A Canning 101 Round-up

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Last year, I started writing a bunch of posts under the heading “Canning 101” to help address some of the questions I was getting. Now that we’re in the depths of canning season, I thought it was time to highlight some of those posts, since many of those questions are coming up again.

Why You Should Label Your Jars Promptly – I ran into this issue just this weekend, after making a bunch of apricot and peach products. I piled the jars on the dining room table as they were done and cooled and then realized that the peach sriracha sauce looked an awful lot like the straight apricot jam. Label as soon as the jars are cool!

How to Ensure That Your Jam Sets – There are so many variables in jam making. Read through this post to understand all the factors and save yourself the disappointment of runny jam (though truly, even runny jam is delicious).

Why You Shouldn’t Can Like Your Grandmother – Canning science has evolved over time. Educate yourself!

How to Store Finished Jars – Cool, dark place with the rings off, please.

Why You Can’t Can Your Family’s Marinara Sauce Recipe – Make sure you’re using a recipe that’s safe for canning.

How to Pack Jars For Shipping – Lots of bubble wrap.

How to Can Creatively and Still Be Safe – There’s some useful info here on reducing sugar.

Why You Shouldn’t Double Batches of Jam – It’s damn hard to cook all the water out when you make huge batches of jam.

I’m always looking for new Canning 101 ideas. Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to me to address!

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40 responses to “A Canning 101 Round-up”

  1. Totally had that problem labeling the jars as soon as they were done the other day. Now I take an erasable marker and make a one letter mark on the top that can be wiped off when the jar is cool enough to handle so I can print neatly.

  2. Hi! We love your website. Beginning canner looking to get as serious as I can be with a 13 month old running around my house. I’ve just made a second, larger batch of your Blueberry Ginger Jam after the first pint received great reviews from family and friends …

    I don’t know how much of this you do, but I would _love_ to see a post on Pressure Canning. I have a great big All American canner and have tried to use it twice and had less than lovely results (although once was clearly user failure).

  3. Double Batches of Jam
    yep. Mr. P. joined our household ’cause I love him. But I have to admit that his honking HUGE pots keep him on the brighter side of jam. He has this pot that does a great job of cooking down too many beet greens, and if you have a double batch of jam (because midnight is already passed) the blessed pot can deal with the excess moisture and create a jam to laugh over.

    In other words, get ye a gloriously huge pot and forget all doubling jam guilt….
    Ecot.

  4. Thank you for re-teaching us. I need reminders, (I forget how to play card games every time until someone shows me how again).
    I drooled over your creamsicle jelly recipe and tried to cook it really well, relying on my candy thermometer. I processed the jars and tried some of the leftovers that I popped into the fridge…I made very yummy rubber. Do I need a digital thermometer? I like the plate test. I’ll try that, but I wonder if it will work with jelly too. Thanks again for sharing your expertise!

    • It does sound like your thermometer was a little bit off, because it shouldn’t have turned into rubber. The plate test does work well with jelly, so that’s another good way to go.

  5. Do you think you could do some 101 on pickling? My hubbs loves California Mix (pickled cauliflower, carrots, onions with hot pepper) and I’ve done some experimentation based on recipes in the Ball canning book. Have had some success. I worry about what the vinegar to water to product ratios should be. My first jars were too vinegary but I am scared to lower the acid when pickling non acid vegetables. Any guidelines?

  6. Canning 101 Topic Idea: What do you do when you run out of liquid for a cold (or hot) pack item? I’m sure what my problem is, but I often have up to two jars worth of produce left and I’ve already run out of liquid. I end up trying to make more liquid quickly, but don’t know if this is safe, etc.

  7. Oh, this is great, thank you! I really want to start canning this summer. I can remember my mom doing it (though I’m on my own as she claims to have forgotten how!), and the deliciousness we got to eat all winter. And I have my own blueberry bushes for the first time since I was ten and we moved to the city. 🙂

  8. OOOO, I would SO love to have some nice recipes for pressure canning! I have done chili, but I want to make more meat/main dishes. We have to have good preserved goods in our hurricane-prone area that will heat up easily on an outdoor grill or a propane stove because we often go without power for many days after a hurricane.

  9. Hear, hear for the pressure canning idea. Also, a little pickling primer with some hints on how to keep pickles crispy and also balancing the extras like garlic and herbs without ruining the acidity. I made a totally delicious hot pepper and garlic brine, and I’m pretty sure they’re safe, BUT, they’re flaccid as a ten year old jock strap and about as appealing. Nobody wants a rubbery pickle. My granny has a recipe that calls for pouring the hot brine in and out of the packed jars about three times with no explanation. Is that for crispness? I haven’t tried it yet, but she was an amazing cook, so maybe she knew what she was talking about?

  10. Thanks for the links! I needed to review the basics of jam setting. I’ve made 4 batches so far this summer. 3 set nicely; the 4th is taking its sweet time (pun intended). Last time I made marmalade, it didn’t set. I was going to use it as a marinade, but then I opened up a jar and found it set – perfectly – months later. I predict the unset batch will pull itself together with time.

  11. You may have already included this in another post, but I’d love to see one on the timing of the steps (or maybe how much leeway you have on timing.) My first few batches of jam, the jam was long done before I put it in jars because I overestimated how long it would take (and underestimated the time to bring the canning pot to a boil.) Do you set up the jars before you add the pectin? Just get the pot off the heat, then start prepping everything to get filled? I’m sure everyone’s process is different, but I’d love to see the steps of yours.

  12. I love, love, love your site and check it (a little obsessively sometimes). I did have a question: I am planning to make up several batches of jams for gift-giving, but it seems like one-piece lids (like what you would get from a store-bought jam) would make it easier for people to keep their jams in the fridge once opened, etc. instead of having to fiddle with the two-piece lid or me having to send along one of those white plastic Ball lids. Do you have any thoughts on canning with one-piece lids? Can it be done safely at home, or is it only for commercial setups?

  13. I was wondering if I can use the flat lids/rings that I had soaking in very hot water from the last time I canned. I ended up not having enough jam to fill the rest of the jars & lids I had prepared. Do I have to buy new lids? If so, I’ll need to be more careful about how many I set out!

    Thanks!
    Cindy

  14. Hi! I’m totally new to canning, and I love your blog! Would it be possible to have a Canning 101 post on things than can go wrong with first-time canners (and how to remedy said issues)? I tried making jam for the first time on Saturday night (your pear vanilla jam), and all of a sudden it got really sticky. Then when I tried eating the jam on Sunday, it was rock hard! I have no idea what I did wrong, but a post on common first-timer mistakes would be really helpful!

    • Yes! There are two reasons the rack is there. One is to keep the jars out of direction contact with the heat of your stove (not as important on my rinky-dink electric stove, but absolutely vital on more powerful cooktops). Second, elevating the jars allows the heat of the boiling water to better penetrate to the center of your jars, ensuring that your product will be safe.

  15. I’m a first year canner and I doubled a batch of peach butter. Not only did it take over 24 hours in the slow cooker to reduce down, the color is way dark and it tastes a little..done. Lesson learned. I labeled MYSELF with a sign after that one lol.

  16. Maybe a post about the real basics. Definitions. Like what’s the difference between pickling and brining? Hot pack and raw pack? Why use pressure canner versus boiling (I prefer pressure – love it!) Might not be very exciting but to the true novice it may be helpful . . .as well as for those of us who need reminders at the beginning of each season. 🙂

  17. What is the reason they are suggesting storing jars withOUT the ring? I don’t understand what difference it makes.

  18. Being a lone canner in my area- I often call my mother-in-law with questions (being a city girl, canning was not a skill passed down by my family) so having another person to answer first-timer questions is fabulous! So, here goes: why does and how can you stop fruit pieces from floating to the top of your jam? How should I adjust processing times when a recipe calls for pint jar but I use a quart? Is there a formula for that? When is a ring too old to use? I re-use mine all the time but wanted to make sure that was ok. I made refrigerator pickles recently and some batches came out great and others had a very bitter aftertaste- a result of the cucumber or something I did? Ok, I’ll stop there– love the Canning 101 series as it makes me feel connected with all the other novice canners out there!

    • Amen! I have the same question about altering jar size and processing. (i.e. “How should I adjust processing times when a recipe calls for pint jar but I use a quart?) The other day I was canning Peach and Pear Chili Sauce in pints, but I had just enough leftover to fill an 8 oz jar (which was luckily already stearlizing in the canner). I processed the 8 oz. for the same time as the pints, but would love to know how to approach this more safely in the future.

  19. […] Editor’s note: This recipe provides a nice break from the standard strawberry-rhubarb combination. It’s also a great excuse to try canning. If you’re new to making and preserving your own jam, Marisa’s blog, Food in Jars, is filled with excellent tips. […]

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