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canning drama-- did they seal? Are they safe? Lids are plaguing me!!

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Ok, I'm an idiot.

I made six jars of jalapeno jelly today, and processed them in boiling water. I have canned twice in the past (peaches). The last times I canned I had no trouble and heard the "ping" only a few minutes after I took the jars out of the hot water.

This time, about 4 jars sealed right up within 2 or 3 minutes of being out of the water. I didn't know (because I am an idiot) that I shouldn't mess with the lids for an hour or more (some say up to 24 hours), so I pushed in the seemingly unsealed lids to see if they had sealed. Immediately, they both popped and didn't come back up, thus appearing sealed. So, sealed?

Ok, next idiot move. I was worried about the jelly and whether it had set up nicely and whether the jalapeno pieces were nice and distributed in the jars, so I picked up one of the ones that had popped after I pushed it in and shook it around (the recipe I had said to do this if it seemed like the jalapenos clumped). I turned it upside down and pop! The top came unsealed.

PANIC! I'm not sure if the jar is just perennially unsealed or if my messing with it made it unseal. So, I re-processed that jar and took it out of the water. It popped a few seconds later.

My questions:

1. The two jars that did not seal until after I messed with the lids-- safe?
2. The jar (one of the two) that I reprocessed and then it popped-- safe?
3. Now I'm afraid that if I turn over all my jars they will come unsealed. Is this a legitimate concern? I am crazy I know.

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  1. First of all, you are not an idiot. Botulism is no picnic and it is wise to be safe with canning.

    1. The two jars that did not seal until after I messed with the lids-- safe? Yes. They would have sealed on their own anyway. You just helped them along.

    2. The jar (one of the two) that I reprocessed and then it popped-- safe? Yes. You turned it upside down and it "unpopped," but it would have "repopped" if you had simply righted it and waited. Now it is extra safe.

    3. Now I'm afraid that if I turn over all my jars they will come unsealed. Is this a legitimate concern? They do "unpop" when they are hot, not when cool. So next time just put them on a rack to cool and leave them alone!

    How do you eat the jelly?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Junie D

      Thanks so much! Your answers are very thorough and put my mind to ease. I suspected they were ok but just wanted to make sure that my messing with them did not make them unsuitable. I eventually turned both the cans I messed with over to see if their seal stuck and it did (I figured I might as well check while they were still hot so I could reprocess if neecessary) ; I'll check up later on the seals once they are totally cool. It was a good lesson learned: don't mess with the seals until the contents are done cooling!

      Now, pepper jelly, my oh my there are so many uses for it. The basic use is on crackers, usually with some cream cheese. But I like to use it like a BBQ sauce/glaze-- I can put it on grilled chicken or pork tenderloin (I wonder if it would be good on shrimp?). You can also put it on fish, or even use it to sweeten up a salad dressing. My favorite use it on a ham and swiss sandwich on nice, hard bread with a little mayo. I love the stuff! I used jalapenos from my garden to make them. It really worked nicely because the jalapenos in my garden are much hotter than the ones at the store (not sure why) so I have to find a way to use them all up--my husband isn't into very spicy foods so they often go bad before I use them all!

      1. re: cpilgrim84

        When you make this jelly, what besides the jalapenos is in it and how do you make it? It sounds great!

        1. re: boyzoma

          Oh it is awesome! I did mess around a little bit with the recipe I used. started out with this recipe:

          http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Jalapeno...

          The recipe is really simple: jalapenos (it says 14, I put in about sixteen but mine are small), green pepper (it said 1 large but I used 1.5 because mine was medium-sized) cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and liquid pectin.

          However, I read the comments under the recipe and actually modified it based off what people had said in the comment thread below the recipe. The original recipe says to cook and then strain the peppers, but people in the comments said to leave it unstrained so I did that. The recipe also says to use 4.5 cups of sugar, but the commenters suggested six. I decided to do six so that there would be more sugar to offset the fact that I didn't strain out the pepper pulp. Plus, the more sugar you use the more likely that the jelly will end up nice and solid and that it will preserve well. Also, the recipe said to add 4 fresh jalapenos, chopped, at the end, but I didn't do that because I had added the pepper pulp and wanted to keep it at a low roar heat-wise. However, you can just test it and see if you want to add the additional peppers, depending on your tastes. Finally, and this is really important, I decided to put six ounces of pectin in instead of the four that is suggested in the recipe. FYI-- pectin comes in 3 oz. packets, so measuring 4 oz. is a bit of a pain in the butt. What I did was add the first 3 oz. packet of pectin, take a cold spoon and spoon some of the jelly out, let it get cool, and then decide if it hardened as I wanted. It did not harden (as I suspected, since many in the comment had complained about their jelly being runny) so I brought the mixture back to a boil and added the next packet.

          Now, if that all seems like modification after modification after modification, let me tell you, I opened up my Ball-brand pectin pack to put the pectin in after all this modification and re-modification, and lo and behold inside there is a recipe that followed my adapted recipe to a t: six cups sugar, unstrained peppers, and two packets of pectin. So if I had just opened my pectin before I started all that, I could have done it without all the modifications! So if you buy the Ball-brand pectin, just use that recipe :

          )

          Some people do fancy stuff like add red bell peppers to give it a prettier color, or add food coloring or red pepper flakes for additional "flair." I also read someone added some blackberries to the mix as well, which I think would be amazing!

          As far as the canning process goes, you may already be an adept canner and know this already, but I used the process outlined here:

          http://www.pickyourown.org/pepper_jel...

          Even though on that site they are making more jelly than I did, they do a good job of outlining the process (including checking to make sure it is properly set, skimming the top and just the general waterbath stuff). However, the Ball-brand pectin pack had some good canning instructions along with the recipe that are as good as that website if you end up getting that brand of pectin.

          Good luck! If you make it, you'll find a trillion uses for it!