Canning Q & A 2013

Q: Is it true canning lids contain BPA?

A: Older canning lids did contain a layer of BPA sandwiched between metal layers, but new Ball and Kerr canning jars no longer do. Look for lids marked "BPA Free." (Ball actually began selling BPA free lids last fall, so you can check the production date on boxes, too.)

Q: A friend told me I shouldn't store my canned jars with the rings on. I like the convenience; is there really a good reason why I shouldn't?

A: Here's why it's best to NOT to store home-canned jars with jar rings on them: If, for some reason, the seal on the jar lid breaks free, the ring holds the lid in place and makes it possible for the jar to re-seal - and then there's no way to know whether or not the contents of the jar are still safe to eat. (While you should always smell the product and look for mold, sometimes food can be spoiled and show no signs of it.) So, yes, you really should store your jar rings elsewhere.

(c) 2013 by Gretchen Harris.
Q: When a recipe calls for hot jars, does it mean just wash them in hot water?

A: No. When a canning recipe calls for putting food in hot jars, it means the jars must be pre-heated. Otherwise, the jars may break during the canning process, or the contents of the jar may not reach the temperature required to kill off harmful microorganisms. There are several ways to keep jars hot before filling them:

1. Place them in the canner (with both the jars and the canner filled with water) and heat the water until it steams.

2. Place the jars in a sanitized sink full of hot tap water; this will require adding fresh hot tap water periodically.

3. Wash the jars in a dishwasher and keep the dishwasher on the hot dry cycle until you're ready to use the jars.

4. Place the jars in a roasting pan with several inches of water in it and place the whole in a warm oven.

The latter method should not be confused with sterilizing jars in the oven (which is not perfectly effective) or oven canning, which is not safe.

Q: I recently canned something from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and I ended up with fewer pints than the book said I would. Is that typical?

A: It depends on how you determine how much produce to use. If you go by number (for example, 20 tomatoes), you may get more or less finished product because produce varies so much in size. For the most accuracy in how much end product to expect, go with the recipe's weight recommendations (for example, 10 lbs. of tomatoes). Even then, however, the recipe only offers an estimate of how much canned food to expect.

Q: For water bath canners, do you need to only use 2 inches of water? 

A: No; you must use more than that. The water in the canner should cover the tops of the jars by at least one inch in order to have safely home-canned food.

Check out previous' year's Canning Q & A:


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