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Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questions!!

Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 17:23

Hi everyone! I'm usually in the gardening forum, but I've been wanting to can this year for the first time (my mother and grandmother did) ... I've been lurking and reading for a while, especially about all the health and safety issues.

I am planning my first couple batches tonight and I had a few questions that I'd really appreciate answers to :)

I have my mother's old BWB canner. I'm planning to start with and make Annie's Salsa, Pickles, Dilled Green Beans, and Pickled Pepper Rings. Jams will come later in the fall, I think. She will be helping me learn to use the canner properly etc, but the old "tried and true" ways that she is used to in terms of health seem to be outdated.

1. Can I mix half pint and pint sized jars in the BWB at the same time? Can I mix cans of different vegetables that need to be processed for different amounts of time? If so, can I remove some partway though? ie if Jars A need 10 minutes, and Jars B need 15 minutes, can I put them all in together and just remove Jars A after 10 minutes, leaving the rest in there longer?

2. How do I cool them down? Do I just remove the jars from the water after 10 minutes? My mother remembers letting jars sit in the water after the 10 minutes are up and letting them cool down for a little while before removing? Do I take the pot off the heat? Is this right, or does this over-process them?

3. Once you pour your boiling liquid into the jars (before sealing), do you wait a couple minutes for the steam to subside before putting the lids on and processing them or do you cover immediately?

4. I have a Pickle recipe called Linda Lou's Heinz Pickle Recipe which calls for:
4 lbs pickling cukes
14 cloves garlic, peeled & split
1/4 cup salt
2 3/4 cups distilled or apple cider vinegar 5% acidity
2 3/4 cups water
12 to 14 sprigs fresh dill weed
28 peppercorns

My question about this recipe is about the spices. I know you can't change the balance of fresh herbs (eg the dill), but I was wondering if I could add Pickling Spice to this (as there isn't any) in addition to the Peppercorns? I make my own pickling spice and I'd like to use it. Does it matter how much I add? Would I add it to the Vinegar solution before boiling, or add directly to the jars afterwards (along with the fresh dill and peppercorns)?

5. Most recipes call for either regular or cider vinegar ... I have a couple interesting vinegars too (Malt, Sherry, Tarragon) and I was wondering if I could substitute ANY vinegar as long as it is at least 5% strong?

6. How long can you wait between boiling the vinegar/water brine and pouring it over the veggies and actually putting them INTO the BWB? does it have to be pretty much immediate or can I make 1 recipe, and then let it sit while I make another, and then process them both together in the BWB?

7. Is it enough to wash my jars in a hot dishwasher before using or do I have to do something stronger to prepare them?

I'm sorry about all the questions at once, but things kind of come up once you start thinking about the practicality of canning, having never done it before, that didn't occur to me earlier. Again, I'd really appreciate answers as I'm planning to try these later tonight.

Also, if there is anything else that I haven't asked that you think might be important for a newbie to keep in mind, that other people have trouble with their first time, I'd appreciate that too!!

Thank you so much! I'm really looking forward to canning, I grow loads of veggies each summer and really wanted to learn how to preserve them for the fall/winter instead of just using fresh in the summer.


Follow-Up Postings:

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One more question

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 17:26

1 more question ... my grandmother has always added a fresh grape leaf to her jars of pickles ... I also read online that it is common. But I know fresh veggies/herbs throw off the pH balance so my question is whether an added grape leaf to the canning recipe will make any difference if all the other directions/amount are followed to the letter?

Thank you!!


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 17:55

Ah, I thought of another question too ...

Should everything be hot packed, ie jars heated before filling? Or just if is says so specifically in the recipe?

How do you heat your jars?


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

Welcome! I'll tackle a few of the questions.

Can I mix half pint and pint sized jars in the BWB at the same time?

If you must for some reason but you will have to process them all for the time called for for the largest jars. This 'may' result in over-processing, over-cooking, the food in smaller jars. So try to avoid mixing jar sizes.

Can I mix cans of different vegetables that need to be processed for different amounts of time?

I'll assume we are talking about pickled vegetables since plain vegetables must be done in a pressure canner. No, mixing foods with different times in the same batch is not recommended. You can't really remove jars 1/2 way through as the jars are supposed to sit in the canner for 5 mins. after the burner is turned off and the lid removed. See link below.

How do I cool them down?

Also addressed in the link below. Place them directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft. Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.

Once you pour your boiling liquid into the jars (before sealing), do you wait a couple minutes for the steam to subside before putting the lids on and processing them or do you cover immediately?

Fill jars and put on the lid immediately and immediately put the jar into the pre-heated canner. Filled jars should not be left sitting on the counter waiting. Processing times are based on the jars going hot-as-possible into the canner.

Yes you can use your own pickling spices as long as they are dried spices. The amount is up to you but use with care if putting them into the jar as they will get stronger sitting on the shelf. Normally they are placed in a spice bag and it is placed into the vinegar before and during heating. Then the bag is removed before filling the jars.

You can use any vinegar as long as it is 5%.

Hot dishwasher is fine. Anything that will be processed for 10 min. or longer does not require pre-sterilized jars.

I strongly recommend some detailed reading of all the basic intro info provided by NCHFP. I think you'll find it answers most all your questions and it also provides lots of the tested approved recipes.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your canning. :)

Dave

PS: the grape leaf is an old wives trick for supposedly making pickles crisper. Whether or not it works is very debatable and so seldom used but you can if you wish IF the recipe you are using contains sufficient vinegar - preferably straight vinegar but at least a minimum of 50% vinegar to water. Instead, Pickle Crisp is recommended if needed.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to use a BWB canner


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

OK, let's see if I can start answering some of your questions....
First, Welcome!! :)

1. & 2. Yes, you can mix sizes in the same pot, but you must process for the longest time. You can mix different types of products.
You cannot take things out mid process. You need to boil for the required time, turn the burner off, remove the lid and allow an additional 5 minutes "just sitting there". I slide the pot off the burner if possible. Otherwise, just turn the burner off and leave it there.
When the 5 minutes is up, carefully remove each jar and place it on a towel on the counter (away from drafts). Find a good spot because ideally, you leave it sitting there for 24 hours. You CAN move the jars after they're pretty well cooled, but why handle them multiple times??

3. Cover right away. Fill, screw the lid on and place into canner.

4. Great recipe!! Yes, you can add your pickling spice. DRY spices are OK. You can add directly to the jar or boil with the vinegar, then remove. Your choice.
Personally, I'd boil, then remove just because I don't want all the spices floating in my jar. A little is OK with me (i.e. dill and peppercorns). You'll have to experiment to see how much you like in your jars.

5. You can use any vinegar as long as it's 5%.

6. You need to process as quickly as possible. You can't fill the jars and let them sit on counter while you make another recipe. They'll cool and are then at risk of thermal shock when placed into the BWB. They can also start to seal, then break the seal in the BWB.
If you want to make 2 recipes, read both to see if they're somewhat compatible as far as processing times and methods.

I have packed my cukes into jars with required spices for two different types. Make 2 pans of brine at the same time and pour over appropriate jars of cukes. Process as soon as they're filled.

7. Dishwasher is fine for anything that's going to processed 10 minutes or more.

You don't need a grape leaf. IF a recipe calls for it, you can use it, but I haven't found that it's of any use in preserving the crispness. Pickle Crisp is a better, easier option for me!

My jars are kept hot in the BWB waiting to be filled or in the dishwasher on the Heated Dry cycle.

My process in a nutshell:

Wash jars.
Place small pan with lids and rings on a back burner -- LOW heat.
Place BWB canner on the stove, fill about half to two-thirds with water. Turn on low-med. heat.
Either place your empty jars in the canner or keep warm in dishwasher.

Prepare your recipe.

Turn heat up under canner.
Remove 2 or 3 jars at a time from canner.
Fill jars. Place lids/rings on them and place back into canner.
Repeat until all jars are filled.
Make sure heat is now on high and place lid back on canner.

When the canner comes to a boil...start timing.
When time is up, turn off heat and pull canner off the burner (if possible).
Reset timer for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from canner to a towel covered counter space.
Listen for the ping!! This is the FUN part! :)

After 24 hours you can remove rings and check your seals.
Store them away!
Deanna


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Smile...

Dave types faster!! :)

Deanna


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 21, 11 at 21:25

Thank you so much to both of you for the welcome and the advice! I really appreciate it :)

Yes, I am trying only pickled vegetables and Annie's Salsa this time ... I wanted to start with some easier things!

Thank you for the explanations and the link - it makes a lot of sense just to leave the jars in the BWB for 5 minutes after canning to cool off. I guess everything is just done in a bunch of different batches. My canner holds 6 jars at a time, so it will take a while to do everything but if you can't pull jars out part-way through, there's really no other way!

I will try using a spice bag for my pickling spice, I don't think I want a ton of stuff floating around either :) The grape leaf certainly sounds like an old wives tale. I think I might try it anyways, I grow grapes so I have grape leaves on hand easily ... might as well try it and see, as long as there are no safety issues.

Processing as quickly as possible was one of my main questions, I probably would have done it wrong so I appreciate your quick responses!

Deanna - you said to remove the jars from the canner and lay on a towel on the counter. Then listen for the Ping. What exactly makes the Ping sound? Is it the sealing?

Also, my BWB canner doesn't have a rack, like the National Center for Home Food Preservation links talks about. I assume they don't want the jars to sit on the bottom of the pot, so can I use a towel and just lay it underneath?

I'm off to start ... hopefully everything goes well! Thank you so much, both of you, for your quick and very helpful answers :) I really appreciate it.


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

I cannot imagine pickling spice in dill pickles, but if you want, then go ahead...
Then, the grape leaf can make the pickles bitter or "funky" tasting. My friend gave me some she did that way and we threw them out. It is not a safety issue, though. If you want to do it, then go ahead. The best thing is to buy Pickle Crisp and use that instead.


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

I assume they don't want the jars to sit on the bottom of the pot, so can I use a towel and just lay it underneath?

Yes you can if you don't have something better. The towel works, just not real well. Before your next canning batch try to find a rack of some kind to fit in the bottom of your canner.

If it is a standard canner then racks are available in at least 3 different sizes that you can order. You can also just but one of the flat racks that sit in a pressure canner. Also a metal cake rack, an upside down metal pie or cake pan with holes punched in it, you can even make one out of extra jar bands wired together edge to edge.

The ping is the sound the lid makes when it seals as the vacuum inside forms.

Dave


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 22, 11 at 1:46

I heard the "ping" and you're right, they're awesome!! That was fun ... stressful but fun. And I think I'll be much more relaxed next time when I know what I'm doing much better.

Thanks so much for all the help and advice. I was worried about this but it all seemed to go pretty well. I might even take some pictures tomorrow of my efforts, once the jars have cooled for their 12-24 hours.

1 more question. If you're making a recipe, like Annie's Salsa or a cooked one like that and you add too much of something that is important to the pH, like an extra tomato, or too much of a fresh herb because you read the directions wrong, by mistake ... can you just add a little extra acid (vinegar) to the mix and let it go, or is it a major problem and you have to toss the batch and start again? Can adding a little extra acid compensate for small measuring mistakes?

I do want to find a rack, the towels worked but were cumbersome and difficult to work with. I thought maybe next time I could use one of those racks that you put pies on to cool after cooking ... I have one that fits perfectly in the canner and it seems to be able to handle the heat. Perhaps that would be better. I also used towels between the jars so they didn't bang into each other.

I did use the grape leaves, I didn't see your post in time. I guess if they taste bitter or odd, we'll know why and I won't use it again next time. Everyone seems to be a fan of pickle crisp, I'd never seen or heard of it but clearly I'll have to look and see if our grocery store carries it for next time!

Again, thank you all so much for your help. I'm so glad I canned my first vegetables from the garden and I'm also glad I'm done for the night, lol. My feet hurt from standing so long! Thank you!!


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

1 more question. If you're making a recipe, like Annie's Salsa or a cooked one like that and you add too much of something that is important to the pH, like an extra tomato, or too much of a fresh herb because you read the directions wrong, by mistake ... can you just add a little extra acid (vinegar) to the mix and let it go, or is it a major problem and you have to toss the batch and start again? Can adding a little extra acid compensate for small measuring mistakes?

No, sorry. No guessing. :) But you don't have to toss the batch. Just refrigerate it, keep it there, and use ASAP. You'd have no way of knowing what the pH is and how much additional acid would have to be added to make it safe. Accurate measuring and double and triple-checking the recipe instructions is something we all have to do no matter how long we have been canning.

I also used towels between the jars so they didn't bang into each other.

Please don't do that. It interferes with the heat penetration that is required and the food is then under-processed. The jars are supposed to be surrounded by the boiling water for proper processing. So you will want to re-process those jars for the full time within 24 hours or refrigerate them. Do not store them on the shelf.

If the canner isn't full and you have no rack to hold them in place then add an extra jar filled with water to keep them in place. It doesn't hurt for them to bump into each other.

Don't get discouraged. It takes a few practice runs to get things straight. :)

Dave


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by chudak 10 San Diego (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 22, 11 at 11:53

"I cannot imagine pickling spice in dill pickles, but if you want, then go ahead..."

I just made my first batch of lacto fermented pickles. I used pickling spices in addition to a bunch of dill seeds (I had no fresh dill to use) and a bunch of garlic and sliced serrano chilis.

The pickles turned out great. The pickling spices add an interesting dimension to the flavor.

"Then, the grape leaf can make the pickles bitter or "funky" tasting. My friend gave me some she did that way and we threw them out. It is not a safety issue, though. If you want to do it, then go ahead. The best thing is to buy Pickle Crisp and use that instead."

I didn't have access to any grape or cherry leaves or any horseradish so I didn't add any to my pickles. Supposedly the tannin in the leaves of these plants helps keep your pickles crunchy.

FWIW my pickles were plenty crunchy...but then, again, they were lacto fermented not processed with a hot water canning bath.

Thanks for the tip on pickle crisp...I'll keep an eye out for it if I ever have 'crunch' problems.

Good luck with your pickles. I was real happy with mine (I still have a whole bunch sitting in a crock in the fridge). I will definitely be doing them again the same way.


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

Speaking of pickles and fermenting and all that..last year I cut up some chunks of cucumber and put them into a gallon pickle jar in the fridge that was half full of store bought pickles. I didn't eat them right away, then thought maybe I should never eat them since they had been in there so long.

Its been a year, the cucumber chunks are big, like 2-3 inches thick, not slices. Should I eat them or throw them out? I didn't can them, just peeled and put in the pickle jar with the other pickles in the pickle brine. Is it safe, could the brine have gotten into the middle of those big chunks and preserved it?


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

Rather than hijack this "canning for the first time..." thread and turn it into a discussion about pickles, the short answer is no, they are not considered safe to eat and should be discarded.

Dave


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 22, 11 at 15:00

Yeah I didn't think you could just add more acid, but I thought I'd ask just in case :) That batch is in the freezer instead.

I'm so disappointed with the towel thing though. It was one of my mom's "this is how I've always done it" things, but one that I thought actually made sense. I figured the jars shouldn't bang into each other since all instructions all talk about being careful, not tipping, heating the glass etc. The canner bubbles pretty hard and the jars would bang around a bit, so her towel idea seemed smart. I get what you're saying about heat penetration though ... the heat penetration, is that for killing off bacteria inside, or for sealing the jars properly? Because they do all appear to have sealed very well although perhaps that's just not the issue.

I will reprocess the Salsa this afternoon. With the pickled veggies though, do I need to reprocess them or do you think they'll be ok with the large amount of vinegar already there from the pickling process (some have 50% vinegar, some a lot more).


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

The purpose of processing is two-fold. It kills bacteria and molds AND forces out the air inside the jar that can allow them to grow as it creates the vacuum that seals the jars.

Pickled products that are under-processed MIGHT be safe but there is no way to know for sure. How safe for how long would all depend on the recipe used and how much under-processed they were. And their shelf life will be shortened. Listeria and other bacteria can still grow inside sealed jars of pickled foods if those jars are under-processed. So the choice is reprocess or keep in the fridge. Your choice.

The canner bubbles pretty hard and the jars would bang around a bit

It sounds like your heat should have been turned down some maybe. Canning doesn't require a violent boil, just a steady slow boil. See #7 on the How-To link I gave you above.

And and as I said above, if you only have a few jars to process then you can fill up the extra spaces in the canner with jars of water to keep the spacing and steady the jars of food so they don't tip. Getting a rack will solve the problem but without a rack it is normal for them to move around a little.

OK?

Dave


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RE: Canning for the first time tonight - some last minute questio

  • Posted by cziga Zone 5 -Toronto (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 22, 11 at 19:39

Thanks Dave! I will reprocess most of them and keep a couple in the fridge to use quickly. How long will pickled vegetables keep in the fridge?

I turned the heat down some already, after it came to a boil, but perhaps I should turn it down more next time. I wanted to keep a good, strong boil but I guess maybe I overestimated.

I also found a couple nice canning racks in Canadian Tire today, Bernardin and several other brands, so I'll definitely be looking into buying a rack for the canner. I think it will help a lot! Look around at a couple more places first, want to see if I can find a rack that separated the bottles. But I'm definitely looking into it, from everything you said I think it has to be the way to go!

Anyways, I really appreciate your help again ... walking me through it and all. The first time is tough, and I wanted to say thanks :)


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