Do not reuse jars from the grocery storeREusing 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 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 crack, 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 lidsWe 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 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 foodsWater 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.
Don’t can thick foodsOne 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 meatsWhen 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 liquidThis one is a new one for me I was recently introduced to 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 jarsWe 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 manufactures 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.