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No water bath jam


I made my first batches of strawberry jam in the fall. I still have some jars left. The person who showed me what to do told me that filling the sterilized jars, sealing them, and turning them upside down until they were cool would be enough to create a good seal. So I made them that way.

Since then, I haven't heard of anyone else doing this and now I'm afraid that they aren't safe to eat. I've already been through several jars just fine but I'm worried about the others. Is it possible to boil the jars now without opening up the jars, reboiling the jam, and putting them into newly sterilized jars? I made them with about half the sugar since the strawberries were so sweet and the juice of about half to a full lemon per batch.

Are they fine? Should I store them in the fridge? Please help!

For future reference, if I use less sugar, what would the boiling time be for the filled jars?


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  1. That method is not currently recommended by the USDA.
    The concern is that turning the jars upside down may contaminate the seal which leads to poor sealing. Another recommendation is to hot water can the jars to ensure the product is sterilized.

    On the upside, strawberries are acidic and the addition of lemon juice helps. The acidity discourages botulism. Also, the strawberries were cooked.

    Is your jam safe? Most likely yes. People still make jam this way and have not gotten sick.
    If they did get sick, they don't live to tell about it. lol! (Just kidding)

    However, I would hot water can the jam, if I were to make jam. Personally, I would just make freezer jam. The fruit isn't cooked so freezer jam has a "fresh fruit" taste.

    For reference, I like the National Center for Home Food Preservation (USDA).

    Another good site is from the jar and lid making company (now owned by Jarden

    1. All the things dave_c said are correct.

      Check the seals. If you can remove the lids easily with just your fingers or the lids are flat or convex instead of concave, the seal has gone bad. If you see bubbles or it's fizzy in anyway it's fermenting. Throw it out. If you see mold, throw it out. Some people think you can just scrape the mold off and it will be fine but recent studies show that the mold can extend unseen down into the jam and contaminate the rest of it. Molds producing aphlotoxins are indistinguishable to the eye from molds producing mycotoxins and while the jury is still out it's suspected that aphlotoxins may be cancer causing. If you have any doubts about the jam just throw it out. Your peace of mind and your stomach are more valuable than a couple of jars of jam. You have no worries where botulism is concerned. The high acid environment of a jam is not conducive for botulism spores to make toxin.

      If you feel comfortable with the jam, since you made it in the fall, your best bet is to transfer it to freezer containers and freeze what you have left. Freezing it will alter the texture but a good stir after thawing should take care of that. In any case it's too long after having made the jam to reprocess the jars in a water bath. Next season learn how to can using a water bath. It's really very easy and your county cooperative extension probably offers free beginner classes.

      1. I haven't heard of turning them upside down, but I make jam by sterilizing the jars, filling them while hot, and making sure that the lids seal properly

        More worrying is the fact that you used half the sugar called for by the recipe. That means that you didn't actually make jam - jam has to be 67% sugar by weight or more, or it won't keep properly, as the sugar acts as a preservative. 1/2 the sugar plus sealing upside down plus not water bath processing would be too much of a risk for me.

        1. French grandmothers have been making jam that way for generations, and commercial pectin STILL gives that option. You're probably okay - but check it as above.

          Having grown up with a grandmother who hot-water-canned everything, I just can't bring myself to skip the water bath.

          1. I always thought after you got a seal on the jars and heard the ping, you could tighten the screw ring, turn them upside down for maybe ten minutes to redistribute the chunks of fruit so they didn't all rise to the top. Then turn right side up again to let cool and set up.

            13 Replies
            1. re: nemo

              that's AFTER you do the water-bath canning.

              1. re: nemo

                One thought. The contents are still hot when you flip them jars over. The residual heat may soften the sealing compound. It may be better the next day when the jars and contents have cooled.

                However, if you aren't having any problems, maybe it's not a prob.

                1. re: dave_c

                  it won't soften them any more than the sterilization process or the boiling water bath.

                  You WANT to soften the sealing compound with heat -- that's what makes the seal.

                2. re: nemo

                  Don't tighten the screw ring down until the jar and seal has cooled completely. If you tighten the ring or flip the jar upside down while the seal is still warm you could disturb and compromise it.

                  To help prevent floating fruit, macerate the fruit overnight with 1 cup of the sugar from the total amount used in the recipe. It will draw liquid from the fruit (reducing the amount of air in the fruit) and then use the fruit, liquid and all, in your recipe. Air that is in the fruit itself (and raw packed tomatoes), not the bubbles that you release while packing the jars, is what causes the fruit to float. I haven't tried this for pepper jelly but it solved the floating problem for summer fruit jams and whole fruit preserves for me.

                  Another way to distribute the fruit or peppers through the jam or jelly, is to skim it, then wait 10-15 minutes, then very gently stir before ladling into jars. If the fruit is still floating after the water bath, wait until the jar is just warm to touch, pick it up and swirl it in every direction EXCEPT upside down. You may have to do this several times.

                  1. re: morwen

                    I attended a jam making workshop last weekend and we were taught just the opposite. No water bath, and after jars were filled, we tightened the lids, turned them upside down for about 10 minutes, then right side up. I wonder if new methods have been introduced in the past 3 years?

                    1. re: deb_lb

                      That isn't new method -- that's an old, old method that has since been proven to be unreliable and unsafe by, oh, just about everyone.

                      Keep it to a water bath and keep it safe!

                      The instructors are being irresponsible by teaching this method.

                      (and yes, I've tried it -- it's the only batch I've ever not water-bath sealed, and it's the only batch I had to toss because it went moldy)

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Oh dear….I made the apricot jam last night. All lids are sealed (no popping), but now I'm concerned. I don't suppose there's anything I can do now?

                        1. re: deb_lb

                          I would take the lids off, replace with new lids (because turning them upside-down allows leakage that keeps the lids from sealing properly) and process with water-bath.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I had some seals on my raspberry jam fail when I canned them. I would like to remove the lids and water bath them. Do I need to remove the jam from the jars and heat it or just replace the lids and water bath them?


                            1. re: kmtaylor6

                              I'll quote the experts on this one:

                              At the bottom of the page, it says you can reprocess within 24 hours; otherwise, you'll have to refrigerate or freeze the jam.



                              Basically says to just toss it if you don't find it quickly.

                              (do bookmark those sites -- they're pretty widely considered the gospel for home preservation!)

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Thanks, that is helpful. I did find them immediately and reprocessed them. The question is what does that mean. Just the water bath part? I was not sure so I reboiled the jam and then did the water bath. They all sealed the second time.

                                1. re: kmtaylor6

                                  reprocess means you just re-do the water bath part, but it's not wrong to re-boil the jam, and definitely adds a degree of security.

                                  Glad all turned out well.

                3. Way back when, that was how I learned to make jam - though I never reduced the sugar.

                  Well, except when I'd use the Pomona's Pectin to make lower-sugar jams.

                  Anyway. . . I, my entire family, former in-laws, school's worth of teachers, Sunday school teachers, pastors, hostesses and any other lucky recipients have all survived. (I'm pretty sure.) I'd think, as long as the jars have remained sealed and there's no sign of deterioration, they're probably fine.

                  That said, there are a lot of things that used to be "okay" that, now, we've learned better ways.

                  1. Ah hon, this is the way we did it years ago. I have been canning 40 plus years and now it is considered unacceptable. But then I pressure can my own raw milk here on our farm...even butter, but it is all from my own animals and I can my own fruit that grows right here. But to be safe (I assume your berries are also store bought) water bath them. That or put them in the freezer:)

                    1. This was one of the more popular methods done in Europe when I was little.

                      People would end up with some filled jars that were mouldy, or that had gone off. I don't recall anyone getting sick, but as a matter of embarrassment, that may have happened.

                      Along came the wax seal for awhile, which invariably led to a bit of wax in the teeth. This was followed by waterbath canning with jars and the 10 minute sterilization before and after the conserves were cooked.

                      Today, people that waterbath use Bormioli jars here, or the more expensive North American products such as Ball or Kerr.

                      Less sugar or more sugar depends on your personal taste, the consistency of the gelling desired, and pectin used ( or seeds in a cheesecloth bag ).

                      Boiling time here for the jars, lids, and ring cap remains 10 minutes before, and 10 minute after.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                        The instructor was from Austria, interestingly. I use Ball jars and used equal amounts of sugar to cups of fruit (4 C. ea.), based on another recipe I found. The recipe in the Sure-Jell box said 7 C. sugar to 5.5 C. fruit, but I don't care for super sweet jam, and referred to the recipe I found (by a master preserver who referenced the Sure-jell recipe).
                        I've tried finding specific info on boiling after filling with no luck. How tight do you make the lid before adding to the water bath?

                        1. re: deb_lb

                          just finger-tight -- don't overtighten, as you don't want to compress the gaskets -- they need to allow the air to escape so you get a good seal.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Thank you! I think I made them on the tight side, but all sealed tightly, so that's a good sign.

                        2. re: SWISSAIRE

                          I chuckled when you referred to Ball or Kerr jars as 'more expensive'. In the US Bormioli or Weck jars cost a small fortune. Like $3 or more each.

                          Regarding the original question, the method described is a variation of 'hot-fill' packing. Hot fill is the way most commercial products are processed. Smuckers doesn't water bath all that jam. It's actually a variation of Pasteurization in which the jam (or other product) is heated to a certain temperature, held at that temperature for a specified period of time, poured into the jars which are turned upside down while held at that same temperature.

                          Another variant is what used to be called oven canning.

                          For whatever reasons - not the subject of debate here - the USDA does not approve either of these methods for home use.

                          1. re: JoeBabbitt

                            me, too -- I loved my Le Parfait jars, but gave to friends when I came back to the US, because it's more money to buy the seals every year than it is to buy new Ball, Kerr, or Mason jars.

                            1. re: JoeBabbitt

                              Hi Joe-

                              My wife wants to know what a set of 12 Ball or Kerr jars cost in the 8 or 16 ounce size in North America.

                              We tend to buy replacement sets of 12 on sale here. Bormioli, Weck, and others are the most common of the glass supply jars available. Ball or Kerr is considered top quality, but I have not seen then on sale.

                              Her other question is: What does your USDA approve of as the correct method for sterile canning ?

                              1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                here's Walmart's offering: http://www.walmart.com/search/search-...

                                the only methods the USDA recommends are water-bath canning or putting it directly into the freezer.

                                These are probably the most popular sites for home canning:

                                www.freshpreserving.com (yes, commercial, but the go-to for most folks



                                The National Center for Home Preserving

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Yes, please, for home canning, look at the Ball site or the National Center for Home Preserving or other .gov/.edu site.

                                  My grandmother, who "put up" food every year to last a year, was always ready to take advice from the county extension service. I know she would approve of my replacing some of her methods with their latest advice.

                                  You are free to follow any advice you choose, of course, but if you want well-researched methods, learn from the USDA.

                                2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                  I purchased Ball canning jars at Walmart yesterday and paid less than what is advertised online. A box of 12 reg. opening, quilted 8 oz. jars was $8.97, and a box of 4 wide-mouthed quilted 8 oz. jars was $4.27.

                                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                    I buy Ball jars for around $9.00 for a case of 12. For those of you who can a lot I'd suggest Fillmore Container http://www.fillmorecontainer.com/ You can get jars quite a bit cheaper there although you have to pay shipping so t's really only a good deal if you buy a bunch.

                                    Like Sunshine says, the USDA only recommends water-bath & freezing.

                                    1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                      Hi Joe-

                                      The wife tells me that she did find Ball 8 ounce jar sets on sale for 7 CHF.

                                      That explains where 2 new cartons of Ball jars I found in the garage cabinets came from.

                                      Joe, thanks for clarifying as I misunderstood your post. Waterbath of conserves are suggested by the USDA.

                                      For those that can read French, or German there are a number of good canning and conserve sites available online.

                                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                        even the hallowed Vitpris is recommending waterbath.

                                        (they still do mention turning the jars upside-down, but they recommend waterbath)

                                    2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                      I buy boxes of 12 jars from 4oz to quarts for about 9 dollars US. The half gallon sizes only come 6 to a box and I think I paid 12 dollars last time I bought half gallons.

                                      1. re: rasputina

                                        Hi Rasputina-

                                        We were in Austria this past week, picking fruit in an friend's orchard.

                                        His wife had 10 boxes of Ball jars and lids that she brought back from New York. She mentioned it cost her about .50 US cents per jar.

                                        We had dinner out in the orchard with the mosquitos, and cooked marmelade and conserves the next day. We used seeds primarily for pectin. Their freezer was full, along with the boot (trunk) of our SUV driving back.

                                    3. re: JoeBabbitt

                                      Thanks for the interesting information Joe. Do I understand correctly that the USDA doesn't recommend the method companies like Smuckers use? (which sounds like what we learned and what I did yesterday) I'll make sure to consume my jam within a few weeks. The tops are sealed tight (no pops) so they should be ok, don't you think?

                                      1. re: deb_lb

                                        maybe. All of the jars in my batch sealed with no pops, but they all grew mold.

                                        Home canning equipment cannot stand up to the performance of commercial equipment, so yes, the rules are different.

                                        You might also check with your local county extension service -- my county used to (and may still, I haven't checked) offer the use of commercial canning equipment AND advice from home economists for a pittance. You had to buy your own jars and produce, but you could go to the extension office and can dozens of jars at a time.

                                        1. re: deb_lb

                                          I've been doing some reading about this lately. When you have a processing plant like Smuckers you have to submit a plan for the processing to the USDA. The plan has to include the process, all the steps, all the materials, all the inspections done by your company and other agencies, how the product is tested for safety etc., etc., etc. The USDA has to inspect it all & approve it all. Seems a bit much for home canning.

                                          What State are you in Sunshine? The Co. Extension Services are pretty limited here in NJ.

                                          1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                            I'm in Florida -- we're fortunate enough to have an extremely active extension service, with all sorts of free classes in composting, water barrels, micro-irrigation, etc. for residents.

                                            I realize not everyone has such a great resource...wish I could share!