I think that this is the part that most people panic about when it comes to canning. Did my jars seal? Are they safe for my family to eat? How can I be sure?
The scary thing is that the worst problem that can come from canning (botulism) is unable to been seen or smelled. So what can we do about it?
First of all, and this is the biggest thing…make sure you following the canning directions to the T. Make sure that you boil or cook your canned foods for the correct amount of time and the correct amount of pressure (if you are pressure canning). Make sure that during the time of cooking that your canner stays up to the correct pressure (or keeps boiling if you are water bathing) for the entire time you are processing.
You also want to make sure that you talk to your local extension office and find out if you need to make time/temp/pressure adjustments for your altitude. If you aren’t familiar with your local extension office you can locate one here: US Extension Offices. (By the way, if you didn’t already know, your extension office is a plethora of information on all things local, outdoors, growing food, ect. Utilize them!)
Once you have the cooking part down you shouldn’t have much to worry about. But do you know how to properly test a seal on a jar? Here are some things to look for…
The most common method for testing jars is the Finger Test Method. Simply press on the middle of the jar lid with your finger. If the lid “pops” up and down with your finger when you press, it’s not sealed and needs to be reprocessed. If it doesn’t move at all it’s sealed.
Note: Don’t test canned foods until they are completely cooled and you’ve given them several hours to seal! Doing so might create a false seal and unsafe food.
The next method you can try is the Spoon Test Method. Tap the lid with the bottom of a spoon. If it makes a dull sound the lid is not sealed. If it makes a pinging noise it is correctly sealed. Please note that if you did not leave headspace and food is touching the lid it will create a dull sound either way.
Of course you can also look at the lid at eye level. If the lid looks flat or bulging it’s not sealed. If the lid is nice and concave it’s properly sealed!
My jar didn’t seal…now what?
If your jar didn’t seal don’t stress and get upset. It happens to the best of us! Even experienced canners that have been canning for decades have jars that don’t seal on occasion. If you have an unsealed jar or two, here’s what to do.
Remove the lid and rim. Check the rim of the jar for any nicks or cracks. If you have a nick, discard the jar (or use it for dry food storage!) and place your prepared foods in a new, clean jar. Place a new lid on the jar and secure it with a clean rim. (Do not reuse the lid you already processed the jar with.) Reprocess the jar using the same process that you already used. It’s a good idea to leave some time in between your canning so if unsealed jars do happen you can just add them to another batch instead of having just a single jar to re-can.
If you don’t want to re-process your un-sealed jar you can always stick the food in the fridge or eat it for supper. Or you can just freeze the contents for future use.
How long have you been canning? Do you make sure to follow safe home canning methods?