Canning Help - Fresh Preserving Problem Solver

Canning Problems

The Ball® Brand is committed to helping you master the fresh preserving process. Here you’ll find help for canning problems and canning troubleshooting solutions to failing seals, loss of liquid from jars and darkening of food, as well as understand the causes, prevention methods and solutions for all of your fresh preserving challenges.

This canning troubleshooting chart offers help and solutions for many common canning problems you may encounter during the fresh preserving process, including:.

Canning Guide

Follow the directions below or download and print our step-by-step, illustrated guide that walks you through common canning problems.



Problems:

Seal fails.

Use food immediately, refrigerate immediately or correct cause and reprocess within 24 hours.

  • Cause may be a failure to heat process filled jars using the correct method and an adequate length of time. Heat process all filled jars using the method and time recommended in a tested fresh preserving recipe for the specific food and jar size.
  • The problem could be improper preparation of lids and/or adjustment of screw bands. Carefully follow manufacturer’s preparation directions for lids and jars. (Heat lids in hot water; do not boil.) Using your fingers, screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Do not force. Do not use a lid wrench to apply bands.
  • Do not force. Do not use a lid wrench to apply bands. Improper headspace can cause seal failure. Use headspace recommended in recipe for food product being preserved.
  • Food particles on the jar rim can interfere with the seal. Carefully clean jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth before applying lids and screw bands.
  • Finally, failing to adjust processing time or pressure for high altitude could be the problem. Know the altitude of your home and adjust processing time and pressure as needed.

Jar seals, or appears to seal, then unseals.

If spoilage is evident, do not use.

  • This can be due to minimum or inadequate vacuum, caused by underprocessing or not heat processing jars. Heat process all filled jars using the method and time recommended in a tested fresh preserving recipe for the specific food and time.
  • Particles of food left on the sealing surface could be the problem. Carefully clean jar rims before applying closures.
  • Perhaps there is a crack or chip in the jar rim. Check jars before packing and discard any with uneven, chipped sealing surfaces.
  • Excess air left in the jar could be the culprit. Use headspace recommended in recipe and slide a nonmetallic utensil between food and jar to release trapped air before applying lids and screw bands.

Lid buckles, appearing to warp or bulge upward under screw band.

If spoilage is evident, do not use.

  • When buckling is apparent immediately after heat processing, the cause is overly tight application of screw bands. Use your fingers to screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tight. Do not force or use a lid wrench to apply bands.
  • When buckling becomes apparent during storage, the cause is food spoilage indicating that heat processing has been insufficient to destroy all spoilage microorganisms. In the future, heat process all filled jars using the method and time recommended in a tested fresh preserving recipe for the specific food and jar size. Adjust processing time or pressure for higher altitudes
  • Note: Foods on which lids buckle during storage must be discarded in a way that prevents consumption by both humans and animals.

Liquid is lost during processing.

Do not open jar to replace liquid.

  • This can occur when food is not heated before being packed into jars. Use the hot pack method.
  • If food is packed too tightly, this can be a problem. Pack food loosely when using the hot pack method.
  • The problem may be that air bubbles were not removed before lids and screw bands were applied. Slide a nonmetallic utensil between food and jar to release trapped air. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
  • It may be that the screw bands were applied too loosely. With your fingers, screw bands down until resistance is met then increase to fingertip tight. Do not force.
  • Pressure canner may not have been operated correctly. Regulate heat continuously so that pressure does not fluctuate, avoiding sudden changes in heat level.
  • Starchy foods may have absorbed the liquid. Pack starchy foods, such as corn, loosely.

Liquid is lost immediately after processing (siphoning).

  • This can happen to jars removed from canner before internal pressure/temperature could stabilize/acclimate to outside temperature. For boiling water canner, when processing time is complete, remove lid and turn heat off. Wait five minutes before removing jars. For pressure canner, follow manufacturer's directions for cooking prior to removing canner lid.

Food darkens in top of jar.

  • This can happen if the liquid did not cover the food. Completely cover food solids with liquid, making sure headspace is adequate, before applying closures.
  • This also happens if there was no heat processing to inactivate enzymes. Heat process all filled jars using the method and time recommended in a tested fresh preserving recipe for the specific food and jar size.
  • Packing and processing may not have expelled air. Use the hot pack method when indicated in the recipe. Heat process all filled jars using the method and time recommended in a tested fresh preserving recipe for the specific food and jar size.
  • Excess air may have been sealed in jar due to improper headspace or bubble removal. Use headspace recommended in recipe and slide a nonmetallic utensil between food and jar to release trapped air before applying lids and screw bands.

Food becomes black, brown or gray.

  • This occurs when natural chemical substances (tannins, sulfur compounds and acids) in the food react with minerals in water or with metal containers or utensils used in preparing the food. Use soft water. Use stainless steel cooking pans, stainless steel or glass bowls, and heat resistant nonmetallic utensils. Avoid using brass, copper, iron, aluminum, zinc or chipped enamelware.

Black spots appear on underside of metal lid.

  • Natural compounds in some foods cause brown or black deposits on the underside of the lid. This deposit is harmless and does not mean the food is unsafe to eat.

Rust appears on underside of metal lid.

  • This is caused by improper coating or scratches on the underside of the lid. Use lids made by an established, reputable manufacturer. Use only nonmetallic utensils when handling lids and use a magnetic wand, rather than tongs, to lift lids from hot water.
Was one of your issues not listed above? If not, please contact us for more information.