Okay, I’ll just say it. Bernardin is wrong and my mother is right.
Yesterday was a very busy canning day, with lots of veggies and fruit processed successfully. But, with success comes some troubleshooting…and the words of my mother like a voice from the back of my head saying “don’t follow the book, follow what works”. Oh, how true those words would be after yesterday.
I’ve been experimenting with some of the canning and preserving recipes from Bernardin’s book.
Okay, I’ll admit there are a lot of great ideas in this book. My plan is to test out much of the recipes for canning and preserving in the book. Yesterday, I tried the raw-pack in light syrup recipe for preserving apricots.
The recipe itself was fine, though I still dramatically reduced the amount of sugar in their “light” syrup recipe (2.5 cups of sugar in 4 cups water? that’s light??!!!). The book does have a great problem-solving chapter on typical canning problems, including the “problem” I mentioned in a previous post about a cloudy film covering the glassware after processing.
I had some very yummy apricots to preserve, and the book suggested keeping them fresh and colourful by soaking them in lemon juice and water while waiting to pack them.
Again, great suggestion because they would have turned brown without the lemon juice but…did it really need 1/4 cup lemon juice? I reduced that too. You’ll see soon how these apricots turned out.
Well, I kept following the book. Told me to process them 20 minutes (really? for such a soft fruit?). Okay, will do. Carefully packed apricots, poured my “lighter” hot syrup over them, and prepped the canner.
It’s the first time I tried raw-packing fruit, and I was a little leery just because it was a new process to me. I’m used to blanching the fruit, peeling the skin, cutting the fruit and then packing while warm. Okay, still following “the book”. Into the canner they go for 20 minutes.
While waiting for them to finish processing, I called my mom on the phone and chatted with her. Told her I was processing apricots.
“Are you doing them in the canner or the oven?” she asked. Hmm, everything I’ve heard about processing in an oven has yielded horror stories, so I’ve never tried the oven and always stuck to water-bath canning processing.
“Do you remember what happened to me when I tried to process apricots in the oven once when you were little?” Sounds like a story coming. Now here’s where I won’t fill you in with all the details my mom provided. I love my mom, she’s a great story-teller. But, she does tend to draw out a 5-minute story into a 30-minute story. Short version of this apricot story is that she had been told by friends to process apricots in the oven. Friends, however, hadn’t told her to let jars cool inside oven and remove them only when oven was cool.
So (as the story goes), mom pulls out the jars from the oven after their processing time is done. As she’s carefully lifting one up with an oven mitt, it explodes and the glass and hot syrup hits her right leg, covering her polyester pants from thigh to calf. (Yup, polyester was important because she reminded me about ’70s clothing and how EVERYONE wore polyester…this was a 15 minute sidebar to the apricot story).
Mom still has a scar on her leg from that apricot processing moment. She also said she hated apricots, apricot jam, and apricot preserves. Mainly because she grew up with lots of them and had her fill of them. But apparently my dad loved them. Loved them fresh, loved them dried, loved them preserved and in jams and loved them dried. Me too.
Back to me and my apricots. They’ve processed the 20 minutes, I’m done chatting with my mom, and I go back to the book method of setting them upright on the counter to cool, checking them every 10 minutes and tightening lids as necessary.
But I’m already realizing the sealing process has been a miserable failure.
Let me show you what a successfully processed jar of apricots looks like:
Now let me show you what apricot preserves look like when processing fails:
Because 5 of my 6 pint jars had apricots sinking to the bottom (despite their very pretty appearance and colour, thanks to the lemon juice), I had to figure out what the problem was. So I opened up the five jars and did some troubleshooting.
Things I checked:
1. Was the top of each jar smooth and free from nicks? Nicks would prevent the formation of a vacuum seal. (All my jars were fine.)
2. Was the rubber ring smooth and in good condition? Well, here’s where three of my five rings were clearly needing an upgrade, so I switched to three new ones to help form a vacuum seal.
3. Was the glass lid balanced on the rubber ring properly centered? Here again is where I ended up realizing one of my glass lids was not centered properly. (Was I rushing because this was the last thing I did after a long day of canning? Maybe.)
4. Were the metal rings screwed on properly, centered, and straight? Ah HA! Here’s the biggest problem. I had two types of metal rings: aluminum (silver colour in the picture below) and alloy mix (gold colour).
The alloy rings weren’t as big as the aluminum, so didn’t contact the glass jar’s threads as well as the others. So I rejected all those rings and replaced with aluminum rings.
But the Biggest Problem in all this was that those 5 jars that didn’t seal properly were noticed the next morning. Mom always told me “turn your jars upside down onto paper towel to cool” so you can see the leaks right away, flip over, tighten and adjust as necessary. That allows the vacuum to re-establish because the jar is still hot.
Bernardin’s method says to keep the jars upright, and tighten lids as you go. Not as good, in fact dismally worse than mom’s method, because you may never know if one will leak.
Moral of the story?
“Mom is Right, the Book is Wrong.”