This year I made an effort to can as many of my tomatoes as possible. I canned chopped up tomatoes and salsa. I went around the inner surface of the jar with a sterilized metal off-set spatula to try to remove any air pockets. After I processed the jars I checked the lids and they were all vacuumed in (flattened), so I thought they were fine. We have been eating some of these canned foods, and we haven’t had any problems.
The thing is, when I was moving around some of the jars in the pantry, I noticed they had little air bubbles in some of them. Is this a problem? There’s an air space at the top of the jar, so I think it’s probably okay, but I’d like to be a little more sure.
Does anyone have any advise for me?
Thanks in advance.
You’ll sometimes get small air bubbles caught under a “ledge” of food, depending how coarsely it was chopped and how tightly packed. If the preserve is pressed hard up against the glass then the bubble can’t find its way to the top. These are fine.
On the other hand, if the bubble is from the food fermenting in the bottle then that would be a cause for concern. It’s not so much the air gap at the top either but whether the seal is intact. ie: the lid should still be held on by the negative pressure (vacuum) created when it was processed. If it isn’t then it was either poorly sealed in the first instance or it’s generating gas (fermenting).
I’d be less focused on the air space at the top of the jar. A smaller space means less oxidation of the food as well as being a visual check of the seal (depending how it was done.)
Is the lid/bottle seal good?
Are the bubbles active?
During the processing, were they brought up to the correct temperature and held there for the correct time?
Graibeard, thanks for the response. From what you are saying, it looks like I’m in the first scenario & safe. The seal is definitely intact and there is no sign of fermentation. I didn’t really think there was a problem, since I was so careful about every step including sterilizing everything and making sure the jar rims were thoroughly cleaned, before putting the lids on, but I thought I should just be sure.
Thanks again for spelling everything out so clearly!
No worries Loritika. I figured that would be the case, and that you were just “putting it out there” in case you were missing the proverbial ‘obvious’ – forest and trees as the saying goes. I think we’ve all been there.
Offering advice, sight unseen on food quality is fraught with danger, thus the careful spelling from this end. :-)
Botulism, now that’s the nasty one as there are no visual signs of its presence. Sticking by the rule book and being pedantic is an essential requirement!
p.s. Tomatoes and salsa. Two of my favourite preserves.
p.p.s I must go and check on the Sauerkraut!
My tomatoes packed in their own juice sometimes have small bubbles, particularly if they have siphoned out a bit, which seems to be common for me when processing tomatoes in their own juice. I check the seal of each jar before opening to make sure it is still concave, and that I can lift the jar of the counter holding only the rim of the lid. I store the jars with the rings off, so that if a seal fails it will be more obvious too. I also follow instructions to a “T” and I’ve read of others with similar small bubbles on other sites. I’m with graibeard – check the seal, whether the bubbles are moving (if it looks like soda pop, I’d throw it out as it’s probably fermenting).
Just a note on the metal spatula: you may want to seek out a plastic or silicone version. I think I read on Food In Jars that running metal tools around the jars can make tiny scratches which may lead to a jar cracking prematurely. A particularly frustrating experience especially if you’ve just loaded up the canner with a favourite or precious item or a favourite jar.
Thank you for the tips, HazelJ. I have checked the lids several times by gently trying to pry them with my fingers & they are definitely on tight. To open the jars the first time, I need to use a bottle opener.
I have also read about not using metal items in canning jars, but at the time, I didn’t have anything else available and since it was small, thin & fit flat against the glass, I thought I’d try it. The end is rounded, as it is used to frost a cake, so I thought it would be okay. Next time I’ll look for something that’s plastic or wooden.
What a relief! Now I feel that my efforts weren’t wasted.
Don’t worry Loratika, I use my offset pallet knives for everything too ;-) A very handy and underrated kitchen utensil!
Thanks ErikInTheBakery. They’re one of my favorite tools too. When I lost my official “jar lid pick up” tool, I used a screw driver with a magnetic tip to pick up jar lids from simmering water and place them on the jars. This helped to reduce the chance of contamination from touching the lids or jars. Of course I boiled the tip first. My philosophy is that if it does a good job & no harm, use it!
The metal tools shortening jar life has been a relatively recent tip for me. I still use butter knives to scoop jams out for toast, but now I use a silicone spatula for cleaning the end of the jar out. I have a thin plastic tool that came with a springform pan that works great for de-bubbling, but I’ve seen others use a plastic knife (like from take out).
You shouldn’t need to sterilize the tools or the jars/lids if the food is high acid and being processed in a boiling water canner with for recommended time in a tested recipe? My most recent canning book (2006 or 2008 I think…) specifically states not to boil the lids, and just to warm the jars to under the boiling point so they don’t crack and hot food goes into hot jars. Has the research changed?
Oh, and my found my magnetic wand at the dollar store: it’s actually a telescoping pointer (like an old radio antenna). Every so often it a lid gets caught on the side of the pot and the wand telescopes out! Cheaper than a new specialty “lid picker upper” tool though!
Just thought I would share this canning tool. My mother had never heard of it, so she was really curious when she saw me using it. She also fishes the lids out of the pot with the magnetic tool, but this handy thing eliminates the need:
re: sterilizing jars and such
I have no problem using newfangled inventions to preserve the harvest.
IOW, automatic dishwasher with all the canning stuff in it set on “Saniwash”.
chopsticks – wouldn’t be without at least a pair of them in the kitchen.
Find them great for removing pockets of air, they don’t damage the fruit or whatever is being preserved, don’t scratch.
Also have bamboo tongs, another valuable tool. I like my fruit or tomatoes to be placed in the jar a certain way (outside of fruit facing outwards) and the tongs help flip the items the right way.
I am quite happy to see tiny bubbles on the skin of whatever I’ve preserved.