Monday, September 19, 2011

Canning Mis-Steps

I want to preface this post by saying that home canned food is perfectly safe. Canning is not hard, and preserving food is not some mystery or scary activity that should only be relegated to the "experts." To believe that is to believe that we're children and incapable of self-care. For most of my readers, I do not believe that to be true.

Canning at home is no more dangerous than buying canned food from the grocery store, and it carries with it the same risk for the same reason. Food that is not properly sealed can be incredibly dangerous, and even the best, most careful canners will end up with a bad jar or two, not often, but every now and then.

The very cool thing is that if one is only minimally observant (like me), it's pretty easy to figure out that a jar of canned food might be unsafe.

On the kids' show Sesame Street there used to a segment where there would be a group of things lined up and one of them was different. The characters would sing: One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn't belong.

I should have taken a picture of more than two jars of peaches, which I didn't, but one of these jars is not safe to eat. The contents of one of these jars will be buried in the backyard.

Can you tell which one?

On a canning jar lid, there's a little "button" in the middle of the lid. When the jar is sealed, the "button" collapses. If the button doesn't collapse, the jar isn't sealed.

Both jars appeared to be sealed. So, when Deus Ex Machina grabbed one of them to open for dinner the other night, the only thing that tipped me off was how the contents looked, and what I noticed was that the peaches weren't floating.

See the jar on the left, the peaches are sitting on the bottom of the jar? It looks more full than the jar on the right. The peaches in the jar on the right are pushed right up against the lid, and there's liquid on the bottom of the jar. This jar is sealed, and when we open it, and air gets into the jar, the peaches will drop.

I don't know for certain that anything has actually grown in the peaches on the left, and I don't know why the jar didn't seal properly. It could be that there is a small crack in the jar that I didn't notice. That happened once with a jar of pumpkin bread that I discovered had molded inside the jar. We didn't eat the pumpkin bread either ;).

Canning is perfectly safe, and done properly results in food that is delicious and usually a lot more wholesome than what comes in the BPA lined cans at the grocery.

Sometimes things happen, though, and the jar doesn't seal - even when we're sure it has. Paying attention will prevent any problems.

My only regret is that we have one less quart of peaches ... and when we were at the farm last weekend picking apples, they told me that all of the peaches are gone for the year. Good thing we have more jars ;).


  1. The same has happened to me in the past, Wendy. As you said, you have to pay attention, and if in doubt, do not's always a shame to have to throw out, though. I agree, I would much rather eat local fruit/veggies canned in glass than something that comes in BPA lined cans from half way around the world. I am still working on tomatoes ;). Pears and apples are starting up here, so that will keep me busy for a couple of weeks yet!

  2. well now I'm really worried because I got out a jar of pears to make a crumble and they aren't floating. Nor are the raspberries. Is the floating thing an absolute or just one part of a whole picture....

  3. @ Jess - all of mine float, but I don't know if that's the norm or just something I'm doing. I heard that if the jars are more full they won't float, and in an attempt to ensure enough head space, I may not be filling mine as full as they could be.

    Plus, this was one jar in a side-by-side comparison where all of my other jars had floating peaches, and this one did not. It really was a "one of these things is not like the others", and as such, I was sure it was bad. This may not be the case for you.

  4. I believe fruit tends to float:

    1) if you don't fill the jar super full with fruit (one of my issues, too)

    2) if the fruit is lighter than the syrup (this is according to the Ball Blue Book of canning).

    So, no Jess, "floating fruit" is not critical, but tends to be common. At least in my household! :)

  5. What struck me first was the color difference. It wasn't until I read your post that I noticed that the brighter peaches were floating while the duller peaches were not. I don't think I would have noticed otherwise.

    My husband saw the image and couldn't tell a color difference - he claims it's all in my head. This happens often enough that I am starting to wonder. Did anyone else see the difference, or am I just weird?

  6. @ Patricialynn - they are different colors. The color difference is even more obvious in person.

    And yes, it is the brighter ones that are floating ;). Very observant of you ;).