Common canning mistakes need to be fixed before you or someone else gets sick! I see a lot of these canning mistakes when people are giving advice on forums, old recipes and even some blogs. The thing is they may not be an issue the first, second or even third time you do them but it only takes once to cause an accident with a huge mess, make someone extremely ill or even cause death.
Home canning is a wonderful skill to have. It is great for preserving an abundant harvest and can help build our pantry for a rainy day; but it has to be done properly.
These are some canning mistakes that seem to be repeatedly made:
- Using jars that are not intended for canning.
Most everyday food jars are intended only for a single use and should not be canned in after. I know that the argument that Grandma did this for years remains; but jars are different now. You risk them breaking and having a real mess on your hands. Not worth the sacrifice of your good food and hard work; stick with jars created for canning.
- Reusing lids that are meant for only one use.
Once a single-use canning lid has been used it is no longer safe to can with. Now the exception to that is the reusable Tattler Lids. The rings in single-use canning lids won’t offer the same seal if re-used. Also make sure that you are following the current recommendations for your canning lids.
- Using jars with cracks or chips
It is so important to check your canning jars for any chips around the rim or tiny cracks in the jars themselves. Not only can these small imperfections cause your jars to break during canning; they could keep are jar from properly sealing.
- Canning an untested recipes
Canning mistake #4 is a BIGGIE and I see it a lot! I see canners using old recipes are making (albeit educated) guesses on how to process or how long process something…very risky. These old or untested recipes may not include up to date information on canning processes like headspace, processing time, acidity and more. I cannot stress enough the importance of using a recipe from a reputable, tested, source. I always recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving because it has amazing recipes and tons of helpful information for new and veteran canners. And be careful making any “adjustments” to canning recipes – this could through off the time needed to process or the acidity levels; both could result in making you sick or allowing botulism to grow unseen.
- Ignoring headspace.
If you are following an approved canning recipe then it will give you a headspace measurement. This space is top of the food and the rim of the jar. The space allotted allows for any swelling of the food without allowing spillage if it is overfilled. Should your jar be under filled you could be allowing too much oxygen into the jar which could keep it from sealing properly.
- Not getting rid of air bubbles.
Don’t ignore air bubbles in your jars. These can keep jars from sealing properly. You can use a clean butter knife to pop them or the tool that comes in your canning kit for this.
- Using the water bath method for low-acid foods
This is probably the WORSE canning mistake you can make! Certain foods can be canned via the water bath method while others must be processed via the pressure canning method. The difference really comes down the the level of acidity in the foods being canned.
-If you are canning acidic foods like tomatoes, pickles or recipes with lots of sugar like jams and jellies; you will be directed to use the boiling water bath method.
-If, however, you are canning something like a soup, stew, veggies or meat you will need a pressure canner; not a pressure cooker!
–Why you ask? Because botulism can survive in high heat, even for hours of boiling. Any food that is low in acid must be canned in the pressure method to protect you from a rare, but deadly, illness that cannot be detected through site or smell.
Again, this is why following an approved and tested recipe to the letter is so important.