Water Bath Basics 101

Now, don’t worry about this long list of instructions. I am covering EVERYTHING you need to know about the water bath method of canning. (aka the “boiling-water method”) This is the method used for canning high acid foods such as: jam, jelly, most fruits, pickles and tomatoes that have been acidified. It is NOT difficult or complicated. Trust me! After reading this, be sure to check out some of our canning recipes and tips for Canning the Season video.

A water bath canner or even a tall stockpot can be used for this method.

EQUIPMENT: You do not have to buy a water bath “canner” to do this. You can use any tall, heavy-bottomed stockpot with some sort of rack in the bottom. The purpose of the rack is to keep the jars from coming in direct contact with the hot bottom (which may cause breakage). I have a round cake rack that fits perfectly in a large stockpot. You can use something similar or buy an inexpensive “canner” wherever canning supplies are sold. It will come with it’s own rack.

Handy Hint: If you don’t have a rack that fits perfectly in the bottom of your stockpot, place extra jar bands (the round rings with the hole in the center) on the bottom of the pot. They work very well in a pinch. Just set your jars on top.

Water Bath Steps:

1. Clean the jars with hot soapy water (or run them through the dishwasher) and check the top rim or chips. (Discard any chipped or cracked jars.) Fill the canner halfway with clean water. This is approximately the level needed for a load of pint jars. If you are doing larger jars, add a bit more water.

2. If your recipe calls out a processing time of 10 minutes or longer, you do NOT have to sterilize your jars. (They will be sterilized during processing). If your recipe has a processing time of less than 10 minutes, you must boil the jars in the canner for 10 minutes prior to filling with food. Keep them in the hot water until ready to use.

3. Whether you sterilize or not, the jars need to be hot before filling. (Adding hot preserves to a cold jar is a great way to break a jar.) So, if you didn’t sterilize the jars, place them in the water bath canner and let them heat up as you make your preserves. Also heat the jar lids 5 minutes by placing them in hot, not boiling, water.

4. Start making your canning recipe while the water is preheating. When the food is ready, remove each warmed or sterilized jar and transfer to a wood board or kitchen towel on the counter (a hot jar placed directly on a cold countertop could break). Shake out any excess water.

5. Fill the jars leaving the headspace specified in the recipe. (“Headspace” is just a fancy term for the amount of space between the food and the top of the jar.) Too much space and the jar may not seal correctly and too little may cause food to push out during boiling. For pickles and whole fruit preserves, you should remove air pockets by running a plastic knife around the inside of the jar. Then add more liquid if necessary to ensure a proper headspace.

A ‘jar lifter’ is a handy tool to have for canning.

6. Wipe jar rims with damp paper towel to remove drips of food before placing on the flat lid. Next, tighten the screw band to just “finger tight”. Do not over tighten! (Click here for information on BPA free canning jar lids)

7. Load jars into the canner. I like to use a cool tool called a “jar lifter”. It makes it easy to grab and carry the jar in and out of the water. Always keep jars upright since tilting could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid.

8. After you load the jars, check to be sure that the water level is at least 1 inch above the top of the jars. (2 inches if you are processing for over 30 minutes.) If not, add more boiling water.

9. Turn heat to high, cover canner with lid, and heat until the water boils vigorously. Once boiling, set timer for the total minutes required.

ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS:
The higher the elevation, the longer you need to process. Recipes are written for under 1,000 feet. If you are over 1000ft, adjust as follows for high altitude:

1001-3000 ft: increase processing time by 5 minutes
3001-6000 ft: increase processing time by 10 minutes
6001-8000 ft: increase processing time by 15 minutes
8001-10,000 ft: increase processing time by 20 minutes

10. Keep canner covered and maintain a boil throughout the process. If water stops boiling at any time during the process, bring back to a vigorous boil and begin timing over, from the beginning. Add more boiling water, if needed, to keep the water level above the jars.

11. When jars have been boiled for the recommended time, turn heat off and remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars. (This is a new USDA recommendation. There is a higher success rate for seals if you do this.)

12. Use jar lifter to remove jars and place them on a wood board or a towel, leaving at least 1-inch space between all, to cool at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (If you hear a “pop”, congrats! The jar just sealed!).

13. Check seals after 12 to 24 hours by pushing down the center of lid, it should concave slightly and make no noise. If any jars fail to seal, put them in the refrigerator and eat within a few weeks. All sealed jars can be stored on the pantry shelf for up to one year.

14. Examine each jar before opening. If any seal has come undone or you notice any signs of spoilage, do not eat contents.

For more information and recipes, go to our Canning Page!

About

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive Producer and the canning/homesteading expert on Growing A Greener World TV. She creates seasonally inspired pantry items based on homegrown and locally-sourced produce. A lifelong canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa also studied sustainable horticulture and culinary arts. She also blogs at LivingHomegrown about homesteading & preserving. Follow her on Google+ and download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE.

Comments

  1. Linda Putnam says

    I am canning green beans by water bath method, and was wondering if i could go less than the 3 hours of cooking time my mother always told me. Last year I canned some and only in canner for 1 hour and they taste the same and lids have not popped. So, does the time really matter?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Linda,

      You could boil those green beans for 3 DAYS and they would never be safe for water bath canning. This is because boiling water never reaches a temperature above 212 degrees. But in order to kill any botulism spores in that jar, you must bring those beans to 240 degrees while inside the jar for a sustained amount of time. This can ONLY be achieved with a pressure canner. So, unless those green beans are pickled (bringing them into a high acid pH level) they are not safe to water bath can.

      I know your mom did it before and people have done it in the past. But we know more now then we did then. Green beans are a low acid food. They can very easily carry the botulism spore. That spore WILL grow in a sealed jar if it is not heated properly. And yes, people have gotten sick doing this. Very sick.

      So, this is not about whether or not the jar seals. Having a great seal does not matter if there is a toxin inside the jar.

      I’m sorry to be the bearing of bad news. Here is a post that goes into this a little deeper. http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/how-to-can-vegetables-safely/

      Please do not water bath can green beans. It is simply not safe to do.

  2. Gina says

    I have canned before but never jam. How long do half pints take to seal with jam? My other canning experiments pinged in a matter of 5-15 minutes. Thanks for all your effort to set us straight.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Gina,

      Most jams only take 5 minutes in a water bath canner. A few take 10 min. if they are thicker jams. Since I don’t know which jam you are making, you could play it safe and do a 10 minute processing time across the board. What I like about the 10 min processing time is that you do not have to pre-sterilize the jars if you process for 10 minutes. (The jars get sterilized during the processing) But if you go with 5 minutes, you must boil or otherwise sterilize the jars first. For most of my recipes, I process for 10 minutes for this reason.

      Have fun!

  3. Jonathan says

    I canned raspberry jam for the first time today. While the batch was in the hot water bath, I fell asleep. I woke up 45-50 minutes later. Is there any risk from over cooking it?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jonathan,

      If the jars did not lose any of the contents during that time (meaning that they did not boil the jam out of the jar), then there is no risk from a safety standpoint. It should be fine. You didn’t mention the jars loosing contents so I am betting that didn’t happen. The only worry when that does happen is that the jam will get on the rim of the jar (under the lid) and prevent a good seal.

      So if the jars looked fine, then my only worry would be that the jam may be a bit overcooked. The flavor or texture may be different from what you normally get. But it would still be safe.

      Guess you got tired from all that jam making, huh? :-)

  4. Murri says

    I have no idea what I did but I am afraid I messed up bad… I just tried making watermelon jam for the first time and I followed the directions exactly like it said and the yield was supposed to be 10 cups and I ended up with 5 it was kind of thick after I boiled it but it still poured easy, it just gelled up if it had a lot of contact to air and cooled fast. After the water bath it was liquid like normal I just don’t know how I could have ended up with half of what I was supposed to

    It looks like my last comment disappeared I am sorry if this shows double

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Murri-

      I do not think you did anything wrong and the recipe is fine. It sounds like a recipe issue to me. Many times, a recipe will come out with a different yield do a low or high water content in the fruit and/or the recipe not being written properly. Other factors can come into play too such as humidity levels. But since your recipe is so far off in yield, I am betting that it is just a badly written recipe. That does not mean it is not safe, just not accurate for yield.

      If you followed your recipe and your final product gelled okay, it should be fine. Jam is a very safe product so you don’t have any safety issues to worry about here. Your only worry is if it gelled and sealed. If it didn’t gel, then you can use it as syrup or in cocktails or dessert recipes. If it didn’t seal, you can store it in the refrigerator and use it up in a month.

      But it sounds like it gelled and sealed, right? The fact that you got less probably means that you have a more concentrated flavor because more of the water boiled off…and that is a good thing!

      Let me know how it tastes!
      And make a note on your recipe that this happened in case you ever make it again. I’m betting, the recipe is a little off. But it is still safe.

      • Murri says

        Thank you so much when I woke up this morning everything was sealed and it had jelled we will see if it is super thick or not it called for 2 boxes of pectin but when I tasted it on the ladle after I put it in jars it sure was yummy like jolly rancher candy, thank you so much I am a lot less worried now-you are amazing

  5. Christie Hughes says

    I am canning bread and butter pickles for the first time. My water bath pot did not have enough room to hold all 12 jars. Two were left behind. I decided to mark them and process per the directions after the others were done. Will this be safe? Should I discard them? Please let me know. Thanks!

    • Theresa Loe says

      That is just fine Christie. Go ahead and process the second batch. Just be sure to do it right away. They will be safe.

  6. Tracy Myers says

    I canned yesterday for the first time. When I removed the band from my green beans there are several small air bubbles in them. They appear to be sealed. Are they ok to eat?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Tracy,

      Having air bubbles inside a jar after processing is normal because the contents will boil inside the jar while processing. As long as the bubbles are no longer moving (they stay still until you move the jar), they should be okay. If you shake the jar a bit, they may dislodge and move up and be gone and that is okay too as long as new ones do not appear.

      BUT…

      I have a question because you did not mention your process for those beans – You pressure canned those green beans, right? You absolutely CANNOT water bath can green beans unless they are pickles. It is extremely dangerous to do so. If they were pressure canned, you should be fine. If they were water bath canned you must throw them out or refrigerate them immediately.

      I’m just wanting to make sure you get started off on the right foot. Canning is a fun thing to do – but you have to follow certain guidelines.

      Here is a post for more info: http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/how-to-can-vegetables-safely/

        • Theresa Loe says

          Ok great! Just checking. I get asked all the time about water bath canning green beans – so I thought I better confirm.

          • Tracy Myers says

            I think I know why the bubbles are in that first batch of beans I canned…I’ve been reading and I did not run a spatula down the sides to get the air out. Will they still be ok?

  7. Lisa says

    We canned green bean quarts, all popped and sealed correctly. But I noticed today a lot of bubbles and several jars and I opened 1 jar and it had a smell to it. We made sure there was no bubbles. We did a water bath and times it for 10 minutes after it boiled. can you tell me what we could have done wrong? I did it last year and no problems we are eating the beans and I did it the same way.

    Thank you for any help you can give.

    Lisa

    • Theresa Loe says

      Lisa-

      If I am understanding your comment correctly, you are saying that you water bath canned green beans that are not pickled? You absolutely CANNOT do that safely.

      DO NOT EAT THOSE GREEN BEANS!

      Green beans are a low acid food and must be pressure canned in order to store in a jar at room temp. Doing it any other way is dangerous. (VERY dangerous.) The fact that you did it before and no one got sick means you were lucky. From your description, you were not so lucky this time. They are showing signs of bacteria spoilage and since they are low acid, you may very well have the botulism toxin in those jars. You cannot see or taste the botulism toxin. So, do not taste. You cannot boil them to safety – the toxin will survive boiling. Do not eat. Throw them out.

      Here is a post I did explaining canning safety: http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/how-to-can-vegetables-safely/

      Lisa, I cannot say this any plainer: You cannot safely water bath can green beans unless they are pickled. Okay? You must either use a pressure canner or freeze them instead.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. :-(

  8. Beth says

    I processed 4 pints of green beans in my pressure canner. Something didn’t seem right. I accidentally only processed them for 10 minutes…should have been for 20 minutes. The jars have popped and are sealed. However, I know they need to be reprocessed. Can I just put them back in or should i open the jars and start over?

    Thanks!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Beth,

      You only need to open the jars if the liquid level is too low (need more added) or if you ever have jars that were processed for the proper time but did not seal (then you open the jars to check the rim for nicks).

      Since you just didn’t reach the proper time, you can reprocess them within 24 hours and they will be fine. Don’t wait longer than 24 hours as the bad bacteria can start to grow at that point. If you do it quickly, there is no problem.

  9. Sheila Page says

    Canned Blackberr Jam for the second time last night. Awoke with a start this morning…..I forgot to place my jars in a water bath! All the lids have “popped”.

    HELP!! Is all lost?

    Thank you!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Sheila,

      All is NOT lost. Since we are talking jam, you are in a pretty safe zone. But those jars probably have a weak seal. You have 2 choices:

      1) Option 1: If it is a small batch, you can keep them in the refrigerator until you open and eat them. That way if they do lose their seal, they would still be okay to eat if it had not been too long. You need to be very watchful for mold. If you see mold, you have to throw out the jam.

      2) Option 2 – (which is what I would do): Is to simply process the jars in the water bath canner NOW. It’s always best to do this when the jars are still warm. But even though they are now room temperature, it is okay to do. Just process them as you would the first time using the same processing time. Just make sure the jars are room temp before dropping them into the water bath. If they are cold, the thermal shock can crack them. Once processed, you should be good to go!

      Good luck and enjoy that yummy jam!

  10. Jennie says

    Hi there!

    Yesterday I canned for the very first time, it was so much fun but I want to make sure that I did everything correctly. I do not know anybody who cans so its hard to find advice from close friends or family. I made strawberry rhubarb pie filling. I made the recipe as directed but then it said to do a 25 minute boil bath… to be on the safe side I did 30 minutes. I also kept my jars and lids in a sink full of hot water until I was ready to use them. But I keep seeing adjust the time for different elevations. This might be a silly question but elevation of what? Do you think 30 minutes was enough time?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jeannie-

      There are NO silly questions!

      First, congrats on your first canning adventure. Sounds like you did it all fine.

      The elevation is referring to what altitude you live at. I live at the beach, so my elevation is about 100 feet above sea level. But if you live in the mountains, you might be at 3,000 feet above sea level. This is important in canning because water boils at a different temperature at different elevations. It actually boils sooner the higher you are. So when you are at a high elevation and we say “boil water”, your water is boiling at a lower temperature than 212 degrees. To compensate for that, recipes tell you to process for a longer time to be sure that the inside of your jar reaches the proper temperature to be safe.

      Hope that helps.

      If you are want to know your exact elevation, google your city name and the word elevation. You can find it that way.

      Happy Canning!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Tracy,

      Yes, you can “can” applesauce that is made ahead if it is still fresh (made within the last week or so). But you must heat that sauce up to a boil before putting it in the jars. This is so that the internal temp reaches the proper temperature during the processing time in the water bath canner. Follow the instructions found on this post for timing: http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/applesauce-recipe/

  11. Abby says

    I recently canned spaghetti sauce with ground beef. Canning does strange things to meat. It has a completely different taste and texture. Any tips to preserve the integrity when canning meat? Also, if I am canning soup that calls for 35 minutes at 10 lbs and I add a 1/2 pint of canned bacon, do I need to increase my cooking time to 90 minutes at 10 lbs. Do I increase time for a meat recipe? or can I process as I would the soup because the meat was previously processed? Thank you in advance for your advice, I just read through all the questions and answers on your page here… conclusion- you must be a saint!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Abby,

      Glad you are liking the info here on the website. In answer to your question: When it comes to pressure canning, I am not comfortable advising on adjusting the timing because of the danger of botulism. There are too many factors involved that I cannot speak to such as other ingredients in the soup and the over all pH, thickness, etc.

      I always stick to USDA approved recipes and guidelines. So, I would refer you to the USDA guidelines which are online at the following link. Guide #4 has a whole section on pressure canning soup. Hopefully it can help guide you. I’m so sorry I can’t be of more help on this one!
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

      Oh and I know what you mean about the texture of the meat. Not too much you can do except to freeze rather than can. To me, freezing keeps the texture integrity better than the pressure canning does.

      ~T

      • Abby says

        I wrote to you while in the process of canning so I went ahead and used the longer processing time of 90 min. We just opened a jar for lunch and it is, by far, the best of my canned full-meal recipes. Creamy potato soup w/ bacon (added 1/2 cup of milk after opening). Yum ;)

        My reasons for canning are for emergency stocks, (winter power outs, etc.), so I’m trying to preserve foods that don’t require electricity to store, otherwise I would be doing a lot more freezing. Thanks so much for writing back. I’ll check out the recipes on the site you recommended.

        Blessings to you and yours,
        Abby

    • Theresa Loe says

      No Donna. You cannot just add an acid to ANY recipe and water bath it. There are too many factors here. What food are you talking about? How much acid are you adding? (For example, it must be a certain ratio to get the right pH and in the case of a vegetable which is a low acid food, you must pickle it to water bath can.) Also, how thick is the food? What size is the jar? There is no blanket statement I can make regarding adding a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to a recipe to make it water bath cannable.

      If you want to can a food safely, use an approved recipe to be safe.

  12. Emily says

    Theresa,

    I am new to canning. I just made apple pie filling and boil bathed the jars for 20 minutes. After I finished the boil bath, I remembered that I forgot to add the 3 TBL of lemon juice to the pie filling. Every other step was followed perfectly. How will this affect my pie filling? I read on other websites that the lemon juice protects coloring and flavor. What do you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Emily

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Emily,

      You are correct. The lemon juice in the recipe is to keep the apples from getting too brown. It also helps with the acid level and pH, but apples are naturally in the “safe zone”. I think your pie filling is fine. I would try to use it up sooner rather than later only so that your color and texture stay nice. The lemon juice really does make a difference there. The filling is fine as far as safety is concerned.

      Congrats on tackling your first pie filling! I’m sure it will be awesome!

      ~Theresa

  13. dawn says

    I made pepper jelly today but forgot the water bath process. My jars are cool now. (Its been about 6 hrs) can I, or should I do a water bath now even though the jelly and jars are cool. Thanks in advance.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Since it has been a few days and the jars are cool, the proper procedure it so open the jars, empty the jam into a pan and reheat it. Refill the jars, add fresh lids and then waterbath can. You are supposed to do this because cooled jam takes longer to get to the proper internal temperature. So in other words, the processing time would not adequately raise the temperature of the jam (in the center of the jar) to kill molds and bacteria that cause spoilage and it would not get hot enough to make a super strong vacuum seal. Hot jam placed in a hot water bath, gets to the proper “canning” temp immediately. The other reason for reheating the jam is because you run a risk of jar breakage if you put a cold jar into the hot water bath.

      You probably got a very weak vacuum seal just by filling the jars and putting on the lids. But proper USDA procedures require the water bath method not only to create the strong seal, but to also kill mold and bacteria.

  14. Deb says

    Theresa,
    Can I use my own tomato sauce recipe or do I have to follow recipes specific for canning? Also can I use lids that I have used previously for freezing? This will be my first time canning as I have always put my sauce in the freezer but would like to start canning. Thanks for all your advise.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Deb,

      It is always safe to freeze your homemade sauce. But with canning, it is best to use an approved tomato sauce recipe because if your personal sauce recipe has any other vegetables added (garlic, onions, etc.), it will shift the pH into the danger zone. And even if it does not have other veggies (or only a little), it is difficult to say how much acid you need to add to make it safe. So for canning, you need to work with a tested recipe.

      As for the lids, I think they would be okay as long as you do not see an indentation in the rubber gasket. The reason we only use them once in canning is because the vacuum seal presses them very hard into the rim and creates an indentation. That dent can be the cause of leakage if you try to reuse it. In the case of freezing, you should not have cranked it down too hard and therefore, there should not be a dent in the gasket. So, if you don’t see a dent, they should be okay.

  15. Melissa says

    Looking to do a pickled squash recipe and it only has pint jars for the water bath time. I only have quart jars, how long do I have to have them in the water bath to be safe? Thank you

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Melissa,

      I am unsure. I have scoured all of my sources and everything shows pint jars as well. I am wondering if perhaps it is not recommended to do quart jars of pickled squash? I’m sorry that I don’t have an answer for this one. Perhaps one of our other readers will.

  16. Mary says

    I recently canned peach mango salsa and corn relish. In both instances the liquid did not completely cover the fruit/corn when I filled the jars. They all sealed but now I am wondering if there will be a problem with them?

    • Theresa Loe says

      If we are talking about just a little bit above the liquid line, they are fine. But you need to know that any food sticking above the line will darken (but still stay safe). However, if the amount of food sticking up above the line is excessive (1/4 of the jar or more), then the food should be refrigerated and eaten within a few days. In the future, always make sure the food is covered before processing. Make more brine if you need to (using the same vinegar/salt ratios, etc). The reason you want to make sure it is covered BEFORE processing is because sometimes you have liquid lost DURING processing and that can make your liquid line even lower. If it is too low, the food will not last on the shelf and will begin to spoil.

  17. Pam says

    I just canned 14 qts of tomato juice. I followed all the correct canning procedures, boiled jars, lids, and rings. I did not have a canning rack, so I just put my jars in a large stainless steel pot. They were just barely covered by water and I processed them for 45 min. It has been a week and the jars are well sealed. Do I need to dump out all the juice or do you think they will be ok. I mainly use the juice for soup and chili. I am now looking for a pot with a rack before I do any more canning.
    Thank you,
    Pam

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Pam,

      The purpose of the rack is to keep the jars off the bottom (in direct contact with the heat). It is more of an issue of preventing breakage. So if your jars survived that, the missing rack is not an issue on this round. But yes, you should get one for future canning.

      I am more concerned with the fact that your jars were not covered by at least an inch of water. Is that what you are saying? After 45 min of processing, were they still covered? It sounds like you used the proper timing and I assume you acidified the tomatoes before canning. But if they were not covered completely by the water for the whole 45 minutes, you may have a problem. If they were not, I would immediately get a taller canner and reprocess all the juice. Pour all the juice into a pan and heat to a boil. Wash the jars and rings and get new lids. (You cannot reuse lids). You do not need to sterilize the jars because they will be processed long enough to do that for you. (Any process over 10 min sterilizes during the process). Refill your jars and do the whole thing again and be sure that the jars are covered by at least an inch of water for the entire process.

      A second option (if all of that is too overwhelming) is to freeze the juice. But to do that, you need to: open each jar, remove some of the juice so that you have 1.5 inch headspace (to give room for expansion) and add back the lid and ring. (No need to replace the lid as you are not “canning” it). Place the jars in the freezer.

      Hope that helps!
      T

      • Pam says

        Teresa,
        Thank you for your help so far. Yes I did use lemon juice in the tomatoes. The big pot I used was not big enough to cover the jars by 1″, but while boiling the boiling water was splashing on top of the jars. I kept checking them and added water to the pot as necessary to keep them covered. I have since bought a pressure cooker, and could use that to reprocess, and I am looking for a taller big pot. I am concerned about the flavor after that much processing. It has been a week, will they be safe to reprocess, or would I be better off freezing them. After all of this, I should be an expert at this next year. Once again, thank you for your help.
        Pam

        • Theresa Loe says

          Okay – I’m trying to make sure I understand so I give you the right info. You did the right thing to keep adding hot/boiling water to the pot. But are you saying they were never covered by 1″? They only had a minimal amount of water? Or are you saying you kept it right about at 1″? It sounds to me like you never had enough water in the first place and they were never covered by 1″ of water…in which case, I would freeze them. It is faster, easier and you won’t cook them anymore.

          The double processing affects the texture more than flavor and freezing also affects the texture. But we are talking juice here, not whole tomatoes – so texture is not as important. If it were me, I would freeze to save myself time since you are still looking for a taller pot.

          You say you now have a pressure “cooker” but I’m hoping you meant to say that you got a pressure “canner”. You need a canner for canning. A pressure cooker is not meant to be used for canning. (They are two different things but sometimes people accidentally use the names interchangeably.)

          And yes – You will officially be an expert after this!! I should be able to send people to you for advice. Tee hee.

          • Pam says

            Teresa,
            My mistake, it is a pressure canner. The jars never did have 1″ of water over them, so I guess freezing is the answer. I am assuming I do not need to reheat. Thanks a ton for your help.
            Pam

            • Theresa Loe says

              Great! Glad to hear you got a pressure canner.

              It certainly would not hurt to reheat if you wanted to. Reheating just kills the mold and bacteria that cause spoilage and off flavors. It should have happened when you canned the first time. But freezing prevents those molds and bacteria from growing anyway – so you should be okay going straight to the freezer if you wish. Just follow the steps I laid out in the other comment where you need to reduce the amount of juice in each jar so that you have enough headspace for expansion of the frozen juice. I would use all the juice up within 6 months for best flavor.

              Happy to help out!
              ~Theresa

  18. Hannelore says

    I canned 4 quart jars of peaches (from my garden) by the water bath method. I followed all directions, used a chop stick to get out the air, correct time for canning, etc. After processing, I left them on the counter for 3 days, but when I was ready to put them in the basement for storage, I notice air bubbles rising in each of the jars. I immediately placed them in the refrigerator and we have eaten one jar. My questions are: How can there still be air bubbles in the jar and can jars that have air bubbles in them after processing be stored long term?
    Needless to say I am disappointed as we wanted to eat the peaches during the winter and not now.
    Thank you

    • Theresa Loe says

      So were the bubble moving (like soda or cola)? Or where they rising when you moved the jar?

      The reason I ask is because it is very normal to have a few bubbles left behind in canned fruit. They might come loose and move occasionally, but otherwise they stay put until the jar is disturbed. If you have active bubbles (that seem to be moving quite a bit), then you have some fermentation or spoilage going on….and that is not good. If that is happening, the jars will off gas when you open them or burst the seal while setting on the shelf. If you find a jar like that on the shelf or if you ever open a jar that sort of explodes when you open it, you should not eat it.

      As I’m sure you know, we always try to remove the air bubbles after we fill the jar (as you have done) so that we don’t lose the headspace. But it can be really hard to get them all out and you should not feel bad if you left a few behind. I suspect that since it had only been 3 days, the bubbles you saw were the normal (left behind) kind. But only you can judge if they were moving around inside the jar. And if the peaches were heated before going inside the jars, any yeasts should have been killed – so that would eliminate fermentation.

      So…how many bubble were there and how much were they moving?

      • Hannelore says

        Theresa,
        Thank you for explaining the difference. I feel much better now. The bubbles only moved when I tilted the jar, therefore I have to assume the peaches are o.k. Just checked one of the glasses in the fridge and there is no movement. By the way I had added a tablespoon of rum to the peaches before I closed the jars and they are delicious.
        Hannelore

  19. Em says

    Alright! Things didn’t feel right until I just dumped all the peaches in the pot and started fresh. Now I’m not worried about them and your comments strengthened my canning experiences the further. Thank you Theresa.

    • Theresa Loe says

      It doesn’t work that way Paula. The amount of time in a water bath or pressure cooker depends upon the pH of the product, its thickness, the size of the jar and your altitude. You can’t translate one to the other with a simple formula.

      Sorry!

  20. paula bilbrey says

    I’m canning salsa. The receipe says a 30 min water bath. Can I do it in a pressure cooker? If so how long? P.S. Love your site. :)

    • Theresa Loe says

      Yes you can do the salsa in a pressure canner but how long depends upon the pH of the recipe and the size of the jar. So I am unsure. There are some salsa recipes that have enough acid to be okay in the water bath canner. You can get a recipe like that from this site and clicking on guide #3. These are USDA approved salsa recipes and are very safe:

      http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

  21. Em says

    Thank you again. After doing research and reading more posts I decided to dump all the peaches and liquid into a pot and heat them up so the internal temperature would be high to start and I rewashed the jars. Then I placed hot peaches into clean jars and added new lids. The jars are in the canner now. I bit overwhelmed but lesson learned. They seem a bit soft and my original 7 quarts are now 6 but que sera. Hopefully after all the work they will still taste delicious and be safe as you stated. Was this okay, heating the peaches and reprocessing?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Absolutely it was okay to reheat. I was just trying to give you the minimum effort to still be safe. I think I would have done the same. Yea! I think you are good to go now!

      And one more thing to remember in all of this…Peaches are a high acid food. You cannot get botulism from them. Worse thing that would have happened is that they would have spoiled. Okay? Mold and bacteria are not “good” for you, but you certainly would not have killed anyone. Whew!

      ~Theresa

  22. Em says

    Sorry. After posting my first comment about the water level of my bath canner I read some of the other posts and did in fact reprocess my peaches once already without removing the sealed lids. I have since removed the lids and am placing new lids on my peaches. Will they still be okay to eat being processed three times now? :-/. Or should I toss them out?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Em,

      They would be perfectly safe to reprocess 3 times – but your problem will be that they will be a little “cooked”. They will store well, but when you open them they will be soft (perhaps a bit mushy). I would use them for sauce, glaze, ice cream topping, any recipe where texture doesn’t matter. Flavor will still be delicious.

      I checked and it seems that USDA recommendations say that if they have not been refrigerated (are at room temp) AND it has been less than 24 hours since last processing, it is okay to just put the room temp jars into the bath and process. I’m surprised by that, but that is what it says. Yes, you will need to add liquid to bring up the headspace.

      I’m sorry you had such an ordeal. But remember, you have still captured that delicious flavor. Only the texture will suffer from everything that happened. I’m sure you will find many delicious ways to use them. Just think of how yummy these will be spooned over homemade ice cream!

      Good luck!

  23. Em says

    Thank you. Should I add more water to my peaches? They are below the 1 inch headspace. And do I put the cooled peaches in the boiling water or somehow heat the jars?

  24. Em says

    I processed peaches a few hours ago and when my timer went off I noticed the water level was about 1/2-1 inch below the lids. What should I do with these peaches? Reprocess? Thank you for your help and time.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Yes, you need to reprocess within 24 hours of the first time. Since they were not covered by the water, they probably did not get up to temp inside. Remove the lids, wipe the rims of the jars, add new lids (you can not reuse the old lid), add the ring and reprocess.

      Then you should be good to go. :-)

  25. Vicki says

    I have a question… I canned peaches and pears two weeks ago but was told that they didn’t need to be hot water bathed . Now the lids are bulging up can I reprocess these and kill the bacteria enough to recan and use?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Vicki-

      So if you didn’t water bath them, then they are not “canned”. They spoiled. You cannot eat them and they must be thrown out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  26. Sarah says

    Hi! I just stumbled across this site and I’m soo thankful I did. It’s very informative and easy to follow! Thank you!! I made muscadine jelly yesterday for the first time in my life (clueless about canning) my grandma made it for me as a child and it was my absolute favorite! Our muscadines are growing abundantly and I wanted my children to experience a taste of heaven! Here’s my issue I didn’t have a canning rack or anything;/ I will now go purchase one. I washed my jars in hot soapy water and boiled them in an aluminum stock pot for 10 min. They were not upright but water completely covered them and they didn’t crack. I kept them hot in the oven and the poured the hot jelly in them. I put the lids on and boiled them for 5 minutes as the recipe said. I am worried though bc they were not upright they were laying down on the bottom of pot:/ does this make a difference in safety? They also don’t really seemed to have gelled like they should but I know that’s just a recipe issues. The seals popped as soon as I pulled them from the water bath. Are they safe to eat if they weren’t boiled up right and there was no lid on pot? Please help me!! Thank you for your time!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Sarah,

      So I think you are saying that the jars laid down sideways during the boiling of the empty jars (before you filled them)? That’s perfectly fine.

      If you are saying that the jars tipped over sideways during the processing (and they were filled with jelly at the time), you may have some seal failures. They are fine for now, but check your seals as time goes by to see that they stayed sealed. What happens if they tip over is that some of the jelly may get under the lid and it won’t make a tight seal. But they are otherwise okay.

      It sounds to me like you did everything perfectly. Tipping over happens to the best of us. So glad you dove in to make special memories for your kids!

      ~Theresa

  27. charlotte says

    I just canned tomato sauce, boiled the jars for 40 minutes and when I went to take them out I notices that there was no longer 1 inch of water above them Stupidly? I added some water (not hot!) and set it to come back to a boil. Now what? Can I just boil it another ten minutes or so? or is it way worse than that?

    Thank you!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Charlotte,

      What size are your jars? Quarts?

      If I assume that they are quart jars (which should be water bath canned for 40 minutes) and the water was either not covering the tops of the jars OR was barely covering the jars. Then start AGAIN. Bring the water back up to the boil. Place in the jars and time it for 40 minutes. (10 min won’t work) It takes 40 minutes for the heat to penetrate the center of the thick sauce and keep it at the high temp long enough to kill the bacteria and mold.

      I know it sounds like over kill, but if they did not have water covering them, you really do not know if you reached the temperature in the center.

  28. paula bilbrey says

    I have a question. I’m canning tamato juice. My jars pinged before i could even get them in the water bath. Do i still need to put them in the bath?

    • Theresa Loe says

      YES!

      First, the “ping” does not mean you have a strong vacuum seal. I have had empty jars ping from sitting in a hot car. But most importantly, the seal is only part of the reason to water bath can. The canning process also brings the internal temp up to a level to kill bad bacteria and molds.

      SO YES. YOU MUST PROCESS THEM IMMEDIATELY.

  29. Dara says

    I just made grape jelly and I only heard a few of the jar lids pop. When I touched the others to see if they had sealed, the centers popped down. Do you think they are sealed?

  30. angela says

    hi, Theresa

    i’m a first time canner. i started last weekend making jam, peppers, beets, red beet eggs and tomatoes. i need help in my next step, i want to can green beans and squash and zucchini (i have about 20lbs of both from my garden). my pressure canner is to smaller for quart size jars. can i hot water can them? i don’t want to pickle them. i have read website after website about this question and some say yes you can use hot water canning for them, but i have also read no you cant. can you please help????? also do you have any receipes for them?????
    thank you for your time
    angela

    • Theresa Loe says

      Angela,

      You are smart to ask. You should absolutely NOT water bath can vegetables. It is very dangerous to do so because you can get botulism.

      Do people do it? Yes. And they argue that they never have killed anyone so, it is okay

      Is it wise? No because it is a crap shoot. You “might” be okay. You “might” not. Not worth it.

      With so many people doing it wrong, do people ever get sick? YES!!!

      To understand the dangers and the reasoning behind what I am saying here, go to this post about canning veggies:
      Canning Vegetables Safely

      You must either pressure can or freeze your vegetables if you do not want to pickle them. Freezing is fast and easy. You just have to blanch them for a few minutes first to kill the enzymes that make them soft.

      Good luck! And thanks for being so smart about the safety. Many people do not take it seriously.
      :-)

  31. Dee says

    I’m VERY new to canning. Last weekend was my first try with raspberry jam in a water bath. Turned out great so I bought a large water canning pot and rack that will hold 14 jelly jars. Most recipes only make 7-8 jars. Today I made blackberry jam and put the filled jars down into the hot (not boiling and no flame) water while I made strawberry jam and filled those jars. I then added those jars to the rack before bringing the water to boil and processing for 10 minutes. Was that ok to let the first batch sit in the hot water that long? All 14 jars popped and sealed as soon as they were out of the water.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Dee,

      Welcome to canning! Glad you dove in and tried more than one recipe.

      As for your question – That was a bit unorthodox, so I had to think it through. It was probably good that you put the first batch in the hot water and kept it hot. And yes, I think the jars will be fine. If anything, you over processed a bit because you had them in the water while you brought it up to temperature. And it is very good that timed it AFTER you reached a boil. That 10 min boil does 2 things: creates the seal and kills bacteria and mold that can cause spoilage. So you did all that correctly.

      However, in the future it would be better to process the two batches separately (right after they are made) and this is why:

      Although over processing does not make much difference with jams, it does make a difference with things like whole fruit or pickles. Over processing can change the texture and color of your finished product. But it does not change the safety. So you are good there.

      Also, it is good to process each batch immediately after making it because if it cools too much, the internal temperature will not get high enough to kill the mold/bacteria within the processing time. Putting it in the hot water helped a lot. But I would worry if you made this a habit because if you waited too long, the internal temperature would drop too much.

      So for this time, you are okay. Just do the future batches one at a time. You can boil the first batch in the water bath while you are cooking up the second batch. I do that all the time.

      Best of luck with all your canning endeavors!!

      • Dee says

        Thanks for the quick reply!

        What you said makes perfect sense. I was worried about only processing 7 jars in a rack designed for 14 – that they would fall over or bump together. The rack doesn’t have dividers.

        • Theresa Loe says

          The jars should be okay. I sometimes do batches of only 2-3 jars in my giant canner. The kind with the dividers are best, but not necessary. Just have a steady boil and the weight of the jar should hold it in place. If you find a divided rack at a garage sale or something, you can make the switch then. I think you are okay for now. :-)

  32. Mel says

    OMG! Thanx for getting back so soon!
    I did end up putting lemon juice, 2 tbsp in every quart jar, when I ran out I used a half tsp of citric acid, but I am still worried, would I be best to dump the mixture into a big pot and refill the jars or just heat them up in a water canner with new lids and then place in the pressure cooker?
    Also I am desperately hunting down to either buy one in this small town this morn or borrow one, how long do I have to reprocess do ya think with the jars in the fridge?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Good job adding the acidification. That is important to do even for just straight tomatoes -For added safety. Tomatoes are naturally close to the danger zone on the pH scale so USDA recommends adding acid to make double sure. That is why adding other veggies can be tricky because that little bit can actually push the pH in the wrong direction. (Hence the recommendation to pressure can when other veggies are involved).

      Before we freak out here, maybe you should tell me how many tomatoes, onions, peppers you combined. Are we talking just a few tablespoons of added veggies or are we talking cups? Why don’t you tell me your actual recipe (including the amount of acidification you did) because it may be that you are okay and do not need to redo these.

      If you do need to pressure can (due to too many veggies or not enough acidification), the best way to do this is to pour all the contents into a big pot to heat up. That way, you can be sure the tomatoes are heated all the way through before you put them into a new jar. (wipe rims, add NEW round lids, add rings, etc)

      I need to see your recipe to tell you a recommended time for pressure canning. Can you type it here?

      • Mel says

        I didn’t use a specific recipe but I did use cups of onion and cups of green pepper, bad I know… I’m still considering freezing it too? Can you recommend how? I’ve just borrowed a pressure canner but it looks intimidating….ugh, help!

        • Theresa Loe says

          Hi Mel,

          I actually gave instructions on freezing just a few comments down for someone else – but I know it can be hard to weed thru over 100 comments on this post! So, here they are for you. It is really very easy to freeze:

          You can open each jar, pour the tomatoes into a freezeable container (see my note below) and freeze them. When defrosted, they will have the texture of stewed tomatoes (a bit mushy like sauce) but the flavor will be the same.

          Note on freezing: If your jars are straight sided and fairly new, they can be used for freezing. They may even have a freeze line mark on them. But you need to open each jar and remove some of the contents to give you a 1.5 headspace (so the contents can expand). Then place back on your lid/ring and pop into the freezer. They should be used within 6 months for best flavor.

          Good luck!

  33. Mel says

    I stupidly forgot to put the lid on the pot while canning my peaches, this was over a week ago and I’ve been reading and realized they maybe hazardous to eat. They seemed to boil but not a rolling boil like they should. Just wondering what to do….
    Also stupidly took advice from an ” experienced” canner, who said I could add onions and green peppers to my tomatoes and use a waterbath method. I’ve since learned it’s not ok to do this, While still warm I put all my sealed jars in the fridge to hopefully salvage. I just finished canning around 4 pm today and put them in the fridge at 7 pm. Can I keep them and reprocess in a pressure canner with new lids? Or can I freeze it? Help!!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Mel,

      There are not stupid questions. You are very smart to ask!

      First, your peaches are fine. The lid being on is just to keep the boil steady. Since we are talking peaches (a high acid food), they should be fine if there was even a standard (minimal) boil for the processing time. Even if you only had a simmer, the worst case scenario would be that your jars would not hold a seal or they would not last as long on the shelf (and spoil). No poisoning. You are fine.

      As for the onions and green peppers with the tomatoes – Good save!! You did exactly the right thing!! Yes you can pressure can them (heat them up first so that you are adding hot contents to the jar and hot jars are going into the pressure canner). OR freeze them – which would be the easiest fix.

      Since I do not how much onion/peppers were added or what the final pH is. It is hard to say if you could bring the pH to a safe level for water bath canning. But in the future, you may be able to find a tested recipe that has added vinegar or lemon juice to a recipe with minimal onion and pepper. An acidified mixture can be water bath canned. But it does not sound like your recipe was acidified or how significant the pH change is. (But by adding them, there IS a change in pH). So you were extremely smart to do what you did. You saved it!

      Good job.

  34. Sheila says

    I just finished 17 quarts of tomatoes in their own juice. I used the water bath method. Processed into hot jars, hot lids, hot pack for 45 minutes. I now read that Ball has a process time of 1 hour 25 minutes with a 10 minute in bath cool down. Did I under process? I am afraid to use them even though they are sealed . Should I reprocess since this was 48 hours ago?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Shelia,

      You are correct that the proper processing time in a water bath is 85 min. You did under process. You have 2 choices for a fix:

      1) You can pour all the tomatoes back into a pan, heat back up and re-can in the water bath for 85 min.

      2) You can open each jar, pour the tomatoes into a freezeable container (see my note below) and freeze them. When defrosted, they will have the texture of stewed tomatoes (a bit mushy like sauce) but the flavor will be the same.

      Note on freezing: If your jars are straight sided and fairly new, they can be used for freezing. They may even have a freeze line mark on them. But you need to open each jar and remove some of the contents to give you a 1.5 headspace (so the contents can expand). Then place back on your lid/ring and pop into the freezer.

      Good luck!

  35. Tina Hart says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you :) You just made my day! I really appreciate your quick response. I’m so happy that the many jars of jam we worked so hard on are still good to go. Excited to keep canning (and keep learning!). Thanks again!

  36. Tina Hart says

    Hi! First off, thanks for all the wonderful advice – it’s HUGELY helpful to my husband and I as we are newbie canners :) I’m hoping you might be able to help me as well. I have a couple dilemmas that have come up during our canning this weekend and I’m feeling a little concerned. Everything we did this weekend was peach jams and jellies (a low sugar peach jam, a bourbon peach jam, and a jalapeno peach jelly):

    1) In my previous jam canning I’ve had recipes that have called for processing the jars for 10min in a boiling water bath so I haven’t sterilized the jars. The recipe I used yesterday only called for a 5min process and it wasn’t until I double checked today that I realized I should have sterilized the jars first. Are those jars of jam and jelly safe? Should I put them back in a boiling water bath? Empty the contents, reheat, and reprocess? Trash them? What are the risks?

    2) I have a couple jars of jam that were my last ones of the batch that didn’t quite hit the 1/4″ headspace (there was close to 1/2″ of headspace left). I processed them and they sealed fine. Are they still good? Do they need to be eaten right away?

    3) Lastly, sometimes when using a recipe that produces several 1/2 pints the jam gets cool as it sits waiting to be put in the jars and processed. Is that ok? It’s not sitting out forever but maybe up to 30min as the jars process for 10min each and I can only do 4 at a time.

    Any help would be so much appreciated!

    Thank you!!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Tina-

      Good job with all the canning!!! You guys were rocking it this weekend. First off – no worries about what you have done. It should all be okay – mainly because you are working with jams and jellies. But also, the USDA guidelines are very over protective just so that when you don’t quite meet the requirement, you are still within the safe margin.

      Let me go through your questions below.

      1) Yes, your unsterilized jars should be fine – but remember to sterilize in the future. The biggest risk you have is spoilage – nothing dangerous. It is a low risk at best. So as you open those jars, be sure to check for mold. If you see some, throw it out. I would not reprocess for that situation as the reprocessing would probably change your jam consistency and that might be worse than the slight chance of spoilage. I am betting that your jars will be just fine.

      2) Yes they are good, but I would just eat those first. Here’s why: Having a larger headspace means that you may not have created as strong of a vacuum seal. So over time, it might unseal. Just put those towards the front of the shelf and eat them first. They are perfectly safe otherwise.

      3) This last one is a little trickier because it is hard for me to judge how much the jam cooled while sitting to be processed. So let me explain the reasoning so you can understand how to handle it. The reason you want the jars to be as hot as possible as they go in is 1) So that a hot jar goes into the hot water bath. This prevents breakages due to temperature change. 2) So that the contents are already at a certain temperature and can then be heated inside the jar to a specific temp for a specific amount of time.

      If the jam is very cool when you drop it into the water bath, the very center of the jar may not get to the required temperature within the processing time. So here is the solution: If you find that the last group is getting cool, simply process that last batch for a few more minutes (I would do 5 extra min). As for what you did already, they should be okay – but just watch for spoilage. That would be the worse case result – that your jam would not last as long on the shelf and spoil. But it would be just normal spoilage – nothing poisonous. However, given the fact that high sugar products hold the heat for long periods of time, I am betting your jam will be perfectly fine and will not spoil. Just next time, process longer on the last batch to be extra safe.

      To fully understand the safety I am explaining above, it might help to ready my post on Canning Safety:
      http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/how-to-can-vegetables-safely/

      Sounds to me like you guys are doing a GREAT job. It will get easier with each batch. Good work!
      ~Theresa

  37. Tina Richardson says

    Hi, I have a question. I have canned green beans using the hot water bath for years. And I have never used viniger or anything. We have ate them with out haveing a bad taste or anyother problems. How would you know if they are not good?

    Thanks Tina

    • Theresa Loe says

      Well, that is why it is so dangerous. You cannot smell or taste botulism. There is no way of detecting other than you get sick. Other bacteria will cause bulging of the jar lids or the seal will break. Or you might open a jar and it smells “off”. If that happens with any canned good, you must dispose of it. But with botulism, there is no way to tell.

  38. Karen says

    i water bathed greenbean recipe for dilly beans, what kind of pan is right for vinegar mix? The beans are all shrivelled in jars. Does the pan make a difference in acidity/

    • Theresa Loe says

      It is always best to use a non-reactive pan like stainless steel when you work with vinegar.

      What you describe could also come from processing the jars in the waterbath too long. They basically get cooked. The flavor should still be good even if they don’t look super pretty.

  39. Dara says

    I just canned Gardenia mix in the hot water bath. After removing from the canner to cool, I noticed some of the jars have air bubbles in them. Is this a problem?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Dara,

      I am assuming your gardenia mix is the standard pickle variety and is therefore safe to water bath can. The bubbles you describe are not a problem as far as safety. Whenever we can solid or chunky fruit/veggies, we try to get out all the air bubbles before processing so that the liquid is high enough to fully cover the food. (When food sticks out above the liquid, it will turn dark and/or mushy. But is still safe.) What you are describing is what happens when there were a few air bubbles left inside the jar before canning. It is safe and it happens all the time. Just know that as you move the jar around, the air may accumulate toward the top (lowering the liquid level) and some of the pickled veggies will stick out above the liquid line (turning dark).

      Where bubbles ARE a problem, is when you see active moving bubbles inside the jar. That means fermentation or other bacteria growth is happening and that is a BAD sign. Since you just canned these, I do not believe that is your situation. But if you ever see bubbles moving inside a jar that is just sitting on the shelf, you need to discard the product.

      Enjoy your gardenia mix!
      ~Theresa

  40. Melinda says

    I am wondering if you can process green beans and beets at the same time in the pressure cooker- just waiting the longer time that is required for beets – there is a 10 minute difference between the two. Would this hurt the green beans because they would be in the pressure cooker longer than necessary?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Melinda-
      I think you mean a pressure “canner” not cooker. (You can’t can in a pressure cooker) But I knew what you meant. ;-)

      If you process the beans for 10 min extra, nothing bad happens as far as safety of the food. But the beans will get over processed and will be a bit mushy. It is just as if you over-cooked them in a pan of boiling water.
      ~Theresa

  41. Ted says

    I have a question about Ball jar lids. I have been canning (water bath) for a few years now. And I’m very careful. I have not had a lid seal fail on me, although a couple failed to seal from the get-go. One of the joys of my life is hearing the healthy pop (or ping) that the seal makes after sitting on the counter for a few minutes, having just emerged from the boiling water. Lately, however, the Ball seals that I have been getting don’t produce that lovely pop. I might get a very faint one or none at all.(I am hard of hearing so my range is very narrow.) I check the seal the next day and it seems to be set. It is concave and I can pick the jar up holding the seal. But I still worry, because I heard no pop. It is my insurance of a healthy seal. Is there cause for concern. The seal “seems” to be good, even though there was no pop. I don’t want to be surprised down the line, or poisoned.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Ted,

      Ahhh yes, that lovely ping sound! We all love that don’t we? Not to worry Ted. If your lids are concave and you can gently pull on the lid without breaking the seal and you followed normal canning practices of waterbath or pressure canning your jars — then all is fine. You do NOT need to hear the ping. I’m not sure why you are not hearing it, but Ball did start making their lids differently lately (they are now BPA free) and that may be hindering the ping noise. I have not noticed any change on my jars. But I do always get a few quiet seals with every batch. Your jars should be fine. Enjoy!

      ~Theresa

  42. Lillian says

    I keep getting confused about something. Once my jars are packed, should I put them into the water bath ONCE it starts boiling, or put them in the water and then bring it to a boil? I know I start the timer when it is at a rolling boil, I just don’t know exactly when the jars should be put in.

    Thank you!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Lillian-

      You want to put your jars in the already boiling water. You should have the water heating while you make the canned food and then by the time you pack everything in jars, your water should be at a boil. Place the jars in the water, bring the water back up to a low boil and THEN start your timing.

      Hope that helps!
      T

  43. Denise says

    I completely forgot to cover the canner with a lid while it was boiling. (I made green tomato relish–water bath method). Should I reprocess?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Denise –
      We are talking salsa here, right? You are in the safe-zone pH wise because your salsa should have an acid in it (vinegar, lemon juice etc.). So in other words, our biggest concern here is spoilage and a proper seal – not botulism. (You can cross that off your worry list). Still, deciding if you need to reprocess or not (so that you don’t waste a batch to spoilage) depends upon how the boil looked when you were processing the first time. The purpose of the lid being on the canner is to keep the temperature at the high point of the boiling temperature range consistently for the entire processing time. If the boil you saw was a full boil (rumbling and large bubbles), then I think you are fine. If however, you did not have a proper boil and only had a light simmer going and not a full boil – (with tiny or no bubbles at all), then I would say you are on the borderline of reprocessing them. I am betting you had a full boil, right? – in which case, you are fine.

      If it were me, I would NOT reprocess them unless I only simmered them the first time. And if you don’t reprocess them, just be sure to check each jar for spoilage and a proper seal when you open it. I think you will be fine.

  44. says

    Hi….I understand you are the expert….BUT, my grandmother and my mother canned many things with a water bath….I also have canned beans and other things this way….no botulism in our family !!!!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Peggy-
      I’m so glad that no one got botulism in your family. I also have several family members who smoked their entire lives but never got cancer and lived to a ripe old age. But that does not mean we should smoke (or process foods improperly) given what we know today. But it does mean that I totally get what you are saying. Canning improperly does not mean you are guaranteed a poisoning. Totally true.

      Please know that I am not basing my recommendations of pressure canning beans on my experience. I went through certification to teach canning (plus professional cooking school) and was taught the science behind the process. I am basing my comments on the USDA recommendations and numerous studies done in this country and others that prove botulism (and numerous bacteria) will and does grow in low acid foods (pH of 4.6 or higher). Beans fall into that category. The only way to assure that this can’t possibly happen is to can in a pressure canner which takes the food to a higher temperature (way above the normal boil temp) and that kills bacteria and the spores. So it is a matter of being safe. I prefer that over being “lucky”.

      It is also important to know that there are many other things that can grow and go undetected besides botulism. I was using the most dangerous one as an example. But many bacteria are also carcinogens. To me, the point of canning our food is to know what is in it and to be safe. So I don’t want any possible carcinogens in my food.

      So all this to say, I get that our grandparents/parents did things differently and nobody died. But we know so much more now! And we need to use that knowledge to process our food in the safest and most nutritional way possible. Knowledge is power.

      I hope that helps.
      ~Theresa

  45. says

    Was wondering if you can use the bath method for canning green beans and if so, how long to boil them for. Have read different things about doing it this way, some say its safe and others says its not.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Gloria -

      You CANNOT use the waterbath method to can beans unless you are making pickles out of them. Beans are low acid and you run an extremely high risk of botulism if they are not canned properly in a pressure canner. (You can die from botulism so it is a very serious thing.) Knowing if you can waterbath something or not completely depends upon the acidity of the food. Fruits, jams, jellies are high acid and CAN be waterbathed. But vegetables are low acid and must be pressure canned in a pressure canner.

      The only time it is safe to use a waterbath on beans is when you are making a pickle and using vinegar in the brine – which then makes a high acid food. All other canning of beans must be done in a pressure canner.

      Here is an article that explains about acidity:
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/ensuring_safe_canned_foods.html

      Let me know if you have more questions!
      ~Theresa

      • says

        Thanks for letting me know, decided to just blanch them and freeze them, next year I want to buy a pressure canner so I can do them the right way. Have a nice day and again Thanks

        • Theresa Loe says

          Sure thing! And blanching and freezing is the easiest way to preserve them and they keep most of their nutrition that way. I actually prefer to freeze when I have a lot of veggies because it goes so fast. You did good!

  46. Jennie Perry says

    Hello, I am looking for a rhubarb recipe or how to can rhubarb for pies or sauces. Is it the same as a strawberry pie filling recipe? Can you help me ? Any help is greatly appreciated since I have 5 rhubarb plants that I wish to preserve in as many ways as I possibly can. :~) Thank you

  47. Brooke says

    I grew up using a pressure cooker with my mom & aunts to can fruits and tomatos. My husband and I are shopping for a few acres property and am getting excited for a garden and fruit trees. I was thinking of digging out my mom’s old pressure cooker for canning. Any tips or articles you would suggest for using a pressure cooker?
    p.s. I’m loving this website!

  48. Sandy says

    Help I didn’t notice that the water boiled lower than top of jar when water bath canning tomatoes now what do I do? Also I always do qrts of them and they turn out fine this time I did some pints and none of them are “popping” after taken out to cool does this mean they might not have sealed?

  49. Jen says

    Hi – I just stumbled upon your website. I just finished canning some pickles but I set the timer for 10 min. before the water had come back up to a boil. Am I correct in assuming that I now need to treat those as refrigerator pickles since they didn’t process at a boil the full 10 min.?

    Jen

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jen,

      If the water was not at least at a simmer for the full time required in the recipe, then yes. They were not canned properly. If you have been storing them in the refrigerator, you can either consume them from there or you can reprocess them (heat the contents, place back into jars and then process again for the proper amount of time). The one problem with that (other than it is a total pain to do it) is that you will lose some of the crispness of your pickles (if they are cucumbers). But the flavor will stay the same.

      ~Theresa

  50. Angie says

    I just started canning and was wondering if a recipe calls for half pints and I only have pints what is the difference in time it takes to can using the waterbath canning method? Thank you

    • Theresa Loe says

      That is a great question Angie.

      According to the USDA, you can process 1/2 pint and pint jars for the same amount of time when water bath canning. It is when you move up from that size that you must increase your time.

  51. Kat says

    I have a question about canning cranberry sauce. I make two batches of cranberry sauce every year, one with apple cider and bourbon, one with orange juice and rum, both with spices. I know that fatty and low acid foods can only be canned using a pressure canner, but I was wondering about if, given the alcohol, if the recipe I use would be safe to water bath can. I mean, both recipes use cranberries, alcohol, sugar, fruit juice, and spices, all of which seem like they would be safe to can, but I know you are really supposed to use a tried and true recipe for canning. What do you think?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Well Kat, everything you list would be just fine in a water bath canner. Fruit is a high acid food and does not have to be pressure canned. The alcohol would also help with preservation.

      I would advise that you find a cranberry sauce recipe that is similar to yours and follow the processing times for that. Here is a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that is very safe to use.
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/cran_sauce.html

      Maybe you can find one that is closer to what you are doing. Sounds yummy and should be very safe to can.

      ~Theresa

  52. Angie says

    My mom just canned whole tomatoes tonight, and she insisted that the 35 minute water bath the instructions called for was too long. Instead, she only water bathed for 5 min. Why are the long processing times so important?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Angie-

      Good question.

      The time for processing is not arbitrary. That is the time it takes to get the internal temperature of the jar to a safe temperature to kill bacteria. If you process the jars for less time, you may still get a seal. BUT the bacteria inside may not have been properly destroyed. This can result in spoilage or illness.

      Personally, I would not consume tomatoes that had only been processed for 5 minutes. I would empty the contents back into a pan. Reheat. Fill clean jars with the hot tomatoes and reprocess according to the recipe.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Hope that helps.
      ~ Theresa

  53. dave says

    I can pickles in a cold water bath. I boil the water, salt and vinegar pour over the pickles place the lids and ring on and then place in cold water for about 12 hours, or until the pickles have cooled to room temp. My question is i sometimes get jars that seal and then unseal how would i prevent this from happening.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Dave,

      I know that it has worked for you sometimes, but as a Master Food Preserver I can’t tell you that canning that way is okay. It is not the proper way to can. The reason your jars are sometimes not sealing is because you are not heating the inside to the proper temperature to kill bacteria and draw a vacuum. Yes, you are pouring hot liquid in and putting the lid on. But to properly and safely can, the internal temperature must be maintained (with the lid on) for at least 10 minutes.

      The reason you are sometimes told to process in the water bath for longer than 10 minutes is because it takes longer to reach that temperature (based on the thickness of the ingredients and the size of the jar). So you need to process in a HOT water bath for the length of time the recipe tells you.

      As the jar cools, the air escapes and THAT creates the solid seal. I would guess that you have a weak vacuum seal. I would highly recommend that you water bath by placing the hot jars into a simmering water bath (covered by 2 inches of hot water) and process according to a standard recipe – probably 10 minutes or longer.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I’m sure you method was easier, but you will have a better result (and be safer) if you water bath properly.

    • Theresa Loe says

      You absolutely CAN NOT water bath can corn!! DON’T DO IT! It is a vegetable and MUST be pressure canned. That is why you are not able to find any times for water bath canning it.

      A water bath canned corn will grow botulism.

      Find a Pressure Canner recipe and follow those instructions. If you don’t have a pressure canner, then I suggest you FREEZE the corn. Just BLANCH it first for 7 minutes (if on the ear) or 4 minutes (if just the kernel). Then FREEZE.

      But do NOT water bath can that corn!

  54. Gale says

    I just processed brined dill pickles and realized when I took the lid off of the canner after processing that I forgot to make sure the jars were covered with water. I would say almost two inches of the jars was not covered with water. They are still sealing, though. Is it okay to consume them still?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Gale-

      That’s a tough call. I feel better that they were pickles as that takes care of most of the bacteria problems. But before consuming each jar, I would double check the seal to be sure they are indeed sealed. Discard any that look funky or smell off after opening.

  55. Vicky says

    I was reading the posts on your site for the low sugar strawberry jam. THere were questions about using butter in the recipe. I have a favorite hot fudge recipe that uses sugar, corn syrup, cocoa , vanilla and butter. Is that safe to can? waterbath or pressure? I appreciate your help because I like to give this fudge sauce for Christmas gifts and it would be nice to get it done earlier than during the Christmas season.

  56. Nicole says

    I have a recipe for fuit ketchup that has veggies in it.( Celery, Onions , red and green peppers ) since ketchup has vinegar in it, is it safe to use the water bath mehod or should it be the pressure canner method ?

  57. Theresa Loe says

    Hi Jill,

    Wow! Sounds like you ladies got a lot done yesterday! What fun.

    I think you are fine with the lids and I need you to clarify on the boiling. Here is the deal:

    1) You boiled the heck out of that jar lid while processing, so you did NOT need to pre-sterilize it. In fact, any time you process in canning for longer than 10 minutes, you don’t even need to sterilize the jars! So you are fine there.

    2) When you say that “the water was not at a constant boil”, do you mean that sometimes it died down in intensity? Or do you mean that you were adjusting the heat and it was not even simmering? Give me more details on what you mean.

    Here is what you need to know: When canning, you need to process the jars at the boil for the time given in the recipe. You need to maintain that boil for the entire time. If the water stops boiling at any time during the process, bring it back up to a vigorous boil and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning. I know…I know…that is a total pain. But that is how bacteria and molds inside the jar are killed off so that the tomatoes will last. They need to be brought to that internal temperature and maintained there for the time given in the recipe.

    If you think your boil completely stopped for awhile during the process or if you are unsure – Don’t throw out your work! Just reprocess the jars. Now, they are currently not hot and if you drop them back into a boiling water bath as is, they can break. Your safest mode of action, would be to open all the jars, pour the contents into a pan (just to reheat), rinse the jars and refill with your hot tomatoes. Use NEW lids and process again for the full time at a full boil.

    Sorry about that! I’m hoping that your boil just died down a bit in vigor, but did not stop completely. But only you know for sure. Good luck!

    Theresa

  58. Jill says

    Hello!

    My girlfriend and I canned 100 lbs of tomatoes yesterday, which produced about 35 quarts and we’re so excited. Most of them are whole in their own juice and the others are a sauce recipe from the Ball Book. I have two questions…there were a few lids that were put on the cans that came directly out of the box and weren’t sterilized in boiling water. Also, I realized today that when processing the water wasn’t always at a constant boil. All jars processed for 45 minutes though and all seem to have sealed properly (none making a popping noise when lids are pushed down). Do I need to worry that they aren’t properly sterilized or processed?

    Thanks for your time.
    Jill

  59. Theresa Loe says

    Hi Charles,

    So if I am understanding correctly, you canned green beans in a waterbath with no vinegar (just water in the jar) and even though they sealed, you put them in the refrigerator? Good move. They should be treated as fresh cooked green beans and eaten within a few days. Then discarded. They are unsafe to store on the shelf as they were not canned properly. They are in the perfect situation to grow the botulism toxin and would be DANGEROUS to leave on the shelf.

    Sorry to be the bringer of bad news! But it is good you checked.

    Next time you want to use the waterbath, use a vinegar recipe and make them as a quick pickle (which brings the pH into the safe zone for shelf storage) OR use a pressure canner (which processes above 240 degrees – the only way to kill the botulism spore as well as other bacteria).

  60. Charles Taylor says

    Hi I’m not the same person but did the same thing. I canned them yesterday with no vinegar, Thayer sealed but then put them in the fridge this morning. How long should they last there?
    Thanks
    Charles

  61. Shirley says

    My pressure canner has malfunctioned and I have canned green beans in a water bath canner. After research I find that this is not recommended. Can I still put them in the pressure canner and if so, for how long? I am working on this project tonight.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Shirley,

      I just happened to catch your comment right as it came in. In order to answer your question, I need to get a few answers first.

      1) Did you use vinegar when you water bath canned these green beans or just water?

      2) How long ago did you water bath can them…today? Or has it been longer? Days?

      3) If not today, did you refrigerate the jars after processing or have they been sitting at room temperature?

      Answer that and I can tell you what to do next.

      ~Theresa

  62. says

    Thank you Theresa!! It’s clear that you know what you’re talking about so I thhink I’ll give it a try your way next time – everything you say make sense. Thank you for giving me such a detailed answer – I know how time consuming it is so double thanks! Keep up the good work. From a new fan, Crystal

    • Theresa Loe says

      Thanks so much Crystal!!

      No problem! – I am happy to help. You asked excellent questions. Ask me anything, any time!

      ~Theresa

  63. says

    Me again. I forgot to ask something else! I often switch off the canner (I have an electric one), check that the lids are sealed after about 5 minutes and then leave them in the water to cool down. Is this bad?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi again Crystal.

      No it is not bad. If they are already sealed at the time that you leave them, I think it would be okay to let them cool in the water. But if they are not sealed, I would pull them out after the 5 minute wait and let them cool on a wood board or towel. The reason I recommend this is that I would worry that leaving them in the water would prevent a strong vacuum seal from forming. (The air inside the jar must escape). But if they are sealed already (already pulled their vacuum), then I think leaving them to cool in the water is fine.

      Good question!

      -Theresa

  64. says

    Great article. I’ve been doing exactly as you say for years with great success, except for one detail: I only fill the water to cover the jars up to 3/4 so the water doesn’t cover the lids. I’Ve never had a problem. Have you ever tried this? The contents boil rapidly anyway. If possible, could you post an answer and email it to me aswell. Love the site and will be visiting more often.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Crystal,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      The reason for covering the jars in water (having the jars sit below the water line by at least one inch) is two fold:

      1) Covering the jars is the best way to assure that the tops of the jars and the upper half of the jar’s contents reach the proper temperature to kill any lingering bacteria. If they are not completely covered, the bottom of the jars will reach the proper temperature, but the tops may not.

      2) It also super heats the air inside the jar and gives a better vacuum seal. More air is pulled from the jar during cooling and the vacuum is stronger. (Making the seal last longer)

      Now, I realize that the method has worked for you in the past and sealed properly – and that is great. But it really is best to cover the jars in the water. That few degrees of difference can help prevent molds and bacteria that can cause spoilage and off flavors.

      At least now you know the reason behind the method. I hope that helps.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Fran,

      I don’t give specific processing times because each recipe is completely different and you have to follow the processing time for that particular food and jar size. The processing time for a jam is different from a pickle or tomato sauce. But then all food within a category have different processing times as well because the contents vary in acidity and density.

      It is important that you always try to follow a newer recipe that uses USDA recommendations. (All of the recipes I post here follow those guidelines.) You can also view the USDA guidelines directly and try some of the recipes they have listed there.

      http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/cesnutrition/Food_Preserve/usda_home_canning.htm

      I hope that helps. The USDA guidelines are long, but cover everything you need to follow to be safe when canning.

  65. Pam Dale says

    Thanks for this easy to follow guide.

    Here’s my question: If I want to can spaghetti sauce containing meat (sauce which has been cooked), do I need to can under pressure, or is the water bath method OK?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Whenever you can meat, you must use a pressure canner. Also, any time you have a tomato sauce with many other ingredients (onions, bell peppers, etc.) you must use a pressure canner because you will not know if the tomato sauce is still in the “safe” pH zone. So in your situation, you have both (meat and other ingredients besides tomatoes) so there is no doubt — use a pressure canner.

      I know that is probably not the answer you were hoping to hear. But remember, if you don’t want to pressure can, just freeze your sauce! It will last up to a year that way too and is very easy to do!

  66. Donna Crosby says

    I’ve been using a water bath canner and have learned something new today. In the past I removed the jars after the canning timing was over, did not wait the 5 minutes you and USDA recommend. Learn something new every day!

    • Theresa Loe says

      Me too Donna. I used to just pull them out when time was up. But the 5 minute wait is new. It has been found that by waiting those 5 minutes, you greatly increase your chance for a successful seal of the jar. So, it just ups your odds of a perfectly canned jar.

      Glad you learned something new!

  67. says

    Hi Theresa,

    Can I can corn and green beans using the water bath method? IF yes, how?

    Thanks
    Mary

    P.S. Just finished canning 16 quarts and 13 pints of tomatoes with a friend to shar between the two of us. We would like to can corn and green beans but we are seeing that we might have to invest in a pressure canner.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Mary,
      It sounds like you and your friend have been busy! Good for you!

      You can only can corn and green beans in a water bath IF AND ONLY IF you do them as pickles using vinegar. Otherwise, they MUST be pressure canned. It has to do with the pH level.

      Corn and green beans by themselves are low acid foods. That means that when canned without vinegar (an acid) they have to be processed at a very high temperature to kill all bad bacteria and botulism spores. This can only be done “under pressure” in a pressure canner.

      However, if you use a pickle recipe that uses vinegar, you are essentially creating a “high acid” food that can be water bath canned. Botulism spores cannot grow in a high acid environment. So, you don’t need the extra heat or the extra equipment (pressure canner).

      So the choice is up to you. Do you want to invest in a new pressure canner and process the corn and green beans as regular vegetables? Or do you want to make something like pickled green beans or a corn relish using vinegar and the water bath method?

      A third option is to freeze the corn and green beans. No special equipment necessary! You just blanch the veggies first to kill enzymes and freeze in air tight freezer bags. It might be the ticket for you.

      Good luck and happy canning!

  68. says

    While you may not need to sterilize jars for every canning job, I long ago decided that rinsing/washing canning jars and loading them into the canning pot as I set it on the stove to heat significantly reduces the amount of handling–and the amount of energy consumption–for every canning job. You need to heat the jars and the water in the canning pot anyway, so why not heat them together?

    I fill the pot so the water covers the jars as they stand (full of water also) upright in the rack. When the water boils, I usually wait ten minutes before starting to fill jars with produce. Then, for the first three or four jars, I lift a jar from the pot, emptying the jar into the canner. When I return a produced-filled, covered jar to the pot, the water level rises. I empty boiling water from later jars into the sink or into my greywater collection bucket. If I left all the water in the canning pot and filled all the jars with produce, the pot would overflow.

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Daniel -
      Nice to see you stop by!

      Well, it looks like you and I are in complete agreement here. I too believe in heating the jars and water together as I called out in step 3 above. I have seen people heat the jars in a separate pot, but what a waste of energy!

      You bring up a good point about the water level. For most half-pint and pint jars (the most commonly used sizes) your water level would not significantly change. But if you are using large quart sized jars, you would definitely want to pour the water from inside a few of the jars into something else. After cooling, we use the water in the garden.

  69. says

    I love all this info on canning! It is so helpful at this time of year. I love to can and do it all the time but I never knew about not having to sterilize jars with certain processing times. What a time saver that tip is! Thanks so much. -Karen

    • Theresa Loe says

      So glad you found this information helpful Karen!

      Yep – it is true. If you process the jars in the water bath for 10 minutes or longer, you do NOT have to sterilize. Isn’t that sweet??

      I will try to keep more time saving tips coming your way.
      ~Theresa

  70. says

    Thanks Teresa for a terrific article. I have always dried or freeze my bounties. But now I’m living in a small apartment and don’t have room for a big freezer. I’m also thinking that freezing my not be the smartest of options because it uses a lot of energy to keep them running. I’ve been leaning more and more towards canning because it makes more cents/sense.

    My mother and women relatives always got together at our house and canned during the summer and fall harvests. We had lots of great tasting home canned fruits, jams, jellies, and vegetables through the winter. Though I’ve missed some of this summers bounty for canning, your article has inspired me to start canning after the weekend. Thanks for getting me moving on this!

    • Theresa Loe says

      You are correct Evelyn. Freezing is a simple way to preserve, but it does take more energy to store. Also, many people worry about the possibility of a power outage and loosing all that wonderful food. So canning might be the answer for some that have those worries.

      I am so glad that you are taking the plunge! Keep us posted on how it goes. And don’t feel that you have missed out. I preserve things all through fall and winter. There are many possibilities. So stay tuned for more!

      ~Theresa

  71. says

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

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