Canning: Why proper headspace is important

I wish I had read this post of mine before our little canning jaunt this weekend.  I was enticed by a sale at the grocery store for blueberries.  Of course I bought way too much.  But I decided to can the blueberries to make pie later in year, or as long as I could hold out.  Which with my pregnant restraint won’t be long.  My goal is to can fruit and then develop a pie recipe that accommodates my canned fruit rather than fresh or frozen.

I followed the recipe for canned berries in the Ball Canning Book.  This was a very simple recipe.  And by simple I mean fast.  It involved very little cook time, no pectin and very little sugar.  The recipe said to leave 1/2″ headspace.  I couldn’t find my handy dandy tool that measures the headspace so I used the picture in the book.  Then I consulted Robert.  We decided it needed just a little bit more.

After processing in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes (we are at a high altitude so I have to add 10 minutes to any processing time) we pulled out the jars only to find that they had severely leaked.  The canning water was purple and the jars kept leaking once they were on they were out of the water.  Not good.   Robert and I said a little prayer that they would pull a seal and I wouldn’t have to freeze them.  After about an hour they did seal though but we lost a lot of liquid.

Here is another example of headspace problems.  In this case we underfilled the jar of applesauce.  You can kind of see from the picture that there is a brown discoloration at the top.  This is safe I believe, just discolored due to too much oxygen in the jar.

You can see the jar on the left is filled pretty full, maybe too full.  The jar on the right is too low and the top portion of the jar is brownish.

The Ball canning book has a section in the back for diagnosing problems.  We think we may have overfilled or overpacked the jars.  But the fruit should be fine.  I think it might easily discolor though like the applesauce.  I hope to use them before this happens.  So another lesson in canning, trust the book and don’t overfill or underfill the jars.  We’ll get it right one of these days.

Thanks,  Courtney

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3 responses to “Canning: Why proper headspace is important

  1. Maybe you could turn them over or on their side every week or so to give the top berries a little bath in the liquid once in a while. I read a blog from a gal who does this every month with all of her home canned goods. Good luck!

  2. The discoloration of the apple sauce is very common. We just opened a jar of our home canned sauce yesterday to make cookies and the top was brown. It tastes fine and there are no health risks as far as we are aware. If you are bothered by it just give the jar a quick stir when you open it the first time.

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