New to canning, scared I messed up!

OldLaceJanuary 19, 2013

Hi all,

After a long time of wanting to take up canning, I did what I felt was a decent amount of research and decided to can some apple butter. I don't have and family or friends who can, so I had to do it on my own.

I understand that fruits can be canned in a water bath, and veggies and meats have to be pressure cooked to kill botulism.

The recipe I followed for the apple butter called for lemon juice, but I didn't have any handy and I figured it was only for flavor anyway, so I skipped it, made my apple butter and processed 5 jars of it.

Then a few hours later I read a different recipe (for cherry pie filling) that said you have to add lemon juice to these things because it helps with the acid levels to kill bacteria.

Now I'm scared I messed up my apple butter! The last thing I want is to make my husband and kids sick because I canned bad food! Should I hurry up and eat it? Save it? Dump it down the sink? Can I open it, add lemon juice and try again? The seals on the jars popped perfectly, so I know they're sealed, but I can't stop worrying about this stupid lemon juice! Please help!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Could we start with knowing the specific recipe you used? Either post it or link to it if online? Tell us the source of the recipe?

The odds are that you apple butter is fine and botulism isn't usually a concern when dealing with properly processed acidic fruits anyway, just molds and fungus issues.

Some apple butter recipes call for added acid, others do not. Sometimes it is for color preservation and sometimes for safety since the pH of apple varieties vary widely. But the proportions for the other ingredients differs in those recipes too. So since your recipe did list it it would really help to see the whole recipe just to be double sure.

But you have learned a valuable lesson about canning - don't make assumptions and stick with the recipe. :) In tested and approved recipes all the ingredients are there for a reason.


PS: and welcome to the forum too!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 5:24PM
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I used this recipe:

You're right, I definitely learned a valuable lesson! I just figured, with all of the brown ingredients, and with the apples already so well cooked, who cares about preserving the color? But now I think I'll stick to the recipe a little better ;)

I'm really hoping to get the hang of this! I plan to start a garden soon and I want to master the basics before I start canning my own food!

Oh and THANK YOU for your quick reply! Please look over this recipe and let me know what you think!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 6:22PM
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For what it's worth - the recipe I posted shows red apples, but I used one bag green and one yellow (because I'm colorblind, I guess).

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 6:30PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The color of the apples doesn't matter, so don't worry about that.

Some conservative canning recipes call for acid in apple butter because a lot of people use bruised cull or windfall apples, which have a higher pH. So in that case the lemon juice assures a safe level of acidity.

But you used fresh bagged apples, which should be fine as-is.

Personally, in this case I wouldn't worry about it. As Dave said, if there's an issue it's far likely to be something ordinary like mold, which you would recognize anyway. A jar like that is just discarded.

Eat the apple butter without concern and take it as a lesson learned. It may be this will turn out to be a big favor to you as you continue to develop canning and preserving skills.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:18PM
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Thanks to both of you for your help. I wish I had a mentor to guide my hand in person as I'm sure is how most people take up canning. It's nice to know I found a little community here to help me learn what I never grew up with. Looks like I can get help here when I start my garden, too!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:51PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The best sources for learning the basics is NCHFP (linked below) and the Ball Blue Book, the bible of home canning.

Care should be taken when using internet blogs, YouTube videos, and many other online websites as they are often a source of untested or even risky information. The search here will pull up many discussions about safe and UNsafe canning instruction sources.


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Thank you for that. If this is going to be a big hobby in my life then I need to be educated. I had a nightmare last night that I went to check my jars and they were all covered with mold :P

I can see how blogs and such can be a scary source. This isn't just regular food. I saw on another thread here last night, someone (maybe you) said "Canning is science, not art."


    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 12:17PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Welcome to the forum. Great group here and Dave and Carol provide so much time and knowledge, it's amazing.

You might want to check out your local extension service office. I've linked to a site where you can choose your county. From there, you should be able to get more information about your local office. Many teach food preservation classes.

Here in Oregon, we run a state-wide hotline in the summer to answer questions and classes are taught in a few places throughout the state.

You may be able to meet some like minded people!

Good luck,

Here is a link that might be useful: California Extension Service

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 9:32AM
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That's not a bad idea. That would make me feel more confident in the food I can! Last night I was combing over the NCHFP site, reading the manuals on that site, and getting a feel for my next project. All I know is I'm going to need some ClearJel.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 10:07AM
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