Monday, June 25, 2018

Some Canning Lessons and More

Last week ended up being a busy week, right through today. We just got home.

Wednesday, I had some unexpected time with my husband. We spent the day going over some plans for when we are ready to build our home. We also made our plans for what we had going on this weekend.

Then Wednesday evening, I noticed that something didn't smell too good in the hallway. I thought it was the litter boxes. I thought to myself, I really need to do something about that. My husband and I also noticed a big increase in the gnats and flies in the house. I assumed it was from the heat and humidity and letting the dog in and out all day long. And probably the litter boxes.

So on Thursday, I decided to get a start on the litter boxes. I figured it must be time to completely dump and wash out. Except when I got them out, I knew that could not be the problem. Cleaned them out anyway. Still smells. Did something die under the house?

I got the beans and beef broth jars washed off and ready to put in the panty. I opened the door, and Oh my Lord! there was the smell. And flies. And gnats. And GRODY! maggots on some of my canned jars. Barf-gag-eewwww-bleh! I pulled the jars down and immediately took them to the kitchen sink to wash them off and see if the seal was broken. As far as I could tell they were not, except that the bugs were on the inside, too. I pushed the tops in to see if they popped. They did not. They still looked sealed. So I filled the sink with hot soapy water and dropped them in. Here was the bubbles. Not very many, but enough to show me they were not sealed completely. I am not sure how the tops can be popped down but the seal not intact. Strange.

Then I had to clean the pantry out. I inspected every single jar in there. Most everything in it is commercially canned or sealed up in bags, so everything else was ok. I sprayed vinegar on the shelf and wiped up as much as I could. I got out the vacuum cleaner and sucked up as much as I could. Then I sprayed again. And vacuumed again. Then sprayed again for good measure. I left the pantry open to check on the progress and make sure no more icky buggies were left. I did get everything out of the pantry but the flies and gnats moved on the rest of the house. I spent all day Friday chasing flies and killing them. My dog helped out and caught a few. And proceeded to eat them. I am glad he is not a licker. The cats were useless in this job.

To control the gnats, I used water, apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish soap. I mixed it up, covered it with plastic wrap and cut a hole in it. When I have read about it online, it said a little slit. I found that doesn't work and put a decent size hole. Then when the little bastards fly in and land on the under side of it, I smack it and send them right into the mix. They drown and I laugh my evil laugh. Just like every time I killed a fly. DIE bugs DIE!

Since I spent so much time on bug patrol on Thursday and Friday, I did not get as much around the house done as I wanted. I did not make it to the store, I did not get out into the garden and I did not get any laundry done.

I worked again on Saturday. So no time there either. Saturday morning, I put together some beef vegetable soup in the crock pot for supper Saturday and leftovers for Sunday. Thankfully, because we had a two hour road trip to meet my ex and pick my kid up from his visit with his dad and grandmother. At work, I did get a really good deal on more fruit trees. $5 each! I got two more apples, a pear (will need another one for pollination) and a nectarine tree. I will be so glad when we get our property and I can plant my fruit trees in the ground instead of in pots.

Sunday, we pretty much spent the day either out shopping and running errands or calming the dog and one of the cats when the thunder started rolling again.

We did find a gazebo on clearance on Sunday so we snatched that deal up. We have been looking at replacing the one that bit the dust last year but so far just hadn't bit the bullet and gotten one. Sunday was our day. We don't have it up because of the storms. Hopefully by this weekend we will have it up.

Today, we went to my mother-in-law's house to install her microwave. She bought a new kitchen set of appliances and they had to order the microwave. So my husband and I met his brother at his mom's house to install it. Which of course goes how every installation goes. We ran into problems and it took about 4 hours longer than we thought it would. Totally typical. At least for us, and I assume most everyone else.

We are now home and can take a breather before getting up tomorrow and starting our work week. (Our work schedules are Tuesday through Saturday.)

Lesson learned: Check those canning jars. Don't put them on a top shelf where you can't see them. Check them all the time. Don't let those bastard bugs set up shop in your pantry, because when you do, it's hell to get rid of them.

Tomorrow, it's back to normal for us. With a new routing for me to check the canning jars at least once or twice a week.

P.S. We did clean the vacuum cleaner out. We took it apart to make sure that none of the bugs were left in it.

P.P.S. Supper tonight is Arby's as I didn't plan anything for dinner, so we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and will eat them for supper.


  1. You've got a serious problem with your canning. A failed jar should be rare. Here are some things that I've run across over the years, hopefully one of them will help you. I mostly can chicken, so some things might not work for you exactly as they do for me.

    Make sure that you have good lids. I've always used Ball lids. Even when they get a few years old I have very few fail.

    Run the little spatula around the jar to make sure there's no bubbles and carefully clean off the rims of the jars before putting the lids on.

    Don't put the lids on too tight. I've developed a method where I crank the band on fairly tight then back off and tighten it down just enough to hold the lid in place. It took me some trial and error, but now I don't even have to think about it and the number of failed jars dropped significantly. The lid has to be loose enough to let out the pressure but tight enough to seal.

    Don't play with the burner temperature. Bring the pressure canner up to pressure then drop the temperature down to where the weight just jiggles and leave it there. Play with the canner empty once or twice to figure out what burner setting is required to get the right level of jiggling. It is much better to have the weight jiggling too much than not enough so if you go to low the first time you drop the heat crank it up to get the weight jiggling again and just leave it even if it seems to be jiggling too much.

    My elevation is over 1000 feet so I have to follow special rules. You might want to check your elevation to make sure you're not over 1000 feet.

    When I take the jars out of the pressure canner I check to see if there are bubbles in the jars. If there are bubbles in the jar I'm pretty sure I have a good seal. If there are no bubbles the jar is suspect.

    To check for a good seal tap each jar after it cools with a teaspoon. You'll get a bit of a ringing sound from a good jar. There will be different tones, which is fine, but it should sound a bit musical. If you get a thud you have a bad seal.

    Let the jars cool at least 24 hours before removing the bands. I usually just wipe the jars off with a damp rag instead of giving them a heavy wash. I'm afraid if I use water that is too hot it will weaken the seal.

    What you're calling gnats are probably fruit flies. They love fruits and veggies, the more rotted the better. Luckily they only have about a week lifespan so if you don't leave out fruits and veggies they should clear up fairly quickly.

    Good Luck!


    1. Annie, Thank you so much for these tips. I have a book but of course that is not the same as "real life" situations. I do use Ball lids so hopefully that is not the problem. I typically use vinegar to clean the rims. Based on your advice for putting the rings on, I am thinking that may be where I am going wrong. We did check our elevation and we are under 1000 feet. I have never been told to watch for the bubbles, so I will start watching for that. I also have never heard the tip of using a teaspoon to tap the lid. I will start doing that as well. I do let the jars sit for 24 hours. I will also start just wiping them down with a damp rag as I have been using hot water to clean them before putting them in the pantry. I think I may have been sabotaging myself. Thank you so much for the tips as I planned on canning more today. I will try all of this out and see if it goes much smoother.

    2. The bubbles are something I noticed when canning chicken, so other meats will probably be similar. I don't remember if I saw them when canning beans, it's been a few years, but now that I think about it I don't think I always see them when canning stock. So they're not a sure thing but something to look for especially if you see them in some jars and not others.

      I'm not sure about using vinegar to clean the rims. It is fairly acidic, but since the same lids are used for canning pickles the lids should be designed to handle the acidity.

      The method for tightening the rings is something it took me a couple years or so to come up with. I wish I had someone to give me pointers when I started, it would have saved me some spectacular failures. If the pointers work for you, pass them on :)


    3. I think I had a spectacular failure with the stew meat too! :) I will definitely pass these tips on to anyone that I talk about canning to.

      I do have one more question. I cannot find anything that specifies if the jars can touch while in the canner. I know they can't when cooling, but don't know if it affects anything inside the canner. Do you know the answer to that?

  2. I read somewhere (don't remember where) that it is fine if the jars touch each other in the pressure canner and I almost always have the jars touching when I can but it is NOT good if they touch the side of the pressure canner. I have trouble with the jars moving around and touching the side of the canner if I try to fill a canner elsewhere (when I'm butchering and processing chicken I'm working with multiple canners) and then carry it to the stove so I usually just find a way to fill the canner on the stove and check before I close it to make sure none of the jars shifted to touch the side. Since I usually try to cram the canner as full as possible it's not always easy to avoid touching the side of the canner. I bought some old jars fairly cheap at a yard sale and save some commercial jars that look sturdy enough and have the right top for the canning lids. Having at least a few jars that are a different size or shape from the standard jars makes it easier to fit more into the canner without touching the sides, especially with the pints.


    1. Thank you for letting me know that! We have not let any of the jars touch the sides or each other. We probably could have gotten more in the canner. We don't have to move the canner here since we are doing all of this in the kitchen but will be sure to keep that in mind once we set up our outdoor kitchen.