Canning is fun, but it also has its challenges. Don't get discouraged or throw out your canner if you don't succeed the first time! Your local Family and Consumer Sciences Agent can help you become an expert canner. Here are some questions and answers about canning that might be helpful to you.
Q: How do I know if my pressure canner is working safely?
A: When pressure canning low acid vegetables and meats it is important to use a canner with an accurate gauge. Your local Extension office can check your gauge for free. It is not necessary to check weighted gauges, only dial gauges. Water bath canners should be used for high acid foods only such as strawberries, peaches, etc.
Q: My jar did not seal. What should I do with the vegetables that I've canned?
A: If the defective seals are discovered within 24 hours of canning, the vegetables can be refrigerated and used in cooking. Otherwise, you must discard the product. Here are some reasons that the jar may not have sealed: chips or cracks in jar, not cleaning the top of the jar well before placing on the lids, using old rusty closures, lifting the jars out of the canner by the tops, or turning the jar upside down while hot. Always purchase new lids for each canning season.
Q: I see sediment in the bottom of my jars. What does this mean?
A: Sediment in the bottom of the jar does not always mean that the food you have canned has spoiled. It may be due to starch in the vegetables, minerals in the water, or fillers from table salt. It may also be due to improper processing (time and pressure), so check the seal and the canning directions to ensure that you have correctly processed your food.
Q: The liquid in the jar is cloudy. Are my vegetables spoiled?
A: Most of the time "cloudiness" indicates that your product has spoiled. Spoilage is due to either using the incorrect processing method or not processing for the proper length of time. It is recommended that the product be thrown out if the liquid is cloudy. Never taste the product if you suspect it has spoiled.
Q: What can cause spoilage?
A: Simple... incorrect pressure, incorrect timing, or incorrect method of processing. Always read your canning directions carefully to keep your food safe.
Q: Can I use my own "home" recipes for canning?
A: To guarantee the safety of your food product, it is important to use a canning recipe that has been tested and approved from reliable sources such as the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.
Virginia Cooperative Extension can help you can safely. You can CAN!
Frederick County Extension will be offering a Jam and Jelly canning workshop on May 16th and will be testing canner lids on May 14th. For more information call (540)665-5699.
Source: So Easy to Preserve by Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia. 2006