Whether you are new to canning or a seasoned veteran, remembering and abiding by these 13 Life or Death Canning Rules can make or break your food storage goals.
It’s that time of year again, where I get super busy canning and freezing all of the summer’s bounty. Having already put up a ton of zucchini (and getting ready to try a batch of zucchini sauerkraut for the first time ever) I also have tons of corn and beets and tomatoes to deal with. I have a batch of spaghetti sauce frozen, and two batches of salsa canned. But I am nowhere near completion. If you are ready to get your canning groove on, make sure you brush up on the proper safety precautions to make sure you are keeping your food securely stored.
13 Life or Death Canning Rules
Don’t use jars larger than a quart.
Home canning cannot guarantee that larger quantities will be sufficiently heated through for enough time. The food on the outside (viewable area of the jar) will overcook, while that on the inside won’t get hot enough to ensure your food’s safety.
A water-bath canner may only be used for high acid foods such as tomatoes, fruits, rhubarb, sauerkraut, pickles, and jams/jellies.
A pressure canner MUST be used for low acid foods including vegetables, meats, and stews. So if you have a ton of corn you would like to can, make sure you invest in and learn how to properly use a pressure canner.
Use only modern canning recipes from reliable sources (especially when first learning canning as a beginner).
In time you will slowly learn what sounds correct and what recipes are completely whack-a-do in their instructions. Some recipes even that our grandmothers used cannot be guaranteed safe in our current era. Learn proper times and pressure for everything you preserve. In time you will notice a trend in times so that you can tell if a recipe will be safe.
Never reuse jar lids.
Used lids aren’t reliable for sealing correctly. If a screw-on band is rusty or bent, it won’t work right and should be discarded and replaced. That said, you might consider purpose-designed reusable Tattler lids.
Don’t use antique or ‘French’ -type canning jars.
They aren’t as safe as the modern, regular ‘Ball, Kerr’ type.
Check the jar rims carefully every year by running your finger over the top of the rim and checking for nicks.
Even the smallest nick makes the jar unusable for canning. A nicked jar rim won’t seal reliably. This is especially true of returned jars. If you share your canned goods with family or friends, those who do not can don’t understand the importance of jar safety. Always take a moment to check your jars when they are returned as well as before use in order to make sure this isn’t an issue.
Raw pack is not safe for certain foods:
beets, all kinds of greens (spinach, etc.), white potatoes, squash, okra, a tomato/okra combination, and stewed tomatoes.
You must allow the correct amount of space (head-space) between your food, together with the liquid that covers it, and the jar lid (follow the recipe instructions).
Timing: Water Bath Method:
Do not begin counting the processing time until after the water in the canner comes to a rolling boil
Timing: Pressure Canner:
Do not begin counting the processing time until after steam has vented for 10 minutes AND until the pressure gauge has risen to the recommended pressure after placing the weight on the vent pipe.
Process the full recommended time (and at the recommended pressure if using a pressure canner).
Jar Did Not Seal
If a jar did not seal, discard the lid. check to see if the jar rim is chipped (discard jar), check for food residue on the rim (clean), put on a new lid, and reprocess. Or consume the food and/or put in the refrigerator as you would any other leftover food for later consumption.
Never store jars with the rings intact.
Leaving the ring in place while in storage can give you a false sense of security. If a lid decides to “pop” in storage, the ring against it will cause it to settle back into position, and make you believe the seal is still good. Even though the food may still look good, it has been exposed to air and compromised. The same goes for stacking jars in your pantry (or where ever you store your home canned goods). The pressure of the upper jar can cause the lower to reseal, even if it has been ruined.
Label and date everything.
Never assume that you will remember when you processed your food. Never think that you will use it before it matters. Every time you can something, make sure to take the time to label and date it before putting it up.
If you are like me, you can your own food is to steer your family clear of the chemicals in processed foods. Make sure that in your efforts to safeguard your family you don’t put them at further risk. Keep them safe by remembering these 13 life or death canning rules.
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