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Not a canning virgin anymore!

Although this was not without errors and frustrations (first times can be so awkward), I did can two jars of zucchini relish today! I halved the recipe from the Ball Blue Book (just wanted to learn the technique--didn't need four jars!) Heard that satisfying "pop" sound after I took the cans out of the water bath and tomorrow morning I'll check the seal. Yeah, I did some cursing (in two languages), but in the end I just go excited to do some more.

Okay, I forgot to release air bubbles in one jar, the lids came to a boil and had to be replaced, and I didn't have quite enough vegetables (I guess the volume measurements meant "packed"). My canning rack apparently was good for pint jars, not half-pint jars, so the jars kept wanting to topple. The jars also touched the bottom of the water canner, so I fashioned some sort of contraption out of a foil grilling drip pan to keep the jars from contact with the bottom. I need to take lessons in jar lifter technology and I have the vegetables floating on top of some pickling liquid. But despite it all, I'm ready for more! With peaches starting to come in, perhaps peach jam will be up next!

And I want to thank all you Chowhounds who helped out by answering my questions!

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  1. I just bought a 23 qt. canner at our local thrift store and am a little nervous about trying it my first time. I have the Ball Blue Book and your post has encouraged me to go ahead and give it a try....thanks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: snix

      Oh, do post on your efforts! I got the 11.5 qt model, for pints, but I'll be canning half-pints. I'm looking forward to seeing what's available at the farmers market for my next foray into Can-do Land!

    2. Congrats!

      As you found out, you don't want the jars touching the bottom of the pot, so you can use a rack, a trivet or even a dish towel.

      The current recommendation (USDA) when the process time is done, you turn off the heat and take off the lid of your pot/hot water canner. Wait 5 minutes before taking out the jars. Makes it easier to pull the jars out without steaming open your pores.

      Floating fruit/veg can be minimized by hot packing (cooking for a few minutes). However, some items tend to float. Heads-up... peaches will have that tendency to float.

      11 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        A dish towel? I didn't know that I could use a dish towel. For some reason, I thought that the water had to surround the can, including the bottom of it. Maybe I'll give the dish towel a try the next time (or a round cooling rack--I'll have to check the stores for that).

        Thanks for the tip, dave_c!

        1. re: nofunlatte

          a dish towel is used for the bottom of the pan so the glass jars don't come in direct contact with the bottom of the pot/canner. However, a dish towel is definitely a last minute improvisation. :-)

          1. re: dave_c

            For me, using a towel is more than a last minute improvisation. I have a very old aluminum stock pot that I use for canning. I've never found a rack to fit the bottom of it and commercial canning racks are just a bit too wide. For nearly all the years I've been canning, and it's a lot of them, I soak an old-fashioned linen tea towel until sopping wet (so it sinks instead of floating) and fold it so it almost entirely covers the bottom of the pot. Works perfectly well; in fact, well enough that I've long since given up looking for a rack that will fit.

            1. re: JoanN

              Thanks, JoanN and dave_c. A dish towel it will be! I thought of a round cake cooling rack, but I looked at a few places (e.g. WalMart) and didn't see them. But the dish towel is what I will use the next time!

              1. re: nofunlatte

                A dish towel is messy...just put some of the jar bands on the bottom of your pot, and set the jars on top of those. Much neater.

                1. re: momskitchen

                  The one time I tried that my jars were knocking against each other, the lids were bouncing on the bottom, and I thought I had a concussion band in the kitchen. I was really apprehensive something was going to break. I gather you've never had that problem. I admit I'd be happy not to have to wring out a hot wet towel when I'm done canning, but I'm not sure I'm willing to substitute it for the cacophony of lids crashing around on the bottom of the pot and the fear that one of my jars is going to crack.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    Never had that problem, JoanN. But it is rare that I do that - only for small batch canning. For most of my canning, I just use a canning rack as it was intended to be used. If you are going to be canning more than once or twice a year, just use a canning rack.

                2. re: nofunlatte

                  I was using rings zip tied together until last week. The rings worked but not satisfactorily because the bottom of a 4 oz jar will slip through the rings. I found our local hardware store carries parts for pressure canners including the round perforated plates in an assortment of sizes that fit in the bottom of pressure canners for the jars to sit on. I found one that fits the bottom of my stock pot perfectly for $10.

          2. re: dave_c

            My peaches float every year - i have heard it's a combination of high sugar in the syrup, and not wanting to cook my peaches too much. I deal with it - they taste very good.

            1. re: dave_c

              When making peach jam, macerate the fruit overnight in half of the sugar the recipe calls for. The next day pour the juice from the peaches and the rest of the sugar into your jamming kettle. Cook the juice until you're about halfway to the gel set point. Then add your peaches and continue with the recipe as normal. When the jam is done, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes, stir to distribute the fruit, and then ladle into jars and water bath. I don't know the science behind it, but macerating overnight seems to keep fruit from floating. I learned it doing whole strawberry preserves, then tried applying it to other fruit with success.

              1. re: dave_c

                We have been using dish towels for years. Works well.