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Archive for the ‘Prepping’ Category

postheadericon How to Avoid a Canning Catastrophe

Each of us has some type of family tradition that we’ve passed down through the generations. It might be a song we sing for birthdays, a bible we record significant events in, or special cookies that only family members are allowed to know the recipe for.

How to Avoid a Canning Catastrophe at Red Barn Blue Skies

Canning and “putting up food” is one of those traditions that we need to tread carefully around. Just because “Grandma did it this way”, it doesn’t mean it is the best or the safest. When canning, we need to do everything we can to avoid a canning catastrophe. Maybe no one got sick or died after eating Grandma’s home-canned foods, but that still doesn’t mean it was safe. It may have just been luck.


So let’s buck tradition and steer away from some of the preserving methods that could actually kill us. We can still honor Grandma, we’ll just do it in a safer way.

What Can Cause a Canning Catastrophe?

Creativity and Changing Recipes

Creativity is great, but not when it comes to canning your own food. Adding your own touches to a recipe can be unsafe, causing sickness and even death from botulism. Follow the tested recipe.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is full of recipes that are delicious and varied. Each has been thoroughly tested and retested over the years as technologies progress. Decades ago, Grandma probably took some of her recipes straight from this book or one of printed by the other canning supply companies.

The ingredients, measurements, and processing directions should be followed precisely for each recipe. They are carefully designed to reach the right acidity levels and temperatures to ensure a safe product.

If you really want to show off your creativity, go wild decorating the finished, processed jar. There are multitudes of ways to beautify the jar and showcase the contents without risking anyone’s health.

Using the Wrong Method

Beginning canners are often confused by the various ways of canning food. It is highly important to match the proper method with the type of food being preserved. The ingredients determine the mixture’s acidity which then determines how it is to be canned.


~   The boiling water bath method is appropriate for acidic foods such as fruits, pickles, and preserves. Certain types of tomatoes can also be preserved this way.


~   Non-acidic ingredients such as unpickled meats, soup/stock, or vegetables require a steam pressure canner.


~   Oven canning is not a safe way to can any foods. The jars and their ingredients don’t reach high enough temperatures to kill any bacteria that might be present.


~   Cold process pickles are a popular treat. The key to safely using them is that they must be refrigerated as soon as they’re processed. They must then be used up within three months.

Garden Produce at Red Barn Blue Skies Canning Catastrophe

Pick a Perfect Pear

Don’t use questionable produce or ingredients. By using blemished, expired, or inferior ingredients, you affect more than just the taste. The appearance and safety of your finished product can be at risk. You don’t want to add bacteria or mold from a piece of bad fruit to your mix. Only use the best to produce the best.

Incorrect or Inferior Supplies

Only use jars made for canning. Recycled mayonnaise or pickle jars from the market are made with a different glass than canning jars. Small imperfections that aren’t visible to the naked eye can become a huge problem during processing. They can cause breakage, leaks, or even dangerous explosions.

Be sure to inspect EVERY jar you use, even canning jars. Toss cracked or chipped jars. They won’t form a tight seal and could break.

Don’t reuse your canning lids for processing. Unless they are the special reusable ceramic lids with rubber gaskets, they are designed for only one go-round of canning. Your rings can be used indefinitely as long as they remain undamaged.

Old Canning Jars at Red Barn Blue Skies for Canning Catastrophe

Not Following the Rules

Don’t let what appears to be too many canning rules scare you off. As long as you follow the directions, you’ll be fine. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:


~   Altitude affects your canning settings just as it does when baking. When water bath canning, your processing time is adjusted. For the pressure canner, the level of pressure is adjusted based on the altitude.


~   Don’t use paraffin wax to seal the jars. Yes, Grandma did it, but she didn’t know that the wax and heat alone might not kill the bacteria present. Mold often grew on top of the wax seals in the jars.


~   Air bubbles are an issue in not obtaining a proper and tight seal. Be sure to remove them from the mixture before putting the lid on the jar.


~   Preheating the lids by boiling is something that many canners skip. This step isn’t for sterilizing the lids, it is for heating up the rubber seal in order to get a tight grip on the jar. Don’t skip it.


~   If a recipe directs you to leave 1/8” or 1/4” headspace, do it. This is to ensure there is enough room for the mixture to expand without overfilling. Be sure to wipe the rim once the jar is filled and before you place the lid on.

Storage Tips

There was a reason Grandma kept her jars of jelly and other goodness in the basement, root cellar, or pantry. She knew that heat and light breaks down the food in the jars over time. The darkness and steady temperatures in these locations helped preserve the food even longer.

Before you even put your jars into storage, be sure that you have cleaned them thoroughly after processing. Many times sticky residue will end up down the sides and around the rings. Clean and dry them properly to keep bugs, mold, and rust from becoming an issue.

Processed Jars at Red Barn Blue Skies for Canning Catastrophe

Give It a Try

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at canning. It really is easy if you follow the rules and the steps as directed. Keep in mind if you’re wanting to use an old recipe, check it against one in one of the canning books or on one of the canning company websites. You’ll end up with a lovely tribute to Grandma as well as some great tasting treats for your pantry or gifts.

Have you ever tried canning? We’d love to hear your stories and any canning tips you have.