Even though I've been canning awhile, I still end up with problems now and again. Here are a few explanations for why things go wrong and what you can do to prevent them from happening again. Even though it can be SUPER frustrating when your time and produce are wasted, don't give up quite yet. Read what's below and try again. Please?
Above all, follow the directions to your canning project precisely. The advice below comes from a combination of my own experience and the "Home Canning Problem Solver" section in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Why Didn't My Jars Seal Properly?
1) You might have a faulty jar or lid. If a chip has broken out of the rim, your jar will not seal. Similarly, if a lid's seal (the reddish rubbery strip around the inside of the lid) is scratched or damaged, it also may not seal. Check your jars and lids carefully before you use them.
2) You forgot to wipe the rims and food particles on the rim kept the lid from sealing properly.
3) The food was not heated before packing into jars. This can cause the food/liquid to boil out, leaving residue between the rim and the lid.
4) There were air bubbles that were not removed before lidding and ringing. I am constantly forgetting to do this! To release the bubbles, use a non metal utensil (gently) between the jar and the food to release them.
5) There is not enough head space because you filled your jars too full. This is what usually happens to me when jars don't seal. I'm in a hurry, and I fill my jars too full. The contents bubble out in the canner and residue from what bubbled out gets between the jar rim and the lid. The jar(s) may seal at first, but they soon unseal. You know this is the culprit if your jars feel sticky and there is residue under the rings (and your jars unseal, of course). Next time, follow the directions closely as to how much head space to leave. When in doubt, leave a little more instead of a little less, but not too much.
*My* solution to problem #3 (follow at your own risk- this is NOT recommended anywhere): IF you notice that they haven't sealed or came unsealed while the jars are still hot and before having set out too long (think about regular food and how comfortable you'd feel leaving it sit out), you can remove and discard the lid, clean the rim with a damp paper towel until there is no residue present, replace any filling that may have bubbled out (NOT TOO FULL THIS TIME), place new lids on top, then rings and re-process. This has worked for me many times when I've caught the mistake in time. BUT, it's a pain in the butt. The best thing is to do it right the first time.
6) It's possible your rings were screwed on too tight OR not tight enough. Try to find a happy medium between the two, tightening the rings "finger-tip tight" meaning you meet resistance, but you're not using your whole hand to tighten it really snug.
Why Did the Bottom Fall Out of my Jar?
Good question. It's happens occasionally to me and my explanation is that either my jars are too old (it's never happened with a newer jar) OR I've placed a cold jar in hot water OR a combination of the two.
There are shortcuts out there for canning and some of them work and some of them work only sometimes. As an experiment, I tried a different method of canning peaches by adding the sugar directly to each jar, then filling them with hot tap water (versus using a hot syrup) and processing them and I lost several jar bottoms this way AND many of my jars unsealed. Was it for sure because of the method? I can't know for sure, but it's convinced me to return to my syrupy ways. You have to weigh the risk for time saved.
Canning is hard work. It's hot, sticky, time consuming and sometimes frustrating. When it all comes together, though, it is incredibly rewarding.
Also, for those of you who can but do so saying a little prayer that the monster botulism doesn't come a-knockin', know that, per my almost pharmacist husband that there are only about 50 cases of non-infant (infants being given honey) botulism per year in the entire United States. Botulism should be respected and steps should be made to can using proper methods, but I hope you can let go of your fear. At least a little:-). Pin It