Over the next few months while it is cool enough to run the canner in the kitchen and to help fight some of the cost of inflation. Before my accident a couple of years ago canning was a normal part of keeping our costs down.
A skill we all need now. But one thing you need to know is that I am a bit of a canning rebel and I am not afraid to break the “rules”. Let’s talk about common canning rules, how they can be broken, the risks, and how to be a canning rebel while staying safe.
Do not reuse jars from the grocery store
Reusing jars and lids from the store is a big no-no in the world of the FDA and USDA. I for one have no problem doing it when I am canning items I know my family will use really quickly.
It is not uncommon to see an old spaghetti jar and lid filled with jelly, apple sauce, or other fun stuff the kids will go through fast.
They always get to keep whatever doesn’t fill jars for imminent use and I make one of these upcycled jars for them to use next. These jars go on the shelf in a box the kids can get into all they want.
By reusing these jars and lids from the supermarket I give them a new life until the lids no longer seal. (If they don’t sell they go into the refrigerator not on the shelf)
When doing this you need to understand that there is a risk that the jars will not seal.
Do not use these jars for things you need to store for a long time or things that you can not simply go back and reprocess in other jars if the seal fails.
Tips to safely reuse jars from the store:
:: Always clean and sterilize the jars and lids just like your new canning jars.
:: ALWAYS inspect all jars and lids for cracks, nicks, rust, and other damage. Do not use damaged jars or lids.
:: Do not use these for pressure canning. Most jars from the store can not handle the pressure canner. (This does not go for all brands some jars can even fit regular rings and lids)
:: Be prepared to refrigerate or repackage failed seals.
:: Heat the lid more than for sterilizing. This will melt the seal slightly to make getting a new seal easier.
Do not reuse lids
We are always told to not reuse lids but If you are on a budget this may not be an option for you. Reusing lids is a great way to save money when times are good and a vital way to preserve food for your family in times like today where finding lids and lids that are not dented or brand new are next to impossible.
Reusing lids is actually a really common practice among experienced canners. To reuse lids you need to be sure that they are in good enough shape to reuse and of course like when reusing ones from the store you should always be prepared to reprocess if the seal fails.
Tips for reusing lids in canning:
:: Always wash and hand dry your lids right after opening jars. This will help prevent rust.
:: Inspect lids for bends, dents, rust, and damaged seal
:: Never reuse damaged lids
:: Always heat your lids well for both sanitation and to release the old seal form
Don’t water bath low acid foods
Water bath canning is the preferred method in most places and even here in the US with the Amish population. Nearly anything is canned in a water bath everywhere but the United States.
While the canning “rules”? put forth by the FDA and USDA are science-backed they also claimed that things like smoking is good for you and that we need fluoride in our water per their science.
Thousands of years of canning and botulism is still more prevalent in commercially canned items that have damaged cans.
Why? Because if you can properly in a clean kitchen, with clean tools, heat the food enough to kill off bacteria and get a complete seal on your jars you do not have to worry about bacteria like botulism.
Tips for water bath canning anything:
:: Thick foods should be canned hot to ensure the heat can reach the center
:: It is better to go over the time on a recipe than under
:: If you do not get a full seal put the jar in the fridge and use it or reprocess it.
Don’t can thick foods
One thing you will hear often is that you can not can thick foods like pumpkin butter because the heat can not work its way into the center. This is not true.
You just need to be mindful of how you can and what you are introducing into your foods. Thick foods can be canned safely.
Tips for canning thick foods:
:: Thick foods should always be canned boiling hot. This will ensure that the center is hot enough to kill germs while being canned.
:: Sterilize your jars and lids if you don’t have germs to start with you won’t have germs in your food.
:: Process your jars for the longest time recommended for the item. If in doubt go for the meat time of 3 hours in a water bath or 60 minutes in a pressure canner.
Don’t can meats
When you look at all these canning rules you may be wondering how your great grandparents or even great-great-grandparents ever survived. The truth is they made it because they didn’t follow these rules. They canned meats all the time.
Tips for safely canning meats:
:: Use fresh meat or meat that has been frozen
:: Meat can be cooked or raw but not left out before canning
:: Always sterilize jars
:: Go for longer processing when in doubt.
:: Meat can be canned water bath for 3 hours and pressure canned for 60 minutes
:: Fish can be water bath canned for 4 hours in a water bath or 90 minutes in a pressure canner
:: You do not need to add liquid to raw canned meats
Always add liquid
This one is a new one for me I was recently introduced to it by a friend. I have given dry packing several rounds and I am impressed with how much better vegetables are when dry-packed.
Particularly the potatoes O’Brien I whipped up. I have never had potatoes can and not be a soggy mess before and I will be doing this for several foods from now on.
Tips for dry dry packing:
:: Cold food needs to be canned in cold jars. These jars still need to be sterilized so you have fewer germs to kill in your canner.
:: Can at the same times and pressure you would your recipe when packed in water.
Don’t stack jars
We are always told to not stack jars because the pressure could break the seal or hold the lids on so you won’t know if the seal broke.
Many people are surprised to find out that even the jar manufacturers say that it is okay to stack, your filled jars though most say not to stack more than two to 3 jars high.
Tips for safely stacking jars:
:: Place a layer of cardboard between layers of jars to prevent an avalanche.
:: Save the boxes your jars come in and stack in those.
:: Avoid stacking more than two or three jars high.
:: Always stack the heavy jars on the bottom and lighter jars on top.
What canning rules do I follow?
I don’t break all the rules and for good reason. here are a few caning files I follow and why I stick to them.
Always remove rings
Canning rings always rust really easily. This can be a big issue because they can also trap moisture and rust your canning jar lids as well.
Sterilize jars and lids
Many canners choose to skip this step because the heat from canning can kill germs. I choose to not skip this step because I have kids and pets running around and well in a home with kids and pets germs happen.
Can in a clean kitchen
Ok so this isn’t a caning rule but this is something I find to be important. I do not do any food preservation without cleaning my kitchen first because well germs happen and I want my family to be healthy.
Giving my kitchen a quick clean before I can or dehydrate helps me feel secure that I am preserving food in a healthy space.
Your Kitchen Your Rules!
At the end of the day, the canning rules put forth by the FDA and USDA or the “canning police” on social media don’t matter. Most of those rules you find are not backed by actual studies and have been proven wrong for generations. At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you feel the most comfortable.
Rebel Canners Book
While I am not the author of this book I very much recommend the Rebel Canners Cookbook: Preserving Time-Honored Methods by Tammy McNeill and her corresponding facebook group for great information on canning without the rules.