debubbler thing around the inside of the jar a few times, and now, after doing the hot water bath, there’s foam visable along the sides of the jar! I was hoping to give these as holiday gifts. Thanks for all of your wonderful advice and words of encouragement!

    • 4.1
      Marisa says:

      Nancy I’ve found that the best thing to use to remove foam from jam is a mesh skimmer. Something like this works best. Mine wasn’t nearly as expensive though, I use one I bought a an Asian grocery store for $2.

  5. 5
    Tracy says:

    Thanks for the answers! Glad to know my applesauce is safe!

  6. 6
    Katie says:

    Another quick question! I made and canned my first batch of apple butter a few weeks back. The top 1/4 inch or so of the butter in each jar has discolored, going a bit darker than the rest. Is this safe to eat? I’m petrified of giving out food sickness by way of apple butter during Christmas!

    Love your blog,
    Katie

  7. 7
    Nancy says:

    After many years of making and freezing applesauce, this year I canned 3 batches. Everything sealed perfectly, but in 1 batch of jars there’s an inch-deep layer at the bottom in which liquid seems to have separated from pureed solids. Any idea why – or how to prevent this in the future? I love the blog!

  8. 8
    Angela says:

    Can you can hot fudge sauce or butterscotch sauce? I would love to do this for holiday gifts. Not sure if it would work.

  9. 9
    Marisa says:

    Angela, unfortunately, the USDA does not recommend canning foods that contain milk products, even in a pressure canner. Those gifts are best made directly ahead of the planned gifting date and then presented with instructions to refrigerate upon receipt.

  10. 10
    Rhonda says:

    I canned cranberry sauce last year , can I reprocess it as I find it’s not sweet enough?

  11. 11
    Heather says:

    This may be a little off topic, but since I’ve started canning again this month my jars/lids & canner all end up with a white film on them when dry. It’s not that big of a deal since I can just wipe it off with water or soap&water … but it’s kind of a pain. We have very good drinking water from Lake Superior where I live so I dont know what else is in there that is the cause of this. (I dont get this from other things like when I boil water for pasta.) Just wondering if anyone else has had this problem & could it have something to do with the length of time the water is boiling?

  12. 12
    Marisa says:

    Heather, from what I’ve heard and read, that white film is mineral deposits. Even the best drinking water often contains minerals. You can help prevent it by adding a bit (maybe a tablespoon or two) of white vinegar to the processing bath.

  13. 13
    Lisa says:

    I have looked high and low for information re: cooking my fruit before I’m ready to actually can it. Can I do this? I’m new to canning and my aunt is actually teaching my sister and I how to can this weekend so I thought I would save some time by getting the fruit cooked up ahead of time. Have I ruined it? (We’re making jam)

    • 13.1
      Marisa says:

      You don’t really want to cook your fruit into jam prior to canning, because you’ll then need to reheat it in order to can it (your product has to be hot when it goes into jars). The double cooking can impact set and texture.

  14. 14
    Alison says:

    When using my Grandmother’s vintage jars with rubber seals in the water bath, do I cover the jars with water?

    Thank you.
    Meg

  15. 15
    Pam says:

    Help! I made my second batch of strawberry and raspberry jams yesterday but they arent setting. I used my processor this time instead of smashing by hand. Would that delay setting time or do i need to recook with more pectin? Never had this problem before…thanks!

  16. 16
    Jordan says:

    I was wondering about changing sugars and spices in the apple sauce recipe you have in your book “food in jars”. I was wondering if it were possible to use only cinnamon and ginger for spices, and to use brown sugar instead of reg sugar, or even just sub a little?
    on a different note, for the basic salsa could i reduce the jalapenos, 3 seems too spicy for me. i think i am going to give it a try, i was just curious. I love your book by the way. i cannot wait to get a bigger garden next year to make more!

  17. 17
    Jordan says:

    I have another question for you! :) for the marinara sauce is says to use a food
    Mill or sieve, do I have to do this step? Or could I simply use an immersion blender to it all then reduce it? I tried used a sieve but it seemed like 3/4 of the stuff what left in the strainer.

  18. 18
    Pete says:

    Your website is terrific! I have a question about substituting canned tomatoes for fresh tomatoes in pressure canning recipes. I live in the Northeast and it’s much easier to get good canned tomatoes year-round than to find good, fresh ones. The recipes I’ve seen on the NCHFP and USDA sites all list fresh tomatoes as ingredients. Can I safely substitute canned tomatoes for fresh ones in these recipes? For example, could I use a 28 oz. can of tomatoes instead of 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes? Thanks! Pete

  19. 19
    Wendi says:

    I canned some razor clams last night in my pressure cooker. Does a finished brown/pink product mean it is overprocessed. I had continual pressure for 90 min time( my red button on the handle was up) I have only used my Mirror 22qt twice, so I have difficulty hearing the “jiggle” of the weight. I had hisses routinely and spins and expels of steam about every minute or so. I am sure I had plenty of pressure for the time, thinking the color is an overprocess. What do you think?

  20. 20
    Tonya says:

    I canned some strawberry jam today, and when checking the set later tonight, I saw water on top of my jam. Is that just condensation, or did something go wrong?

    • 20.1
      Marisa says:

      It is just condensation and is not something you need to worry about!

      • Laura says:

        Hello! I have a similar question to Tonya’s:) I just canned grape jelly (two batches). I did everything according to a tested recipe (Ball), sterilized the jars and lids, and processed the jars for the appropriate amount of time. When I popped open the jars after 24 hours, there was a thin layer of water on top of the jelly and a little on the underside of the lid. The jelly had set almost perfectly. I read that this might be ‘weeping’ caused from too much acid in the grape juice. Will storing this at room temperature cause mold? Is it shelf stable for 12 months? Is it safe to give away to others? Is there anything I can do to lower the PH level if that’s the problem? Thank you so, so much for your help!

        • Marisa says:

          That’s just a little bit of condensation and is nothing to worry about. Over time, it will reintegrate into the product. It’s not weeping if you discover it within the first few days of canning.

  21. 21
    Celine says:

    Hi, I tried “canning” (I just did a hot water bath for 15 minutes) a salsa fresca yesterday. I made my usual recipe, which I have never conserved before. It is similar to a recipe that I found online, and they used the bain-marie method for 15 minutes. I tested the pH before processing, it was 3.5, which seemed safe to me, but I have doubts, as I probably tested the pH of the liquid, and not the center of tomato or onion pieces. Is this safe? If I were to pressure can this, would it be safe? Should I just put in the fridge and eat in the next few weeks? Thank you in advance!!

  22. 22
    Linda says:

    My son and his girlfriend just tried to can pickles. Boiled in a water bath for 15 minutes. Some of the jar lids buckled, some raised up like a mountain and some sucked in and sealed. We can’t find anything online to explain this and don’t know what to do! It’s a shame, they saved to buy the canning stuff and pickles and may have just ruined everything. Can anyone help us?

Leave a Reply