Canning 101: Why You Should Bubble Your Jars

bubbling the relish

Often, when you read a recipe for pickled vegetables, chutneys, relishes or whole fruit preserved in a syrup solution, you’ll come across a phrase that says something along the lines of, “bubble your jars thoroughly.” For new canners, this is often a confusing statement. What exactly is the recipe asking you to do and why do you need to do it?

When a recipe instructs you to bubble your jars, it is telling you to take either a plastic or wooden utensil (I really like that long, skinny spatula you see in the picture above. However, a wooden chopstick or a plastic knife work well too) and insert it into your jar. You use that utensil to wiggle your product around in order to release any trapped air bubbles. You do this after you’ve packed your jars and topped them with your brine or syrup (or after a chunky sauce/chutney/relish has been ladled in).

The reason you want to choose a tool that is made of either plastic or wood is that they will not scratch up the insides of your jars. Metal utensils can leave very small scars behind that end up shortening the lifespan of your jars. When working with glass, it’s always a good idea to do what you can to prevent breakage. This is one of those things.

The reason it’s important to rid your jars of trapped air is that in canning, the empty space to product ratio needs to balanced carefully. You need to have enough air in the jar so that after processing, the escaping heat can pull the oxygen out of the jar and create the vacuum seal. However, too much air and you find that some of your product is left sticking out of the preserving liquid, leaving it prone to discoloration and the development of off-flavors.

Additionally, if you leave those air bubbles trapped somewhere in the middle of the jar, they may try to escape during processing and can end up pushing some of your liquid out of the jar, leaving you with even less of your precious brine or syrup.

If you’ve had that loss of liquid happen to you in a previous canning attempt, don’t despair! As long as the seal is good and firm, the contents of the jar are still fine. You will want to move them up to the front of the consumption queue though, as they will not keep as long.

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70 Responses to Canning 101: Why You Should Bubble Your Jars

  1. 51

    […] Ladle hot liquid over peppers leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. […]

  2. 52
    nay says:

    I canned chow chow for the first time and I used twice as much cabbage as it called for. From 1 qt to 2 qts, all other ingredients were accurate. My relish hardly had any brine, go figure, but I did manage to get 4 pints, all with proper head space. It’s just that it was rather thick without a lot of liquid. Are they still safe to eat considering chopped vegetables to vinegar ratio will be off? Don’t want to kill the family.

    • 52.1
      JG says:

      It’s never a good idea to alter the dry weight-to-acid ratio of a recipe. Although you may get away with it, a 100% inaccuracy such as doubling the dry weight for the same amount of brine is, IMHO very risky at best.

  3. 53
    Joy Kennedy says:

    Your website is wonderful!! I have canned before, but it has been awhile. I’m really enthusiastic about canning again and have canned some pickled okra and sweet pickles. I had some questions about the head space in the jars, but all my questions have been answered here. Your answers have given me the confidence to continue canning. Peaches and chow chow are next on my list followed by some homemade veggie soup!! thanks so much for this wonderful information!!

  4. 54
    diana v. says:

    at the end of my water bath process, 2 of my jars were floating above water level when I removed the lid to my pot. ?
    I have never had this happen to me. I was canning apple slices in a very light sugar/cinnamon syrup.
    any ideas?
    I’m still waiting to see if they seal, but I think I will just eat those 2 right away…:)

  5. 55
    Kathy says:

    I got this great idea to pack a lot of fruit into each jar, which is easy to do when you hot pack. Now, after losing some liquid when I processed the peaches and pears…..there is very little liquid in the jars. I found one site that said to toss it if you lose 1/2 of your liquid. It appears I have lost that much in many of the jars but everything in the jar is nice and wet, just not much liquid sloshing around. Will my fruit be ok? Do I really have to toss it? Should I just open everything and re-process it or freeze it?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] add a little more water or vanilla extract as needed. This will be a thicker jam, so be sure to bubble your jars. ¬†Spoon hot rhubarby goodness into hot jars, bubble as needed, top with hot wet lids and […]

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  6. Grapefruit Honey Jam . . . Or Is it Marmalade? « Hitchhiking to Heaven - February 13, 2014

    […] or pour the jam into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Bubble your jars with a wooden chopstick or other tool of choice. Wipe rims, apply lids, and process 15 minutes in a […]

  7. Reflections Take Two & Pears in Tea Syrup | Snowflake Kitchen - June 13, 2014

    […] jar if you like. Re-boil the syrup, and pour over your jars. This is a recipe that does require bubbling, though not as much as a fruit butter. Top with hot, wet lids and rings and process for 10 minutes […]

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