In a water bath, jars are placed on a rack and covered 1–2 inches with boiling water. Put a lid on the bath and begin timing when water is boiling. Remove jars with a jar lifter and place them on a towel-covered counter to cool. Leave undisturbed for 12–24 hours. Check the seals and remove the screwbands.
In a pressure canner, jars are placed on a rack and boiling water is added according to the manufacturers’ instructions, usually several inches. Lock the lid securely into place. Leave weight off the vent pipe or open petcock and exhaust steam for 10 minutes. Place weight back onto vent pipe or close petcock. Canner should start to pressurize in 5–10 minutes.
Once the canner has reached the required amount of pressure, start the timer. Allow canner to come down to zero pounds on its own. Do not try to speed up this process by removing weight or opening the petcock, as it may cause jars to crack and/or lose liquid. Do not put the canner into cold water to hasten the process. Let jars sit in the canner for 5–10 minutes to allow them to cool down.
The old computer saying “GIGO” (Garbage In = Garbage Out) applies to home canning as well. Your finished product is only as good as the ingredients you begin with. The sooner you jar freshly picked fruits and vegetables, the better. Canning will not improve stale foodstuffs.
Remove jars with a jar lifter and place them on a towel-covered counter to cool. Leave undisturbed for 12–24 hours. Check the seals and remove the screwbands.
To check the seals on cooled jars, press your thumb in the middle of the lid. If the lid seems to give and come back up, the jar isn’t sealed. If you’re not sure, tap the lid with a knife in the same place. It should sound like a bell; a muffled sound means the jar isn’t sealed right. Finally, there’s the visual; the surface of the lid should be concave.
What happens if your jar doesn’t seal properly? All is not lost! You have several options here. One is to put the jar in the refrigerator and use it soon. Second is to try reprocessing the jar within twenty-four hours of the original effort. If you’re going to do this, open the jar, make sure the lid has a clean surface, try changing out the lid, and put everything back in your canner. Your third and fourth options are using other preservation methods covered in this book, namely freezing or drying, if practicable.