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Canning jars pop after two weeks or more

I can orange marmalade once a year (maybe), so I'm not very experienced. Last year I started experiencing a problem with seals popping, and it is happening again this year.
The jars all seal, and everything appears great. Then about a week out, one pops up, then a week later, another... and before long 10 - 20% of my seals fail.
This year I was a fanatic about cleaning the jars before placing the lids. (The jars and lids are all Ball, all lids are new.)
I boil and simmer the lids, but notice some white hard-water residue and wonder if that could be contributing to the failures.
(I've canned about 15 years and NEVER had any fail - beginners luck I suppose - until now.)

By the way, the lids still hold on tight and I feel like they are still really sealed, but wouldn't dare take the chance, so I give them away immediately and tell everyone to refrigerate and eat right away. It's a drag because these are supposed to be gifts.

Why do they seal initially, then pop up several weeks later? (I live in Florida, and room temp can be typically warm.)

Thanks,
Lynn

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  1. Were the jars filled to the proper level? Too much headroom will cause a weaker seal. Underprocessing is another possibility.

    5 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      I always fill to point where jar meets rim - about 3/4 inch or more from lid.

      I don't process in a water bath - not for citrus marmalade. I don't remember why, but I was taught that it wasn't necessary for citrus, and they seal as they cool.

      1. re: laboutwe

        Ok, but you want the jars to be sterile. And the contents must be hot enough to get a good vacuum seal as it cools. It's probably not critical that it didn't make a tight seal. My grandmother used to seal such things with paraffin.

        1. re: GH1618

          The contents are still boiling when I ladle them into the first jar. I usually only make about 6-8 per batch, so it's not about heat.
          Last night I checked and one of the lids - which was previously sealed and popped wasn't even stuck down. It literally fell off when unscrewed the ring. I felt the jar: no knicks, no stickiness; perfect and clean. However, there was a blemish on the rubber part of the lid.
          I guess it's most likely the lids' imperfections. But that means about 15% of my lids are bad, meaning I have a lot of marmalade to eat right away.
          That also means I can't trust storing them for long term. (Last year, some popped up, popped down - repeatedly.)

          1. re: laboutwe

            Check the content of those jars. If it's still good, refrigerate, buy new lids, re-boil the marmelade and give it another try - with processing, if you like.

        2. re: laboutwe

          First, you need to fill the jars to 1/2 inch from top.
          Second, the lids should not be boiled. Bring water in a pot to a simmer over medium heat and drop in lids, keep lids warm until ready to use, but do not boil.
          Third, you need to process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I don't know where you heard you don't have to process marmalade, but that isn't true. I've heard that before about not processing, but as you just found out, you need to.

      2. Have you contacted Ball?
        I recall that boiling the lids is not required, just simmering for 5 minutes. Long boiling of the lids prior to use can sometimes cause the seal to deteriorate.
        Have you changed the recipe at all? And do you wash the fruit with soap and water before using?
        From what you describe, it sounds as though the fruit is fermenting.

        2 Replies
        1. re: KarenDW

          Fermenting....interesting. I use a citrus based fruit-wash (very dilute), then rinse well before making the marmalade.

          I haven't contacted Ball - I've never seen this issue addressed on the net.

          1. re: KarenDW

            Fermentation was the first thing that came to my mind, since it happened well after the canning. I'd guess the marmalade wasn't hot enough to kill everything inside, or some stray atmospheric yeast got trapped inside and pigged out on the sugars.

            I don't boil my lids either: since I pressure-can everything, I rely on the super-heated contents to kill everything inside. When my mother did jams and jellies, she didn't even use lids - she poured a 1/2" layer of liquid paraffin on top of the hot contents of the jars. It kept the air out, and I don't recall problems with the jams or jellies - that much sugar acted as a preservative. The last time I made jam, though, I pressure-canned it.

          2. I am concerned that you do not process...I really think that is the issue. I make marmalade and ALWAYS process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes and never had a problem.

            1. 1. The directions say not to boil the flats, just put them in simmering water.
              2. I got a visibly bad batch of flats last year, Ball gave me a coupon to replace them.
              3. The Center for Food Preservation says to process marmalade in a water bath.

              http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/citru...

              1 Reply
              1. re: kengk

                ...directions...? I've heard of those.

              2. If I were you, I would go ahead and process in a hot water bath. It's just safer and more foolproof. However, there are occasions when I had skipped this and put hot preserves into sterilized jars. When I do that (and I usually don't), I boil the jars first, then keep them hot in the oven until I am ready to fill them. If you aren't going to process in the boiling water bath, it is imperative that not only the preserves, but the jars themselves, be very hot (too hot to touch) when you fill them. As you are in Florida, that could be an additional factor, as what you are relying on here is the difference in temperature between the room and the hot jars/preserves to form the vacuum as they cool.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MelMM

                  MeIMM - do you suggest that I go ahead with the water bath NOW on the recently canned jars?

                  1. re: laboutwe

                    At this point, if the marmalade is good at all, the solution would be to dump the marmalade into a pot and reboil, then re-can into sterilized (and very hot) jars. I would err on the side of caution and process in a boiling water bath. But you would definitely need to reboil the marmalade before packing into clean jars and processing.

                2. What catches my eye in your description is that you "I boil and simmer the lids".

                  I believe with with "modern" lids, you should not boil the lids. If the water is too hot the sealing compound may be damaged before it's set onto the jar.

                  What I do is bring the water to a boil and take it off the heat. When the water is around 190F, I drop in the bands and lids.

                  Edit...
                  I just read that you are not hot water canning your product. That could be another reason why you're not achieving a full seal. Hot water canning will create a vacuum in the jar which will help set the lid onto the jar.

                  1. Thanks for all your very informative replies. You all have collectively convinced me to use a water bath from now on. (The acid in the citrus is why I was told water bath wasn't necessary... but I read yesterday it's b/c botulism "rarely" survives in that atmosphere. *rarely)
                    Can I do a water bath on cooled jars?
                    Does water bathing continue cooking it (it has to, yes?) increasing the jelled aspect, making the marmalade denser?
                    I don't want to reheat the marmalade and repack it - I did that last year and it made it super-congealed, not very good, but I'll certainly do a water bath now if it's still an option at this point.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: laboutwe

                      If the jars have set out for over a day or so, I'd dump all the marmalade in a pot and bring to a boil and them recan them. I wouldn't be comfortable just boiling the jars, especially if they had not sealed. Maybe you can add some extra water or juice to keep it from being so extra congealed?

                      1. re: laboutwe

                        No, it's not possible to water-bath it unless you dump the marmalade out and bring it back to a simmer, then repack in hot, sterile jars. If you really don't want to, and want to keep your marmalade around longer, repack it in freezer containers and freeze what you won't consume in a month or so.