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Pickling error -- is this serious?

I just made my first batch of pickles and, like the guy in Office Space who put the decimal point in the wrong place, I messed up one mundane detail. I did not leave the jars in the canner for five minutes after the 10-minute processing was complete. Does this have an adverse effect on the pickles? Please advise.

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  1. I think this should be fine. Because of all the vinegar, pickling is very forgiving. I have a recipe for sweet&sour pickles that is not processed at all. It's supposed to be a refrigerator pickle. Boiling brine is poured over the cukes and other veg that have been packed into clean (but not sterilized) jars, and the lids applied and tightened. Even if not using proper canning jars, I have been able to store these at room temp for months without any deterioration.

    1. The amount of time the jars are left in the pasteurization medium depends on the temperature maintained during that part of the process. Conventional boiling-water canning involves maintaining 180 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the container used, but I've never used a recipe that required leaving the jars to rest in the water bath after that step. I'd think that leaving the jars in the water bath would encourage bacteria growth as the water cooled. I usually remove the jars from the water bath, tighten sterilized lids, dry them and leave them on a rack to cool.
      What canning recipe are you using.

      3 Replies
      1. re: todao

        am using the recipe for small batch bread and butter pickles from seriouseats.com site, and the general instructions for water bath canning on the pickyourown.org site. The extra 15 minute instruction came from pickyourownorg..

        1. re: todao

          Not that I'd ever leave jars in the canner after the time was up, but I don't see how doing so can encourage bacteria growth, since the whole point of canning in the first place is to kill bacteria. If there are any bacteria still around to grow then it was a canning failure anyway.

          1. re: rasputina

            I don't recommend it and I don't do it but some people can foods using the bath to pasteurize the ingredients without having lids loosely fitted in place. Then, once the jars come out of the bath, they place the sterilized lids on the jars and seal them; allowing them then to cool. If the ingredient temperatures fall below 180 degrees before the lids are in place it is possible for airborne bacteria or bacteria from some other nearby source to invade the jars. Cross contamination can occur quite easily in food processing. I agree that if there are any bacteria around to grow it's a "canning failure" but canning failures are not at all uncommon.
            I realize that I'm somewhat obsessive about food safety but, if you've ever been certified as a food handler you might have been exposed to some food contamination facts that'd scare the @!*%$ out of you and have you looking for contaminants with a microscope.

        2. The Virginia Cooperative Extension doesn't even mention holding times:

          "After the processing time is completed, remove hot jars and place then on a towel or rack to cool. Keep jars out of drafts. Do not turn jars upside down."

          From this link:
          http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/348/348-594/34...

          Also, the following is from the National Center for Home Food Preserving:

          "When the jars have been processed in boiling water for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars to allow the canner contents to settle. This waiting period is not required for safety of the food when using USDA or University of Georgia processing times, however."

          From this link:
          http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga...

          I did this once too, so don't feel bad!

          1. You processed the pickles long enough. I do a lot of pickling every year and use quite a few different books for recipes. Many do not tell you to leave the jars in the canner for 5 minutes after processing. I gather this is more of a safety issue in that the bottles are less likely to break if not taken out of the boiling water and the heat has been turned off for 5 minutes.

            1. Thanks, everyone. I'm relieved to know the pickles should be okay. Unless I screwed up some other undane detail. :)

              1. You leave them in the canner for five minutes after you turn off the burner to prevent "volcano-ing" of the ingredients out of the jar. If you yank a jar right out of the hot boiling canner, often the liquid will boil out, pushing the lid up and allowing food bits to get under the sealer. Two things happen, one you lose liquid and two the lid won't seal from the food bits. You're safe!

                The key of water bath canning is to get them to a full rolling boil and keep them there for the specified time using a tested recipe. I always verify my times at this website:
                http://nchfp.uga.edu/

                My BF and I just did 60 quarts of dills, and for quart jars at our mountain altitude it's 25 minutes. I think pints at sea level would be the 10 minutes you used, but check. The processing times are set to make sure that the center of the jar gets hot enough to kill any pathogenic bacteria, so it's not something you should tamper with. My girlfriend has always processed her pickles for only one minute---yike---and continues to do so. Another friend "bakes" them in a 350 deg oven for 20 minutes. I prefer to go with the latest from the food science experts and prolong the canning fun late into the night. Sigh.

                1 Reply
                1. re: applgrl

                  applgrl: Thanks for your explanation. Now I understand. Have been pickling for over 30 years and never had any "volcano-ing". I agree about following the recipe and processing the proper amount of time. I only use recipes out of reliable books. And, I confess, I don't like receiving homemade pickling gifts from people because I am not sure if they have followed the proper procedures.