My Jars Didn’t Seal! What Happened?

We’ve all been there. You’re at the end of a canning project, the jars out of the canning pot and are cooling on the counter. As you clean up, you notice that there’s one jar that didn’t seal. Or worse yet, none of the jars have sealed. If this has happened to you, two questions probably popped to mind. Why did this happen and what can I do to fix it. Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Why did this happen?

  • It could be that your canning pot wasn’t at a full, rolling boil for the entire canning process. Without that full boil, it could be that the jars didn’t fully vent the oxygen in the headspace. Without a thorough venting, there won’t be enough of a pressure differential to cause the vacuum seal to form when the jars come out of the canner.
  • Another possibility is that there was a physical barrier to the seal forming. In most cases, this happens when you don’t wipe your rims completely, or some food particle gets pushed out of the jar during processing.
  • Sometimes the lids are to blame. Really old lids sometimes lose the ability to create a full seal. And of course, if you’re reusing lids, the chances that they will provide a high quality seal are very low.
  •  There was a chip or crack in the rim of your jar. This will prevent a seal every time. You can prevent this simply by carefully looking over your jars before filling and canning.
  • Improper headspace. Under or over filling your jars can sometimes cause the seal to fail.
  • Occasionally, the rings are the culprit. While it is important to only tighten to fingertip tight to allow the oxygen to vent, if you leave them too lose, that can cause a seal failure.

How to fix it?

The best way to handle jars that failed to seal depends on the product you’re dealing with and how many jars have failed. If you have just one or two jars that failed, the easiest thing to do is to put them in the fridge and eat or share them promptly. The reason for this is that to reprocess jars always results in some loss of product and quality.

When it comes to pickles, trying to reprocess them isn’t ideal, because any additional heat exposure will soften their texture. This is particularly true for cucumber pickles.

When it comes to jams and other sweet preserves, there are more options. If the entire batch has failed to seal, the best method is to open the jars, reheat the jam, prep the jars, use new lids, and reprocess.

If you have just one or two jars that didn’t seal and you don’t want to go with the refrigeration plan, there’s another way. Once the jars have cooled completely, put new lids on the jars (taking care to wipe the rims and make sure that you’re getting the rings tightened properly). Place those room temperature jars in a canning pot of cold water. Bring that pot of water to a boil slowly, so that the contents of the jars heat along with the water. Once it reaches a rolling boil, process as you always do. The jars should seal properly this time around.

 

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Sweet Cherry Balsamic Jam

Last week was supposed to be cherry week, but with the holiday my posting schedule got a little derailed. Including this one, I still have four cherry recipes to share, so I’m going to get them up as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they can still be useful this season.

I made this Sweet Cherry Balsamic Jam using some of the cherries that the folks from the Northwest Cherry Growers sent as part of their annual Canbassador program (here’s my round-up from last year).

One of the tricky things about making jam from sweet cherries is finding a way to avoid that cloying, cough syrup flavor. This recipe manages it beautifully by using a relatively low amount of sugar and including a full cup of balsamic vinegar. It might seem like a lot at first, but as the jam cooks down, it achieves balance.

Finally, this jam uses Pomona’s Pectin to effect a set. I haven’t tested it with other varieties of low sugar pectin, so can’t speak to their utility here. It won’t set with regular fruit pectin because there’s not enough sugar to create the gel. If you can’t get your hands on Pomona’s, you could make it without additional pectin and treat it like a spoonable fruit preserve rather than a jam.

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Cookbook: Jam Session

 

Today, let’s talk about a new preserving cookbook. Called Jam Session (can you believe that no one had yet used this name for a canning book?), it is written by chef, author, and restaurateur Joyce Goldstein. Joyce has been an active preserver for more than fifty years and this book sings with her experience and expertise.

The first thing you notice about this book upon opening it is its beauty. The photography is well-lit, balanced, and does a fantastic job of letting the texture and quality of the produce be the star. The recipes are organized in a way that is usable and readable. And the recipes are appealing, varied, and run a range that includes both classics and inventions that are unique to Joyce.

The book is organized by season and within each quarter of the year, the recipes are then ordered by kind of fruit. I like the organizational structure, but do question the fact specific months have been included as subheads under the seasons. One of the things I’ve learned in my years as a preserving writer is that by the time we see strawberries in Philadelphia, the Florida season has been over for months. Why add something that makes the book feel exclusive rather than inclusive?

That said, there are a huge number of recipes I’ve marked in this book that I am interested in trying (or, at least, borrowing concepts from). In addition the preserves pictured in this post, I want to make the Apricot Ginger Jam (how is it possible that I’ve not combined those two before?), the Raspberry Rose Jam, and the Whole Spiced Figs in Tea Syrup.

Now, for a couple hesitations about this book. Joyce only uses homemade apple pectin when recipes need help setting up. Her reason is that commercial pectins can impart a bitter flavor. I struggle with this reasoning because requiring homemade pectin will surely create an insurmountable stumbling block for a number of home cooks and the recipes included in this book all appear to include ample sugar to combat any potential bitterness.

My other hesitation about this book is in the processing instructions. Current guidelines require that jars are processed at a full, rolling boil. This book instructs the user to process at an active simmer. While this might not seem like much of a difference, I worry that a difference of 10 to 15 degrees could be enough to put some jars at risk of spoilage.

I don’t mean to be overly critical. Truly, there is much to love about this book. It’s gorgeous, the recipes are appealing, and it makes me itch to hop up and head for the kitchen. Perhaps it will find a place on your shelf!

Disclosure: I received my copy of Jam Session as a free review unit from the publisher. No payment was provided for this post and all opinions expressed her are entirely my own.

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Giveaway: OXO Jam Making Essentials

Are you on the search for equipment to elevate your jam making game? Look no further than these tools from OXO and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a set!

I often think of July as the pinnacle of the jam making season. It is the moment when berries, peaches, currants, cherries, plums, and even early apples are all competing for space at markets and in our kitchens. I find that the secret to being able to make the most of the abundance is to be prepared with sturdy, durable equipment. To that end, I’ve teamed up with my friends at OXO to show you some gear that can help make your jam making efforts a little easier.

Most critical is a good pot to cook your jam. Some people like using copper preserving pans while others prefer enameled cast iron. While those are both good, my preference is always a low, wide, stainless steel pan that can hold about 8 quarts. Stainless steel is a non-reactive metal, so it will never impart a metallic flavor into your preserves (copper is reactive and can leave your jam tasting tinny if you don’t use enough sugar).

Stainless steel is also the most forgiving surface. If you burn your jam in an enameled cast iron pot, you might be able to soak and scrub the burned spot off, but the finish will never be the same. When you burn in stainless steel, elbow grease and steel wool will eventually make you whole again.

Right now, the jam pan in constant rotation in my kitchen is the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Pro 8 Quart Covered Casserole (OXO | Amazon). It is similar is size, shape, volume, and performance to my favorite All-Clad jam pan, but at a third of the price. I often briefly simmer small stone fruit and let them cool before pitting to make the process easier, and the glass lid makes it easy to see when to turn off the heat. It’s also got volume markers up the side of the interior, which helps you have an idea of what your yield is going to be. All in all, it’s an excellent pan.

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July Sponsors: Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, McDonald Paper, and Mason Jar Lifestyle

Happy July, dear readers! It’s the start of the month and that means that it’s time to thank the businesses that help make this site possible. Please do show them that you appreciate their support with your time and attention!  

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are first! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. They’ve got so much going on for summer, including a fermentation class on July 21, new iLid colors, and a big sale on Mrs. Wages mixes. You can also find just about every Ball jar currently available over on their website, so if you’re looking for a particular style, check them out.

Our friends over at EcoJarz are another stalwart sponsor. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graterscoffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. I’m a huge fan of their smoothie lover’s gift set for frosty summer shakes and smoothies!

Back for another month is McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supply. Based in Brooklyn, they are open to the public and sell all manner of culinary supplies. Restaurant supply stores are a great way to get affordable, durable kitchen gear (including jars!). I’m a big of their big food storage containers for macerating fruit for jam.

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lidsstrawssprouting lidsfermentation weightsairlockstea light converterscozies, they are there for you.

And if your company, shop, or family business is interested in reaching the food-loving and engaged Food in Jars audience, you can find more details here. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

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Rainier Cherry Almond Preserves

I don’t often can with Rainier cherries because they are fragile and expensive (and truly, I love eating them without any embellishments). However, I managed to get out to Rowand’s Farm in New Jersey this year while there were still some in the trees and picked enough that I felt okay about surrendering a few pounds to the canning pot.

The preservation technique for these cherries is similar to the one I use for the bourbon sour cherries I posted yesterday. The cherries are pitted and macerated with sugar. Once they’re juicy, you scrape them into a pot, add the lemon juice, and bring them to a boil.

They cook for just five or six minutes. This is long enough for the cherries to soften a bit, release the bulk of their internal air (so that they don’t float), and for the syrup to thicken a little. Once you determine that the cooking process has gone as long as is necessary, you add the almond extract so that the flavor doesn’t have time to evaporate (to make these even more closer to the sour cherries, you could use amaretto in place the extract).

Then they are ladled into jars, lidded, and processed in a boiling water bath canner. These are a treat spooned into oatmeal in the wintertime or portioned out over slices of poundcake.

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