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Mistakes to Avoid When Canning

Canning food is a great way to preserve it and to ensure that you have something healthy and delicious to eat later on.

Lots of tin cans

Main image by DutchAir on Pixabay

However, certain mistakes can cause problems with the food or even lead to serious health risks. Here are some of the things that you need to watch out for when you're doing your own canning at home.

Using Old, or Bad Ingredients

Every ingredient should be fresh and of the best quality possible because ultimately you want to put something into your body that's safe to eat.

If an ingredient isn't fresh, it can affect the flavour or composition of the canned food in a bad way. For example, if you're canning tomatoes then using old or bad tomatoes might leave you with something that has an odd taste or colour. 

There are ways to tell how fresh each ingredient is. For example, the folks at Canned Nation Blog explains that to check the ripeness of a mango, press down on it slightly then pick the ones that are soft to touch but not too squishy. It's best if you take the time to source good ingredients for anything that you're canning because it's worth the effort.

Using the Wrong Processing Times

This is a common mistake, but one that you need to avoid. Different recipes require different processing times and it's important to follow them exactly for your own safety. This can result in an improperly canned product, that could give you, or anyone else, serious health problems.

Here are the correct processing times for a few foods:

Peaches, pears, and apples: 20 minutes

Pickled pepper: 40 minutes

Vegetables (except peppers): 25 minutes

Pint jars of tomatoes: 35 minutes

Quart jars of tomatoes: 40 minutes

Tomatoes in a hot water canner: 85 minutes

Pickles: 10 minutes

Grape juice: 5 minutes

Anything with meat: 85 minutes

Chilli: 45 minutes

Soup: 100 minutes

Pumpkin and winter squash: 30 minutes

Using the Wrong Canning Method

Another common error that people make is trying to use a boiling water method when they should be using a pressure canning method.

Using a boiling water method is only safe for low-acid foods, but sometimes you're dealing with high acid foods that require the pressure canning method instead. Always follow exactly what it says in your recipe or on the can of tomatoes or anything else. 

How to use both methods properly:

Boiling Water Canning Method 

Put the jars in a large pot and fill it with water

Boil for 10 minutes to sanitize them, then remove them using tongs

Fill the jars with food that has been prepared already

Add fresh boiling water, but leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of each jar

Remove air bubbles 

Wipe rims clean

Add two-piece lids and metal rings, then tighten them all the way down

Pressure Canning Method

Fill water into a pressure canner that will allow for 2 inches of headspace above your jars (if you don't have enough, you can add water during processing)

Put jars in place and lock the lid down securely

Heat over high heat until steam hisses out, then put on a timer for 10 minutes

Turn off heat but leave canner covered for another 5 minutes to get to pressure

Remove the weight from the vent port or open the petcock to allow the steam to be released

Use tongs to remove the jars and let them cool on a towel with space in between each one

Remove lids when they are cool, but still sealed, using a magnet or other non-metallic utensil

Not Removing Air Bubbles

As mentioned above, it is important to get out any air bubbles that you can before you put on the lids and rings. Or else your jars may not seal properly. 

Tips for removing air bubbles:

Tap and roll the jar on a surface covered in a towel

Press your utensil against the sides of the jar, wiggling it around to get out any bubbles

Keep doing this until no more air bubbles come up

Put a wooden skewer or chopstick in the jar and swirl it around to get out air bubbles. Then, replace it with your regular utensil.

Cutting Corners with the Lids

The lids that you use for canning jars need to be the right kind, so don't try to substitute them or reuse lids that you've used for other purposes.

When you're canning, you need to use jars with lids and rings that match up properly for a good seal. For example: don't try to use wide mouth or regular jar lids on small or half-pint jars because they won't fit properly and might not keep air out. 

Also, don't use half-pint jars with wide mouth lids because it won't create a seal tight enough to keep food preserved properly either.

Here are a few mistakes you need to avoid when it comes to the lids:

Using metal lids instead of two-piece canning lids (like screwing on a regular lid after canning)

Cutting the flaps on the side of a two-piece lid

Using jar lifter to tighten lids

Wiping rims with paper towels instead of a clean cloth 

Reusing metal or plastic lids for canning purposes or using regular bottle caps for home canning

Leaving Out Ingredients

Another common mistake is to add ingredients after the canning process is done, this places you at risk of food contamination and spoilage. Only add back in liquid or sugar that was removed to create headspace during the first part of this process, so never add anything else until after it's been opened.

 So, if you're making a pickle or relish type of food, never add fresh ingredients to the jar before canning because it's considered unsafe and will place your canned product at risk for not being preserved properly.

Using a Dull Knife

You don't want to use a dull knife when you're slicing or cutting anything for the purposes of canning because it could lead to bad cuts and injuries. This is also true when using a knife on jars, lids, and rings.

If your knife isn't sharp then consider getting it sharpened before canning. If that's not an option, then just replace the knife.

Not Getting to Pressure

If you're using a pressure canner, never ignore the fact that it's going to start building up pressure before it has reached the correct temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit all around for 10 minutes or 240 degrees F at a constant altitude above 1000 feet. 

Always make sure that you're following the manufacturer's instructions for how to properly use your pressure cooker (and, if it doesn't work right after time, consider getting a new one).

In conclusion, canning your food properly is important to keep it preserved longer and prevent any potential health risks. So, make sure to avoid any mistakes mentioned above to keep your food preserved properly.

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