Food preserving includes a variety of methods of preparing and processing fresh produce to enable longer storage, but it is also a means to create our own food and convenience items from scratch, knowing what is in it, and cater to dietary requirements. It is also fun to be creative with an abundance of produce, and try different methods of preserving, making the most of our home grown goodness.

Bottling (also known as ‘canning’ in some parts of the world) is a commonly used preserving method. It can be done by using a Boiling Water Bath process, a Fowlers Vacola preserving method, or Pressure Canning. All three methods involve filling glass jars/ bottles with produce, and submerging them under water to heat for certain time periods and certain temperatures. In this guide we are going to focus on the Boiling Water Bath process.

Although I started with using a Fowlers Vacola preserving unit, and also use a pressure canner, mostly I bottle using a boiling water bath method for the convenience it provides, and the suitability to what I mostly preserve (high acid produce). I bottle my own sauces, salsas, relish, pickled vegetables, jam and fruit. The large second hand stockpot I use sits easily in a drawer near my stove, with preserving tongs, ready to go. I find it is easy to set up to do small batches, as it doesn’t take long to prep, and only takes about 15 to 20 minutes of processing time.

Get started today:

What is boiling water bath processing?

The boiling water bath method (also known as ‘water bathing’ or ‘hot water bathing’) is where you fill clean jars with high acid contents (such as tomato relish, pickled zucchini, strawberry jam), seal with a preserving lid, and submerge under water, then bring to 100°C (212°F) for a required amount of time. This time depends on the contents inside the jars, and the size of the jars.

The ‘high acid’ contents means an environment in which many microorganisms which spoil food or make it unsafe, are unable to survive. Heat destroys any food spoiling/ foodborne illness microbes which may be present. The processing also forces oxygen from the jars, creating a vacuum (anaerobic) environment, which inhibits survival or growth. Then as the jars cool after being removed from the water, a vacuum seal is created, which prevents recontamination and air entry.

High acid produce that can be boiling water bathed includes:
 
  • many fruits (to use in desserts, sauces and baking)
  • jams, conserves and fruit preserves
  • relish, chutneys, salsas
  • passata, pasta sauce or whole tomatoes
  • other sauces (to use as condiments, or as meal-bases or flavour enhancers in casseroles, stews, risotto, pizza sauce etc)
  • pickled vegetables (bread and butter pickles, dill cucumber pickles, pickled jalapenos etc)
Please remember to use commercially bought vinegars, not homemade vinegars, which may not have consistent acidity. Read this Food in Jars article for more information. Also, you may notice that many recipes called for ‘bottled lemon juice’ to ensure the consistency of acidity levels, however, this article is a good read on why fresh lemon juice may be suitable.
 
Certain low acid produce can only be bottled if using a pressure canner, and some items cannot be bottled safely using any method, such as pesto. Please find more information about pH and acidity in preserving here.
 
What are the benefits and challenges?

ADVANTAGES

  • It can be an affordable way to get started, if you use ‘reclaimed’ jars (with new screw/ twist on pop-top lids), a big stock pot you already own or get one second hand, and other gear you already have on hand.
  • Easy to moderate difficulty level
  • Moderate prep, and process times of 10 to 20 minutes, plus time to sit overnight
  • No need for refrigeration or freezing to keep foods long term
  • A wide range of recipes available that have been tested by ‘food preserving authorities’

DISADVANTAGES

  • Need space to store the equipment in between uses, and a dark, cool pantry or cupboard, with even temperature range, to store all your bottles of preserves
  • Takes time – prep of food and jars, the processing time, cooling down, labelling and storing
  • Easy enough process to follow, but does take some time spent learning the essentials
  • Cost of equipment, especially if buying purpose built canner, jars and equipment

Spicy Plum Sauce | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

What equipment do I need?

You can use specifically designed preserving equipment and jars, of which there a numerous brands used around the world. Or you can use equipment you already have, or can buy second hand, to reduce costs. Please ensure your equipment and jars are in good condition before each preserving session.

You will need:

  • large stock pot (tall enough for the filled jars to be submerged whilst the water is boiling) OR a purpose-built boiling water canner (which should come with a canning rack)
  • food preserving jars and lids (see below)
  • jar lifter/ tongs (I highly recommend the Ball Secure Grip Jar Lifter tongs, found at Big W or online).
  • food funnels (plastic, metal, or collapsible, I use one like this)
  • bubble remover, or long skewer (bamboo is preferable over metal), or chopstick
  • timer, clean tea towels/ oven mitts (silicone), labels

Note on canning racks – If you do not have a canning rack (or the one you have is poorly designed) and are concerned about the bottles or jars knocking against the bottom of the pot, or each other, you can use a cake rack, upside cake tin, a silicon or metal trivet or pot rack, or a even a folded up tea towel, in the bottom of your pot, before placing the jars and water in. I have seen a canning rack made from Ball Mason jar rings, like this handy one Erica made. A purpose made ‘boiling water canner’ should come with a rack, or a shelf or plate in the bottom of it for this purpose. You may be able to buy these accessories to retrofit your own pot, if the size is right.

MASON JARS

I use Ball brand of ‘mason’ jars and lids, which are now available more easily in Australia (even at Big W), although it is a USA brand. There are other brands of mason jars available. Mason jars have a two piece lid system, with flat lid which sits against the jar, and a screw on band which holds the lid in place during processing. These have been tested and recommended by food preserving experts/ authorities. I like the small sizes available, which suit our family consumption.

New lids are recommended for Ball Mason type jars each time, but you can reuse the screw bands and the jars. Used lid may be bent or dented from opening, or the sealing compound may be affected, so you may find the lids and jars don’t seal.

The Ball brand of Mason jars come in Regular Mouth (70mm), and Wide Mouth (86mm) variations. There are plain glass or ‘quilted’ glass (as shown in my photos), various colours jars and lids available, and a variety of sizes. The Ball Mason jars that I frequently use are 4oz = 118ml, 8oz = 237ml and 12oz = 355ml.

RECLAIMED JARS

I also use reclaimed jars, though usually only when I have used up all my Ball Mason or Fowlers Vacola jars already! These are recycled jars that have come from commercially prepared jars of food bought in the supermarket, and then kept after the contents have been eaten. I usually reserve these jars for preserving that doesn’t require, or can’t be, boiling water processing, like salt preserved lemons, frozen pesto, dehydrate spices or tomatoes.

They must be in good condition, and I use these with pop top lids, which show whether a vacuum seal was achieved after processing in the water bath. It is recommended to use new pop top lids each time, otherwise you may find the sealing compound inside the lid gets degraded and may fail to seal.

For more information to help you weigh up whether you will use reclaimed jars and twist top one piece lids, please read this article, this article, and this advice from NCHFP. In terms of excessive breakage, I have never had that issue with reclaimed jars. Using new pop top lids has never been an issue, but I have noticed that trying to reuse the pop top lids results in poor sealing. This is an inconvenience that I’d rather avoid.

FOWLER VACOLA JARS

You could use Fowler Vacola jars and lids in a boiling water bath, though they were designed and tested for use in the Fowlers Vacola preserving units. For me, the smallest size FV jar I can easily get is the no. 14, which has a 350mls capacity. Whereas in Ball Mason jars (or reclaimed) jars I can get smaller jars, which suit so many more products that I preserve for our family of 4.

It is recommended that you use new rubber rings for Fowlers Vacola jars each time (jars, lids and clips can be reused if they are in good condition). Reusing old rubber rings may mean you won’t achieve or maintain a seal. You can find more information about Fowlers Vacola bottles/ jars and accessory sizes here.

Do I have to pre-sterilise my jars?

No, you don’t have to pre-sterilise your jars and lids, or equipment, before boiling water bath processing, unless the processing time is under 10 minutes. The processing in the boiling water sterilises the jar and contents, killing off any contaminants that may have been in your washed and clean jars. Read what the NCHFP says about it.

You just need to have the jars warm, to reduce the chance of breakage when filling with hot contents (this is known as thermal shock, because of the temperature differences). To warm up, and keep your jars warm, you can:

  • warm them in water in the canner/ large stockpot of water
  • create a separate water bath (so that would be two stockpots/ canners on your stovetop as well as a pot for the preserves) that will keep the jars warm – this is good if you are doing multiple batches of preserves in one session, so you can be warming the next lot of jars, whilst the filled batch is processing
  • do a quick/ short run in the dishwasher, and keep the door closed (and the warmth in) until ready. Putting your jars in the dishwasher is not a way to sterilise the jars, just to clean and keep warm them.

If you want to sterilise your jars, you can boil them in the pot of water for 10 minutes (adjusted for altitude – see next section).

To pre-sterilize jars, place the cleaned jars right-side-up on a rack in a canner and fill the jars and canner with water to 1-inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for 10 minutes at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation.  Add 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation. When you are ready to fill the jars, remove the jars one at a time, emptying the water from them back into the canner.  This will keep the hot water in the canner for processing filled jars.

Sometimes people choose to increase a 5-minute process time for certain jellied and pickled products to 10 minutes so that they do not have to pre-sterilize the jars.  The extra process time is not harmful to most gels and spoilage should not be an issue as long as the filled jars get a full 10-minute treatment in boiling water.  (And remember your altitude to increase this process time as needed.)” From here.

Why do I have to adjust for altitude?

Please consider if you need to adjust your processing times (or pressure levels, when pressure canning), depending on the altitude you live at. If you live more than 305m (1,000 feet) above sea level, the temperature at which water boils gets lower, i.e. your boiling water may not indicate 100° C has been reached, and the food spoiling and foodborne illness microorganisms may not be destroyed yet. For example, Canberra is 577m above sea level, which is approximately 1893ft. Use these charts to make adjustments for your times or pressure. To understand this concept further, please read this great article on Food in Jars.

What is the difference between raw pack vs. hot pack?

Somewhere on your preserving journey you might hear the terms ‘raw packing’ and ‘hot packing’ regarding the preserving of fruit or vegetable pieces (or meat, when dealing with pressure canning).

Both still require hot jars, as the liquid or contents are hot (to reduce ‘thermal shock’ jar breakage which can happen with different temperatures). Sometimes a recipe will let you choose between methods, for other recipes, there is only one choice offered (i.e. one tested option).

RAW PACK

  • Raw pack is putting uncooked, room-temperature produce in the jar, and pouring hot liquid over.
  • The benefit is less prep time/ effort, and it is better for produce that may lose shape (i.e. berries) or crispness (i.e. cucumber pickles) easily
  • The disadvantages may include more processing time is required, and the results may not be as good as hot packing in terms of colour and texture, or the pieces floating in your jars. It may be harder to pack the pieces in, as they are less pliable and there is more air.
  • Most things you need to pack the pieces in fairly tightly, as they will shrink during processing, but make sure to leave space for the liquid (brine or syrup) to get in. (Some vegetables may expand during pressure canning).
  • The hot liquids may be a vinegar mix for pickled vegetables, sugar syrup or juice for fruit. (Or it might be water or brine for low acid vegetables being pressure canned).

Raw-packing is the practice of filling jars tightly with freshly prepared, but unheated food. Such foods, especially fruit, will float in the jars. The entrapped air in and around the food may cause discoloration within 2 to 3 months of storage. Raw-packing is more suitable for vegetables processed in a pressure canner.” From here.

HOT PACK

  • Hot pack is cooking the produce in the liquid, then placing all of it in the jar.
  • You generally use a slotted spoon to scoop out the pieces and evenly distribute between the jars, then evenly pour the syrup or cooking liquid between the jars (allowing for headspace).
  • The benefits may be a better result, in terms of colour, texture, flavour and appearance of the jars
  • The disadvantages may be the time taken to blanch, prepare, pre-cook or boil/ simmer the produce

Hot-packing is the practice of heating freshly prepared food to boiling, simmering it 2 to 5 minutes, and promptly filling jars loosely with the boiled food. Whether food has been hot-packed or raw-packed, the juice, syrup, or water to be added to the foods should also be heated to boiling before adding it to the jars. This practice helps to remove air from food tissues, shrinks food, helps keep the food from floating in the jars, increases vacuum in sealed jars, and improves shelf life. Preshrinking food permits filling more food into each jar.” From here.

Why didn’t my jar seal? Why did my jar break?

JARS NOT ACHIEVING A SEAL OR LOSING ITS SEAL

Jars may not seal after processing, or may lose it’s seal during storage, due to several reasons:

  • old or damaged lids – mason lids are recommended as single use because of the sealing compound around the under side of the rim may deteriorate or be thinner after use
  • chipped jar rims – which mean the jar and lid were not able to form a complete seal
  • overfilled jar, not enough headspace – food particles sit up around rim, obstructing the sealing compound and rim of jar from creating proper contact, during the vacuum sealing that occurs once jars are removed from the pot
  • didn’t allow time (5 minutes after turning heat off) for contents to settle at the end of processing, and as above, food particles sit up around rim, obstructing the sealing compound and rim of jar from creating proper contact, during the vacuum sealing that occurs once jars are removed from the pot
  • over tightened the screw band, which doesn’t allow for air to escape during or after processing, which is required for a vacuum seal
  • under tightened the screw band, which means the lid was able to move around and not sit against the top rim of the jar properly
  • moving processed jars or touching/ tightening the screw bands, instead of allowing them to sit in one place for 12, up to 24 hours
  • too much oil or fat in preserves, which made its way up to the rim during processing
  • didn’t wipe food particles from rims of jars before applying lids

You can try reprocessing the unsealed jars, as long as this is done within a 24 hour timeframe. To eliminate the original causes of a seal not being achieved, you may want to check if a new jar is required (was there a chip), ensure that you wipe the rim with vinegar, check headspace and apply a new lid.  According to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006, p. 436, Glossary):

reprocessing. Repeating the heat processing of filled, capped jars when a lid does not seal within 24 hours. The original lid must be removed and the food and/ or liquid  reheated as recommended by the recipe. The food and/ or liquid must be packed into clean hot jars and covered with a new clean lid with the screw band adjusted. The filled jars must then be reprocessed using the canning method and full length of processing time recommended by the recipe.”

You can also put processed jars that didn’t achieve a vacuum seal in the fridge, and use within several days. You can freeze the unsealed jar, or transfer the contents to a freezer proof container and freeze it instead.

JARS BREAKING

Jars may break during processing due to several reasons:

  • temperature changes or ‘thermal shock’ – putting hot contents into cold jars, or cold content into hot jars; putting hot jars into cold water, or cold jars into hot water
  • damaged jars, that have weak spots from using a metal skewer or knife in them, or chips/ cracks
  • old jars that have weakened from use (especially if they have been used for everyday storage/ lunchware etc), or stored in an area that isn’t protected or has temperature fluctuations
  • banging against the base of the pot (if you did not use a rack, trivet or folded tea towel), or each other, possibly if your boiling water is boiling like crazy
  • possibly cheap jars (or using ‘reclaimed’ jars from commercially bottled products) may be more prone to breakage, but I’ve not experienced this nor bought cheap mason brands

Please read this excellent article by Erica from Northwest Edible Life.

Why do we remove bubbles? Why are there air bubbles in my processed jars? Why are the preserves floating in the jar?

WHY DO WE NEED TO ‘DE-BUBBLE’ JARS BEFORE PROCESSING?

One safety aspect of bottling preserves is removing air from the jars. This happens when the contents expand during heating of the filled jars in the pot of boiling water, and the pressure means air is forced out between the jar and lid. When the jars are removed from the water, the cooling forces any remaining air out, and a vacuum is created, sealing the lid to the jar rim. We want to remove air because:

  • this removes oxygen so food spoiling enzymes & microorganisms, and some foodborne illness microorganisms, cannot survive in an anaerobic environment
  • it creates a vacuum (air-less) seal which prevents contaminants from entering as long as the seal is maintained

We need to have the right balance of empty space (air) and preserves in the jar, before processing. The term for the empty space left between the top of the food/ contents, and the underside of the lid, is headspace.

Leaving the specified amount of headspace in a jar is important to assure a vacuum seal.

If too little headspace is allowed the food may expand and bubble out when air is being forced out from under the lid during processing. The bubbling food may leave a deposit on the rim of the jar or the seal of the lid and prevent the jar from sealing properly.

If too much headspace is allowed, the food at the top is likely to discolor. Also, the jar may not seal properly because there will not be enough processing time to drive all the air out of the jar.” From here.

After filling your jars, remove bubbles with a specific ‘de-bubbling’ tool, or a chopstick, bamboo skewer or small silicon spatula, and then measure the headspace. Leaving too many air bubbles in the jars before processing means the ‘headspace’ (or empty space) is actually greater than you realised.

Any air bubbles trapped somewhere in the middle of the jar, may be forced up during processing, and can end up pushing out some of your liquid (i.e. brine, syrup, water) out of the jar (siphoning). Your pieces of fruit or pickled veges are then above the liquid line in your jar, and whilst not unsafe, are prone to discolouring.

AIR BUBBLES IN JARS AFTER PROCESSING

You may notice bubbles have appeared in your end product of thicker preserves, like jams, apple sauce, relish, despite removing them as carefully as you could during the processing steps, and following all the steps correctly. It’s harder for the air bubbles to escape to the top and out of the jar, in thicker preserves, during processing.

You might be concerned that the air bubbles will contain or allow growth of food spoiling, or foodborne illness, microorganisms, because we learnt in Beginners Guide to Food Preserving and Storage, they need oxygen to survive. If your preserves met the high acidity requirements for boiling water bathing, and you processed for the correct time period at boiling point, nothing will have survived that could possibly try to live in the bubbles. If you achieved a vacuum seal, enough air was forced out of the jar to create that vacuum.

Tiny air bubbles occur sometimes, and are not cause for concern, if you have followed the recipe and preserving technique correctly. However, if you notice bubbles appearing in jars of preserves when they are in storage (the seal will have been lost), or after opening, that could be related to fermentation, and is not safe.

PRESERVES FLOATING OR SEPARATING

Fruit and pieces of vegetable may float in the jars after processing, as there was air trapped inside the preserves.

Another reason is that the pieces were not packed tightly enough, and as shrinkage occurs when heating (as water comes out of the fruit or vegetables), there is more space for the pieces to float.

If preserving fruit in syrup, you may find the pieces of fruit are lighter than a ‘heavy syrup’ and that can also cause floating. You may notice the same issue with sweet chilli sauces!

Sometimes you might notice that sauces or salsa separate in the jars after processing. This can happen because the pectin in the cell walls that keep the flesh together is broken down, with the pulp and water separating. These elements have different density, the lighter rises, and the heavier sinks.

Floating and separation can be reduced by hot packing (see section above), packing tightly, and making sure to de-bubble too. As long as your preserves met the high acidity requirements for boiling water bathing, you followed the steps and you processed for the correct time period at boiling point, the preserves will be safe to consume, despite the floating or separation.

How do you store the jars? How long do bottled preserves last?

STORING YOUR BOTTLED PRESERVES

Label, date and store your jars in a cool, dry place with temperatures between 10 to 21° C. Avoid cupboards next to ovens, dryers or other areas that may have fluctuating temperatures. We created a large preserves pantry in our ‘linen’ cupboard, by reducing the amount of unnecessary stuff in there, and moving blankets to cupboards in bedrooms. Other people with limited cupboard space may use plastic boxes with wheels that slide under beds.

You may have read advice to not store your Ball Mason jars with their screw bands on many preserving websites, mainly said as it can ‘hide’ any lids that become unsealed during storage, or the lids may rust. However, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving  (2006, p.418) states that after washing & drying the screw bands, ‘If desired, screw bands may be loosely reapplied to jars’.

Do not store jars above 95° F (35 ° C) or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an uninsulated attic, or in direct sunlight. Under these conditions, food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow recontamination and spoilage.

Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage unless jars become unsealed and recontaminated. However, freezing and thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more newspapers and blankets.” From here.

HOW LONG DO THEY LAST IN STORAGE?

Nutrition can be maintained for up to 1 year, though in terms of safety, the theory is that as long as the seal is maintained then it would still be safe to eat. Check the recipe you used for any specific timeframes.

Properly canned food stored in a cool, dry place will retain optimum eating quality for at least 1 year. Canned food stored in a warm place near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, or in indirect sunlight may lose some of its eating quality in a few weeks or months, depending on the temperature. Dampness may corrode cans or metal lids and cause leakage so the food will spoil.” From here.

How do we open and use our preserves? How do we know they are safe to eat?

CHECKING THE JARS

Please note, this advice is for boiling water bottling, which is only done with high acid produce. Low acid unsealed or suspect preserves are handled differently.

Visually check the jar, its seal, and the contents before opening. If the lid has lifted or become unsealed, the contents should be disposed of carefully, and the jar/ ring cleaned thoroughly. If there are obvious signs of food spoilage, the contents should be disposed of carefully, and the jar/ ring cleaned thoroughly.

Signs of food spoilage include the presence of mould, or yeast growth, bubbling gases, cloudiness, leaking, fermentation, sliminess and bad smells, or there may be pressure build up under the lid, making it convex instead of concave.

Do not taste the preserves in an unsealed jar, to see if they are OK. Some bacteria that cause foodborne illness may not have a smell or taste, or have any obvious signs! You may be unwittingly exposing yourself to unsafe food during your ‘taste test’, or worse, the lack of bad taste may wrongly reassure you, and you eat all the preserves and get sick. Jars that have become unsealed during storage must be presumed unsafe.

Physically check if the lid does not lift off easily, and it requires pressure (from an opener or your fingers) to force it off, then the seal was maintained during storage.

OPENING THE JARS

Opening depends on the jars and lids you use. There is a specific tool available to open Fowlers Vacola jars. Twist top jars should open easily by twisting the lid, though sometimes these can be very tight, and you may need a ‘gripper’ tool (various styles available out there, for example) or to use a rubber glove or tea towel wrapped around it for traction.

Mason jars can be opened with a purpose built bottle opener, or even a regular ‘old school’ can opener, which has the section (usually on the handle) that allows you to prise the lid off. You can also use a small sharp knife the prise under the lid edge to release the vacuum, but that may be deemed a safety hazard. My husband somehow prises it off with his thumbnails!

KNOWING IT IS SAFE TO EAT

Once open, check the contents again, for obvious signs of food spoilage which has affected the smell, colour or appearance. If this has occurred, dispose of the contents carefully, then fully clean the jar.

A common home preserving concern is that people are not sure how to tell if there preserves are safe. I get it, it took me a while to build my confidence with food preserving. If you followed the processing steps correctly, used high acid ingredients (pH less than 4.6) and achieved and maintained a seal, your product can be considered safe to consume.

STORING and using OPEN JARS

Once open, if the preserves are not fully used immediately, you can store them in the fridge, for up to 1 month, depending on the type of bottled preserves you are storing. If you find you cannot use up a jar in a reasonable amount of time, consider using jars with smaller volumes to preserve in.

Don’t forget that you can use your bottles of preserves for more than just as condiments (especially if you have half a jar you need to use up, and don’t want to waste it).

  • Sauces can be used as marinades or added to stir fry, pulled meats
  • Tomato relish can be used as pasta sauce, pizza sauce, added to casseroles or bolognese
  • Salsa and pickled chillies can be added to nacho mince, stuffed vegetables, or Mexican dip
  • Fruit chutneys can be added to curries
  • Jam or fruit preserves can be used in muffins, cakes, slices or smoothies, or pureed and made into fruit leathers/ roll ups
  • Jam can be used in Jam Jar Salad Dressing
  • Pickled vegetables and relishes can be used in sauce, mayonnaise, or dips made with cream cheese or sour cream

With Mason style jars, you can use the lids and bands you used for processing, or they sell plastic storage caps.

For Fowlers Vacola you can use Snap On lids, which are green plastic storage caps.

References + Resources

There are so many reliable resources available these days. These are a selection I recommend and refer to (note, some may require conversion from imperial to metric, or vica versa).

WEBSITES

BOOKS

STEP BY STEP BOILING WATER BATH PRESERVING
USING MASON JARS
  1. Gather your preserving equipment, including your large pot, canning rack (if using), jars and lids, jar lifter/ tongs, food funnel, ladle or large spoon, paper towel, white vinegar, tea towels, timer, skewer or bubble remover, labels. Carefully check over your jars for any chips, cracks or damage. If you have space in your pot/ canner, prepare more jars than you think you’ll need, because then you have them ready if it turns out the recipe or box of produce yielded more preserves than predicted!
  2. Read your tested and reliable preserving recipe, gather and prepare your ingredients. If your recipe takes a while to cook (i.e. jams, relish, chutney, salsa, sauces), start to make your product and whilst it is simmering/ cooking down, move on to prepare your equipment and jars. If the preserves will be ready quickly (i.e. pickled vegetables, fruit pieces) then prep your jars first and keep them warm whilst you prep the ingredients.
  3. Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse and drain. Wash screw bands, if need be.
  4. Place empty jars into your large pot, and fill the jars and pot with enough water to cover the jars. The pot must be large and tall enough to fully surround and cover the jars in water by 3 to 5 cm, and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on without boiling over the top.  (You can add a glug of white vinegar to the water, which prevents build up on the inside of your pot).
  5. Turn on heat to medium, and heat the jars. The screw bands and lids do not require heating. Heat the jars up, but they do not need to be boiled (they just need to be warm to reduce the chance of breakage when the hot preserves are poured in).
  6. Keep the jars and water warm. If the pot of jars and water starts to come to boil, turn the heat down, with lid on pot.
  7. Finish making your preserves. Keep warm.
  8. Remove the hot jars from the hot water, using a jar lifter, emptying water inside jar as you lift it up. Place them on a clean tea towel, the right way up. Excess water will evaporate off them due to the heat. Leave the heat on low for the pot of water.
  9. Fill jar one at a time with prepared preserves/ contents, using a food funnel, sitting the jar on top of paper towel (for easier clean up) until all the jars are filled to the required level, allowing for headspace. If doing pieces of fruit or veges with hot liquid poured over, put the pieces in first, packing tightly, then pour in the liquid.
  10. Remove air bubbles. Slide a bubble remover or clean skewer between the jar and preserves to release trapped air.
  11. Check the headspace allowance (as recommended in your recipe) in general, 0.5 cm for products such as jams and jellies; 1.5cm for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces, and tomatoes. Measure using a ruler, or headspace measuring tool. Add or remove preserves to achieve this. Note: on Ball Mason jars, the bottom rim of the screw thread on the jar is a 1.5cm gap to the top. (Leftover preserves, or if you have an incompletely filled jar, it can be put in to fridge and used first).
  12. Clean jar rim and threads of jar using a piece of folded paper towel dipped in vinegar, to remove any food residue or oils.
  13. Put lid on jar, and apply band, screw it on until it is fingertip tight (using just your fingertips on the screw band) until you feel resistance. Do not over tighten it. Air needs to escape from inside the jar during processing.
  14. Place filled jars in pot of water (add more hot water if you feel the water level has dipped, or add cool water if you feel it is too hot compared to the temperature of the jars), in one layer, with space between each jar. (Read this if you want to do a second layer of jars). Make sure water covers jars by 3 to 5 cm. Add more, if it doesn’t. If it is overfull for some reason, you can remove some of the hot water, carefully, using a heatproof jug.
  15. Place lid on pot. Bring water to a full rolling boil. Begin counting down the processing time (as per recipe), using a timer. Process jars in the boiling water for the processing time indicated in tested preserving recipe, adjusting for altitude (see altitude chart). Be mindful that the boiling is maintained, because if your water stops boiling, you will need to adjust the heat to return to boil, and start the processing time from the beginning of the required time.
  16. When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Allow jars to stand in pot for 5 minutes to allow pressure to stabilise and contents to settle, so they are not around the rim area.
  17. Remove jars from pot, tipping slightly to allow water on top to pour off as you lift, but do try to keep jars upright as much as possible (the heat will evaporate any water left). Do not place the jar lifter around the lid/ screw band when lifting, place it on the glass area. Set upright on a tea towel on the kitchen bench. If you want to, you can start a second batch at this point, making sure to replace water in the pot, if need be.
  18. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 hours, up to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process. You should hear popping noises as the metal lids concave due to vacuum sealing. You can also see the pop-top element in the lid becomes depressed.
  19. Test the seals after resting period, by removing the screw bands and attempting to lift the lid with your thumb. If the seals are good, clean the jars by wiping over the jars and lids, wash the screw bands if you like, and you can loosely replace the screw bands on the jars to store. Please see FAQ for process of handling jars that did not seal.
  20. Label and store in a cool, dark place (without temperature fluctuations). Keep an eye on the jars for signs of bulging lids or broken seals.

Click here to download and print a Step by Step Essential Instructions PDF.

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STEP 1

Gather equipment

STEP 2

Sweet Chilli + Ginger Sauce | Gluten Free, Low FODMAP | Growing Home

Gather ingredients and start making preserves

Step 3

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Wash jars in soapy warm water. Rinse.

Step 4

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Prepare pot with water

STEP 5

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Heat jars in pot

STEP 6

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

 

Keep warm with lid on, until preserves are ready

STEP 7

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Finish making your product, keep warm

 

Step 8

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove jars, carefully tipping out hot water

 

Step 9

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Fill jars, using a food funnel to avoid spilling or splashing

Step 10

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove air bubbles, using a skewer or other tool

Step 11

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Check headspace (measure if need be)

 

Step 12

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Wipe rim with vinegar and clean paper towel

 

Step 13

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Apply lids and screw bands, until ‘fingertip’ tight

 

Step 14

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Place sealed jars into pot, over medium to high heat

Step 15

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Bring water to a full rolling boil, then start timer

Step 16

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

When time is done, turn off heat, remove lid, allow jars to sit

Step 17

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove jars from pot using jar lifter

Step 18

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Place on a tea towel, leave for 12 to 24 hours

Step 19

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Test for seal by attempting to remove the lid  

 

Step 20

Boiling Water Bath Processing Mason Jars | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

 Label and store in a cool dark place

 

 

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USING TWIST TOP JARS

STEP 1

Gather equipment

STEP 2

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Gather ingredients and start making preserves

Step 3

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Wash jars in soapy warm water. Rinse.

Step 4

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Prepare pot with water

STEP 5

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Heat jars in pot

STEP 6

Keep warm with lid on, until preserves are ready

STEP 7

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Finish making your product, keep warm

 

Step 8

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove jars, carefully tipping out hot water

 

Step 9

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Fill jars, using a food funnel to avoid spilling or splashing

Step 10

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove air bubbles

Step 11

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Check headspace (measure if need be)

 

Step 12

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Wipe rim with vinegar

 

Step 13

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Apply lids

 

Step 14

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Place sealed jars into pot, over medium to high heat

Step 15

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Bring water to a full rolling boil, then start timer

Step 16

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

When time is up, turn off heat, remove pot lid

Step 17

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Remove jars from pot, slightly tipping to drain water off the top

Step 18

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Place on a tea towel, and leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours

Step 19

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

Check the seals for the concave lid, or depressed pop top lid

 

Step 20

Boiling Water Bath Preserving | Dirt to Dinner | Growing Home

 Label and store in a cool dark place

 

 

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If you have questions about preserving, join the Growing Home Community, a closed group hosted on Facebook, with people who have lots of experience with preserving.

Also, check out my free preserving labels to download and print. Then get started today, you won’t regret it!

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