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December 22, 2010 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Canning preserves without a pressure canner?

I'm reading Christine Ferber's "Mes Confitures." and she fills her still-hot jars with still-hot jellies to the top. She then screws on the lid, and turns it upside down until cool.
I was wondering if there's anyone out there that has done this. I've never heard of it.
posted by JABof72 to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't make much, but this is how I've always made jam.. I didn't know there was any other way.

As long as the jars are sterile and the lids seal well, they'll suck the lid on tight as they cool and then the jam's usually fine.

(Though I've never had luck with mulberry jam - that always ends up watery no matter how much jamsetta I dump in.)
posted by Ahab at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's an old-school method that is not generally accepted as a good idea in modern canning here in the States. Yes, the world is full of people who did it this way and lived to tell about it. But ... it's not the best idea. You can read more about it here: Why you shouldn't can like your grandmother did.
posted by veggieboy at 9:23 AM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks Ahab. I've been wanting make jellies/preserves for a couple of years now, and all recipes/techniques always use a pressure canner...for safety.
posted by JABof72 at 9:25 AM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: You shouldn't need to use a pressure canner for most preserves/jellies. A boiling water canner should do it. Pressure canners are for low-acid foods that need to reach a higher temperature to kill everything. If you follow a tested recipe, most jams are formulated to be high enough in acid that a pressure canner is unnecessary. (A boiling water bath is necessary, however.)
posted by veggieboy at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Veggieboy, thanks for the link. I just thought that if someone as renown as her had poisoned someone, I would have heard about it. Better to be safe than sorry.
posted by JABof72 at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2010

My mom still makes jam this way.
posted by fshgrl at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2010

I just store the jams and jellies in the fridge and skip the pressure canning angst. Microwave lemon curd works well.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm bookmarking that lemon curd recipe, as well as forwarding it to a friend. If it wouldn't kill him, he'd live on Lemon Cream Cheese Pie.
posted by JABof72 at 9:39 AM on December 22, 2010

Jam has too much sugar for bacteria to grow in. The only organism that can grow in Jam should be specialized yeast (that can cope with the osmotic pressure). Yeast will not survive the heat when you make the Jam, you should be save...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always do it this way.
posted by Pants! at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2010

Jelly isn't normally pressure canned, but rather given a five minute boiling water bath to drive the air out of the headroom and seal the jars.

However, I've actually done something like what you describe with my "confetti" pepper jelly. I invert the jars over for five minutes, and then give them a turn a few more times as they cool to try and keep the pepper pieces evenly distributed. Then again, my pepper jelly recipe is three cups of pepper pieces, three cups of vinegar, 13 cups of sugar, and two packs of Certo, so the jelly itself is quite unlikely to go bad under normal conditions. It will certainly keep in the fridge for months, if it lasts that long.

Putting Food By (4th Ed., pg. 264) has this to say about the BW bath vs. General Foods' "Inversion",
General Foods, maker of both liquid pectin (Certo) and powdered (the Sure*Jells), has come out in 1987 with a sealing method for jellies and jams that their press releases announce as a safe, new technique for protecting homemade cooked jams and jellies—and affording this protection in less time, and by strong implication more easily and simply, than the finishing 5-minute Boiling-Water Bath does. Promo pitch aside, the new technique calls for leaving only 1/8 inch of headroom, wiping the jar carefully, clapping on the disk and screwband, and immediately inverting the jar, leaving it to sit upside-down for 5 minutes. It is then turned upright and allowed to continue cooling in the standard, natural fashion.
The authors don't recommend the procedure for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the vacuum formed by the inversion method isn't very strong. They recommend the five minute boiling water bath to make a good seal. PFB goes on to say, "[T]he finishing Boiling-Water Bath was welcomed by food scientists in the South, to counteract heat and humidity of storage in the region; and soon it was adopted for dryer and more temperate climates."

So, bottom line, your Certo package will recommend the inversion method, but for truly long-term storage your best and safest option is the five minute boiling water bath.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:53 AM on December 22, 2010

Yup - this is how I put jam up. I've never had a batch spoil.
posted by workerant at 9:53 AM on December 22, 2010

My mom has been making jam this way for more than 40 years and reports that she has never experienced mold in her jam. She would also like to point out that she sterilizes the jars and lids and doesn't take them out of boiling water/the dishwasher until the moment she's ready to use a particular jar or lid.

Jam is one thing. Canned vegetables are a whole different game altogether.
posted by corey flood at 9:55 AM on December 22, 2010

For fairly up-to-date (and apparently, err on the side of caution) information on canning methods, i highly recommend checking out a local Extension Office and ask them! There are multiple universities that have extension offices, usually agricultural schools have them, though their online presence varies widely (OSU is pretty bangin though).

Most extension services have PDF's of recepies for canning, which show what method of canning to use when (almost always water bath or pressure canning).

Also, pressure canning isn't scary. It's rad. If you live near a seacoast, you can usually get tuna very cheap, and can it yourself...it's heaven. If you're at all comfortable in the kitchen, and know how to read a dial gauge, it's very satisfying. Used pressure cookers usually need seals replaced (not expensive) and new ones aren't terribly expensive if you're planning on canning even a medium amount of food.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:59 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I hasten to add that that's one cup jalapeno and two cups of bell peppers for my pepper jelly, not all hot peppers. I don't add food coloring because I've found that using a mix of red, green, and yellow bell peppers gives the jelly a beautiful golden hue.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2010

Water bath canning for the win. There are many, many more hints for making jams and jellies here at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, from the NCHFP's jam and jellies info:

Are there other methods of sealing jars?

Some other methods of sealing jars call for inverting a closed, filled jar of hot product for anywhere from thirty seconds to one hour. (Inverting is turning the filled jar upside down on its lid.) While this inversion process can be successful in producing a sealed jar, it works best with very hot product. Individual variation in practicing this process or unexpected interruptions can result in delays between filling jars, getting lids screwed on, and inverting the jars. If the product cools down too much, the temperature of the product can become low enough to no longer be effective in sealing jars or preventing spoilage.

When the inversion process does work, the vacuum seals of filled jars still tend to be weaker than those produced by a short boiling water canning process. A weak seal is more likely to fail during storage. In addition, the headspace of the jar may retain enough oxygen to allow some mold growth if airborne molds contaminated the surface of the product as the jar was filled and closed. More complete removal of oxygen from the headspace also offers some longer protection from undesirable color and flavor changes with some types of fruit products.

The canning process is therefore a more foolproof method of making jams and jellies that will not spoil. In addition, although no cases of burning have been reported in the news media, experience has shown that some people will experience leaking of the hot product from the jar when it is turned over if the lid wasn't put on just right. If hot enough, someone could get burned. Even if it doesn’t cause burns, leaking means product is lost.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:25 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do the boiling method, but do not invert.

I would not invert, because it will put jam in between the lid and jar, preventing a good seal.

I have had batches of jam go bad where the seal has failed.

Maintaining a good seal is what prevents spoilage.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:22 PM on December 22, 2010

The Ball Blue Book gives a pretty decent introduction to home canning. The university extension pages mentioned above are also great resources.

I was taught to can jams using the inversion method, and I used to see it recommended on the Certo inserts (each box of Certo pectin comes with a sheet of bare-bones canning instructions and basic recipes for making jam and jelly out of common fruits). Lately I think even the Certo instructions have switched back to the boiling water bath.
posted by Orinda at 7:59 PM on December 22, 2010

I see this as a judgment call that each person has to decide for themselves. I do jams using the inversion method and so do all of my family members. We make literally hundreds of jars a year between us and haven't had a problem.

It's important to sterilize the jars and boil the lids up until the second the jam is being poured and fill within 1/4 in of the top of the jar with the boiling hot jam. I take the jars and tops out of the boiling water or hot oven one by one to keep things as sterile as possible.

Any jars that don't seal after an hour upside-down or the last jar that's only 1/2 full go in the refrigerator to be consumed within two weeks. Any jars that unseal at any point after this should be thrown out although I personally haven't seen this happen.

I would not do any low acid low sugar things such as vegetables in this way. Jam only.

I have tried the waterbath method which is recommended for the kinds of jam I prefer to make and find that the jam tastes overcooked.
posted by tinamonster at 9:26 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Historically, jams and jellies were not hermetically sealed, even when the technology reached the home. As noted about, the sugar in the jam keeps it from spoiling. From there, your two concerns were mold, dust/debris, and rodentia.

To prevent mold, paper soaked in brandy was pressed directly on top of the jam. To keep dust/debris out, tissue paper was tied tightly over the jar and then wet with egg white. When it dried, the paper stretches then hardens, creating a drum-like seal. Finally, keeping the jam in a jam cupboard prevented mice and other pests from getting into it.

This (the "To Cover Jelly Glasses" entry) describes the process fairly well, except it uses mucilage instead of egg white.

I've successfully processed and stored jam like this. It's kept for a year or more.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 5:12 AM on December 23, 2010

My apologies for the various typos--clearly I need more coffee!
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 5:13 AM on December 23, 2010

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