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Any Home Canners out there?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Gooserider, Nov 15, 2007.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have just made my first foray into home canning and had a question that doesn't seem to be covered in my "Ball Blue Book". I didn't know if anyone here might be able to help figure out what I did wrong, and if my product is safe...

    I got a big bunper crop of hot peppers out of my garden this year, ended up with nearly 5 GALLONS of everything from Habs to Super Chilis to Cherry Bombs. I just wish my sweet peppers had done as well.

    I ended up making a bunch of basic hot sauce with most of the peppers (I also did several other variants in smaller quantities that went in the fridge) - Hot peppers, Garlic, Onions, Red wine vinegar, and Salt. This was simmered for a while, then pureed in the blender. The result was a nice red sauce with good flavor and serious but not overpowering kick. Since I had a couple gallons of sauce, I decided it would be best to experiment with canning some of them. I have a water-bath canner that I use for melting honey, and I'd picked up an old copy of the Ball "Blue Book" home canning manual. I bought a bunch of jars w/ lids, and rings at the local hardware store, and figured that this should be a no problem item since the vinegar base makes it extremely acid.

    I didn't mess with sanitizing the jars given that it was an acid base food. I filled the jars with the simmering sauce, using a canning funnel, and filling to the bottom of the funnel spout, which left a head space about even with the rib below the jar threads. I put the lids on and hand tightened the rings, then put them in the canner - which I had filled with water and started to heat about the time I started filling jars. The water when I was putting the jars in was warm, but not at all hot. I had some trouble getting the jars to stand up properly, several fell over and I had to keep standing them up, but eventually I got them all upright.

    I eventually got the water in the canner to a boil, and processed at a rolling boil for 10-15 minutes, then turned the heat off and pulled the jars out. Every single one pulled the top down tight within about 5-10 minutes.

    After they had cooled for several hours, I examined them, and noticed several of the jars now had little or NO air space in them, and appeared to have a layer of water under the sauce. Other jars had about the headspace I started with. I'm confused... :-S

    There was nothing that sounded like this in the troubleshooting section of the Ball book, so I'm not sure exactly what went wrong.

    My theory after thinking about it for a bit is that I had filled the jars with hot sauce, then put them in a pot with much cooler water in it. Is it possible that the water cooled the jars enough to create a vacuum that pulled some of the water from the canner into the jars?

    If so, is this food still safe? Anything in the jars was definitely processed, and the jars are sealing properly - not to mention that there aren't many bugs that could survive my sauce. :p

    Advice appreciated....

    Gooserider

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  2. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    You still should have sanitized the jars and rings I think, because I usually put the lids on when the jars are still warm, which I think aids in the sealing and maybe might have prevented from getting the water in the jars like you had?

    I'm not sure, as I always follow the book to the "t" but haven't really ever had the problem you did? Hopefully others will chime in.
  3. bjorn773

    bjorn773 Member

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    My wife is a canning fool, but I have only assisted. I have never seen her start with warm water and raise the temp. She religiously sterilizes the jars. Then she fills them, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. Then the rings are just snugged on before lowering into the canner with the water already boiling. Perhaps that was your problem. I would have to think they are still sterile and ok to consume. If the tops are pulled down, you should be alright. I'll check with her tonight and get back to you if I am incorrect.
  4. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    You got to give anything you can the nose test.
    "Stuff" can still grow in acid, ever smell a rotten tomato?

    Best bet for you.
    Open it all up, re-boil the whole batch and re-can with STERILIZED glass, lids and rings.

    Homemade hot sauce is good stuff. I have been drying my peppers the last few years. That way I can make up a batch of hot sauce or re-hydrate them depending on what I use them for.
  5. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I haven't actually canned anything yet but it is on the "learn to do" list. I have several books at home on the subject and will consult this evening and see if there's an answer for you. Also, you might check out the forum www.homesteadingtoday.com and post your question there - I'm certain you'll get some solid answers.
  6. bjorn773

    bjorn773 Member

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    Goose, I asked my wife about your canning dilemma tonight. She felt your canning method should be fine. It is accepted practice not to sterilize prior to filling if they will be in the boiling water for over 10 minutes. The water was most likely pulled in by your high temp sauce being set into a cooler water bath. The only concern she had was the ratio of vegetables to vinegar. If your recipe is based proportionally to those found in the blue book, you should be fine. If the ratio varied from those in the book, you may not have sufficient acid and that opens a can of worms for contamination via organisms growing. She suggested that if you are really worried about it to visit the harvest forum, they are to canning what this place is to woodburning.
  7. Youngblood

    Youngblood New Member

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    in the future i would sterilize and boil maybe a little longer but as long as the lids are pulled down, you should be good... the nose test upon opening will definitely be the ultimate deciding factor however as far as safety ... i heard botulism isnt too fun, dont risk it
  8. JBinKC

    JBinKC Feeling the Heat

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    Did you heat the lids to 180 degrees and kept them in there for some time in a separate water bath and tighten the bands tightly? I did not see you make that step. You got a seal failure most likely from not performing this step.
  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Not sure just what the ratio was, I had about 3-4 cups of red wine vinegar (5% acidity) to a little under 2 lbs of peppers (stemmed and seeded) 4 heads of garlic (peeled) and a couple of onions. I also had about 3-4 tsp of kosher salt. I didn't add any other liquids, and when I bottled I had about the consistency of ketchup. The taste is definitely vinegarish under the peppers, so I think there is enough acid. Like I said, there does not seem to be a seal failure at this point, all of the lids are pulled down tight. My understanding is that any significant spoilage will pop the tops from pressure buildup, so that should let me know if anything does go wrong.

    Gooserider
  10. JBinKC

    JBinKC Feeling the Heat

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    Are you sure? I had a similar problem of water incursion before with salsa but the seal failed. I think the reason was the lid was not heated enough when it was applied to the lip of the jar. Without an airspace the vacuum cannot be created to seal the jar properly. When you are finished canning I would remove the bands completely to ensure the seal has been made.
  11. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I removed the bands last night, per the Book. All the lids are still pulled down tight. The book didn't say anything about needing to keep the lids hot, just had heating them as part of the sanitizing procedure (not needed w/ acid foods), with the implication that they could cool afterwards without problems as long as they were left in the water. My understanding is that you don't actually WANT a tight seal before / during processing, you just want one to form after processing finishes and you remove the jars from the processor.

    Actually you are wrong about the airspace being needed to create a vacuum - if anything you create a stronger vacuum WITHOUT an airspace! A vaccum is defined as the abscence of matter in a space, the less matter, the more vacuum. The idea in canning is to pack the jar with a certain amount of food, and put the lids on, then to heat it. The food expands, along with the air in the headspace, and pressurizes the jar. The lids allow the excess pressure to leak out. When the food cools back down, it contracts, and if the lid seals properly it does not allow air back in, so you end up with a vacuum. Since air is better able to expand to fill a vacuum, it actually lowers the amount of "suction" inside the jar (this is the reason excess headspace is a problem). The reason for the headspace is not to create the vacuum, but to provide room for the food to expand without flowing out through the seal and contaminating the sealing surfaces. In theory, if your food expands in processing to give ZERO headspace you will pull the maximum vacuum when it cools.

    (This isn't from knowledge about canning - it's from applying what I know about physics to the subject as it's explained in the Blue Book)

    Now it seems to me like if the water got sucked in initially, and then got pushed out while still reasonably clean, so that it didn't contaminate the sealing surfaces, I shouldn't have a big problem. I'm just wanting to make sure.

    Gooserider
  12. DriftWood

    DriftWood Minister of Fire

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    Goose stop messing around with water baths get a pressure canner. New or used if used get the gauge checked. To really get bugs killed and water heated fast just 2 quarts in mine pressure canners are the best. I made 75 pints of salsa this year and have been canning sense I first helped my mom as a kid. Every thing I read makes me think pressure canning is the only way to go..

    Failed seal jars are reprocessed or put into the fridge for immediate use.
    The separation you see in a sealed jar is common some stuff floats up. I just shake the cool sealed jars to re combine the mixture.

    If you fill your jars to full food will be forced under the caps causing seal failure. I tighten the lids down tight then back off an re-tighten them a little. If you really twist a lid down the bottom will blow the jar off during processing. Wash the entire jar and lid before storing, this stops mold from food debris on the jar in storage.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I might if I get seriously into doing much canning. This was a first try, and I think it came out pretty well, but there isn't that much that I feel I need to can. We do have a couple of pressure cookers I could use for pressure processing, but I don't know how well they work - would definitely need to test them. Certainly would go for pressure if I was doing a lot of volume.

    I plan on washing the jars before storing, I've just been letting them set for a while to see if the seals were going to fail - doesn't look like they will, so I will be getting them into the basement soon.

    When I was talking about filling the jars all the way in the earlier post, I was mostly talking theory - I did leave head space when I was filling, my tactic was to fill to the bottom edge of my canning funnel, which is about the same as the rim on the jar under the threads - seems to work, or at least for the jars where I didn't get any added liquid.

    Gooserider
  14. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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  15. jklingel

    jklingel Feeling the Heat

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    Partner, I've been pressure canning salmon for many yrs now, and I would be more than very concerned about the TIME your goo was in the bath. Did I read "10 minutes in boiling water"? If so, I can not imagine that the material in the center of your jars was even warmed up, let alone cooked. It takes salmon (esp if its been in the fridge, naturally) about 20-30 minutes to get up to temp (130 degrees) in the center. Are you using a thermometer to check the inner temp, or does your book not mention that? Once up to temp, then I put lids on and pressure cook at 12-15 psi for 100 minutes. I think that is about 250 degrees or so. I fear you have jar lids that have sucked down on VERY non-sterile food. At the very least, I'd watch those lids like a hawk, and it they come up flat or bulge, did a hole 3' deep and bury the contents, then pressure cook the jars to kill the botulism. It only takes a few molecules of bot A to nuke you. Good luck, and I hope we hear from you down the road!
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The sauce should be pretty sterile - I had simmered it in a pot on the stove for at least half an hour before canning it, and it was simmering hot when I put it in the jars, and put the lids on with the bands. I then put the jars in the water bath which was only starting to warm up at that point, and left them there until the bath hit a good solid rolling boil (IOW boiled over a bit :red: ) I then cut it back a little and started the timer - so it was really 10 minutes plus at a boil, AND all the time spent in getting that huge water bath pot up to a boil (Next time I'll probably use my turkey cooking burner!) - since the jars were in the bath the entire time it was heating, I feel quite sure that the contents would have been heated all the way through.

    Gooserider
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