Speaking from experience, there is nothing more frustrating than finishing a batch of canned goods only to find that some, or even all, of your jars didn’t seal.
While there are a variety of reasons your jars might not be sealing, I’m going to focus on issues with the main components: the jars, the lids and the rings.
While this might seem rather obvious, you don’t want to use jars that aren’t made for canning, as they are more likely not to seal. Even though it is cheaper to reuse glass jars from the grocery store, it is ultimately not worth it if you end up with a whole batch of unsealed jars. Canning jars are made to fit the lids, seals and rings just right, so it is better to spend the extra money to make sure your jars seal.
You also want to make sure that your canning jars are not defective in any way. Specifically, you want to make sure that your jar rims are free of cracks, chips and debris, as that will prevent the lids from sealing properly. Running your finger along the rim of each jar is an easy step to take to ensure that your jar rims are in the best condition to seal. You also should take caution when filling your jars, so that you don’t end up with any food on the rim. If you do, quickly, but thoroughly, wipe away any residue before putting the lid on the jar.
Now that you know how to get the jars ready for sealing, the next component you need to look over is the lid. The lids are especially important in the sealing process, because they have the rubber seal that will make or break your canning process. While canning jars and rings can be used multiple times if they are still in good shape, canning lids and the rubber seal compound were designed to be used only once. Therefore, if a lid looks like it has been used before, it is best to just put it aside for some other use. When in doubt, it is always better to buy new lids, but even those need to be checked for any defective spots that could prevent the rubber seal from doing its job.
If you have good jars and lids, the last thing you want is to spoil all of your hard work because of bad rings. While they might not seem as important as the jar or the lid, ill-fitting or rusty lids can prevent your jars from sealing just as quickly as a chipped rim. If the rings are bent, they will not apply equal pressure around the lid. This will prevent the seal from bonding properly because it won’t be able to get a good grip on the rim. Before you use any rings, you can test them by screwing them on the jar before it’s filled and by running your fingers around it to feel for bumps or rust. Another good test is to set it on a flat surface to see if the ring wobbles or if it lies flat.
You also should make sure that the rings are tightly screwed onto your jar, so the lid sits with even pressure on the rim. However, you don’t want them to be too tight or else the air will not be able to escape to create the necessary vacuum that develops as the jars cool.
Before you go through the process of making a delicious jam or other canned good, you want to make sure that you have all of the proper components in good condition. It does not take much to ruin an entire batch if you make just one mistake. Checking the jars for any damage or debris, using new lids, and using proper-fitting rings are very simple steps to take to make sure your lids seal properly so that you can enjoy the spoils of your hard work.
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