Test Kitchen Tips
7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Canning
Canning mistakes not only waste your time, but they can be dangerous, too! Luckily, each one of these mistakes is easy to avoid.
Shutterstock / Artem Shadrin
Canning might be a great way to preserve the bounty from your summer garden, but everyone makes mistakes. Don’t worry, though: all of these common mistakes are easily avoidable!
Mistake #1: Overfilling Your Jars
Most recipes instruct you to leave some headspace–anywhere from 1/4-inch to 1 1/4-inches–between the top of the jar and the top of the liquid. If you’re overfilling your jar, you won’t be able to get a good vacuum seal. That means your food can discolor or spoil sooner than it should.
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Mistake #2: Using the Wrong Jars
It’s great to reuse your store-bought glass jars…just not for canning purposes. Canning jars are specifically designed to hold up under the high temperatures of the water bath and can handle the right amount of pressure without breaking.
Shutterstock / Steve Cukrov
Mistake #3: Reusing Lids
We’re all about recycling, but those canning lids are meant to be single-use lids. The rings won’t provide the same seal the second time around, making them less than safe. Feel free to reuse them for refrigerator pickles, just not those canning recipes.
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Mistake #4: Not Following a Recipe
Canning is all about safely creating a precise pH level inside the jar, so you’ll definitely want to stick to approved recipes. Otherwise, your shelf-stable goods could make people sick! Check out these top-rated recipes if you’re not sure where to get started.
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Mistake #5: Using the Water Bath Method Instead of the Pressure Canning Method
This mistake is all too common–and it can be pretty deadly, too. High-acid foods like pickles or foods preserved with sugar (like jam) do well with the water bath method. Low-acid foods (like soups or meats) need to be processed with a pressure canner to prevent botulism.
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Mistake #6: Leaving the Air Bubbles Undisturbed
Did you know you have to remove the air bubbles from the jar before twisting on the lid? It’s especially important for thicker mixtures like jam. All that trapped air can add to your headspace, causing an improper seal. Make sure you use a plastic tool to free the bubbles (as metal tools can damage the jars).
Shutterstock / Keith Homan
Mistake #7: Overtightening the Lids
It’s normal to want to screw the bands on super tight to make sure the contents are sealed, but resist the temptation. Overtightened lids can prevent air from releasing, causing buckled lids and improper seals. Simply screw on those bands until they’re fingertip tight and let the water bath do the rest.