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Jun 24, 2010 03:23 PM

Canning questions (am I going to give my friends a jar of botulism)

I'm new to canning, and made a batch of chutney to hot water process today (my first time!). I'm not sure that my jars have sealed, even tho I boiled for 10 minutes. I was following the guidelines from Ball, and they recommend letting the jars rest in the pot for 5 minutes before you remove them to cool. I got distracted by a phone call, and left them in the water longer than that. Could that be the reason they didn't seal?

I also thought maybe it was because I didn't tighten the rings enough. How tight is "finger" tight?

Finally, I did pick up and look at two jars to check the seal after I took them out of the water -- then realized afterward that I'm not supposed to touch or move them while they cool. argh.

I want to give these out to friends, and am hoping I don't poison them. any advice/guidance is appreciated!

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  1. Hi, I have canned a few times and it is scary to think you can make yourself and your friends sick when you were just trying to make them something special. Let your cans/jars sit for a couple of days and make sure your lids don't pop. If you push down on the lid and it does not make a popping sound, you are good to go. If it pops, throw the contents away. Also, you can use the glass and the ring again but not the lid, Throw that away. Finger tight just means you are forcing it to be really tight. BTW - My son taught me to make pickles and he learned from You Tube, Good luck and have fun.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Wildpiglet

      Just to clarify: finger tight is NOT very tight. You're just trying to hold the lids on/keep the water out long enough to boil the darn jars. Alan is correct.

      1. re: Wildpiglet

        >>If you push down on the lid and it does not make a popping sound, you are good to go. If it pops, throw the contents away.<<

        Aaah! Don't throw away good chutney. If a jar doesn't seal you can put it in the fridge and use as you would normally after opening.

        You could also freeze the contents, or re-process them using a new lid after cleaning the jar mouth well (food traces could interfere with sealing).

        I agree with Vetter that "finger tight" is NOT supposed to be "very tight".. "Hand-tight" is tighter than "finger-tight".. but you're never supposed to really crank the lids on. Why? Because the air in the jar (and sometimes the contents) will expand with the heat, and that hot air needs to **leave** the jar, so that the vacuum can be created when the jar then cools down. In the meantime the plastic-y inner ridge on the lid should have swollen to create the seal.

        I have only used one-piece lids because that is all they sell where I live, but I think the principles should be the same. I have been able to tell when I put a lid on too tightly: the jar lid will have bulged out from the inner pressure that could not escape.

      2. Don't worry about tightening the rings. They're just there to keep the lids from floating away. You don't need them tight at all.

        Also, don't worry about letting the jars sit in hot water for a few extra minutes. It isn't going to hurt anything.

        Finally, don't worry about touching or moving a couple of jars. It might keep them from sealing, but odds are against it.

        DO worry about whether the jars are sealed. Once they've had a chance to cool completely, press on the middle of the lid. There should be a partial vacuum in the jar that pulls the lid down tight. If it "pops" when you press down, you didn't get a vacuum.

        If some or all of your lids failed to seal, possible explanations are:

        1. Debris on the lip of the jar. You need a smooth surface to mate up with the lid. Wipe the lip carefully with a clean cloth before putting the lid on.

        2. Chips on the lip of the jar. While you're wiping, feel for snags. If the jar is chipped, you'll never get a good seal.

        3. Insufficient headspace. You need some air between the food and the lid that can expand (forcing out excess) and then contract (forming that vacuum we talked about). If there's food right up to the lid, the vacuum won't form.

        4. Bad lids. Lids are meant to be used once. Always use new ones each time you can.

        Even if the jars didn't seal, you don't have to pitch the chutney they contained. It's not preserved, but it's not ruined, either. It will keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks. or you could freeze it. Not sure what the consensus is on re-processing - others here might have better info.

        1. Not sure from your description how much time had gone by, but lots of times lids "pop" and seal as they cool. This can be a while after you take them out of the water bath.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Junie D

            Yes to this - I am a very new canner. Most of my cans sealed and popped immediately, but I've had them all out of the water bath, cooling on a few layers of towel, and been cleaning up the kitchen later when I heard the "ping." Patience.

            1. re: HillsofBeverly

              I put up a dozen pints of stock yesterday: many of them "popped" (well, more of a plwip) while they were still in the closed canner. It's all a matter of thermodynamics: as soon as the air inside decreases in volume enough to form a partial vacuum, the lids will be drawn down with a slight noise. I've had other batches take as long as a couple of hours to seal.

              PV-nRT was always my favorite law!

          2. I have made jam and chutneys hundreds of times and never used a water bath. I make the jam, let it cool about 10 minutes, meanwhile I boil my kettle (old English habit for boiling water!), put a spoon in a jar while I pour in about an inch of water, remove spoon add boiled water to the next jar and so on. Pour water away from each jar, spoon in jam almost to the top of each jar, put the seal lid on each jar and add the loose top. About an hour later I seal the jar tight. I have yet to kill anyone (that I know of). My jams have lasted a year unopened until we finally get to the last jar.

            btw I have made jams using old jars, as long as they are dishwasher clean, I use the same method with boiling water.

            3 Replies
              1. re: jpc8015

                4 years later and I still haven't killed anybody!!

                1. re: smartie

                  how much longer do you intend to keep spinning that barrel and pulling the trigger?

                  They're even recommending waterbath in Europe, and that took a long time to adjust to (and has just appeared in the last few years). The one and only batch I ever made and *didn't* waterbath all went moldy. They leave 1/4" headspace, seal the jars, then turn them upside down to seal. (it doesn't work)

                  At the very least you need to be sealing the jars while the product is hot, as that's how you create the seal that becomes a vacuum when the hot air contracts inside the jar.

            1. You can reprocess the jars, though the quality my decrease a little. With a chutney it probably won't be too noticeable. Empty all your chutney back into the pot. Wash your jars and check the rims. Bring your water bath up to a boil. Sterilize your jars and keep them hot until you're ready to fill them. Use new lids and put them in hot water right before you're ready to fill your jars. Bring the chutney back up to a boil, ladle into the hot jars leaving 1/4" head space. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth. I dip my cloth in hot water with a bit of white vinegar in it to make sure it picks up any sticky drops. Put on your lids and screw the rings on snugly. You don't want to crank them down but finger tight can be interpreted too loose. Screw them on like you would the lid of your mayo jar. Process for the recommended time. Leaving them to rest in the pot is usually a safety thing so the water stops boiling and the steam subsides so you can lift the jars without getting splashed or steam burned. Leaving them in if you get distracted won't hurt. Set your jars on a towel or layered newspaper when your remove them because setting them directly on a cool counter could cause them to crack from the temp change. Leave a little space between jars for air circulation. As the jars cool you should hear a "ping" as the vacuum forms. Sometimes they ping immediately, sometimes not. When they're cool enough to touch, press a finger down on the center. If there's no up and down wiggle, you've got a seal. Holding the jar at eye level you can see if the lids are concave (sealed). If you don't want to go to all the bother, you can still give the chutney to your friends now and tell them to refrigerate it. It will keep a long time in the fridge.