Filling Canning Jars

There are two methods for packing particular food types and recipes into jars -- hot pack and raw pack. Recipes will indicate the method to use. Some recipes will indicate either option can be used.

Hot Pack

The hot pack method is generally preferred when the food being canned is relatively firm and handles well. Precooking the food makes it more pliable, permitting a tighter pack and requiring fewer jars. Food is first cooked in brine, syrup, juice or water. Fruit canned without sweetening is always hot packed. The hot pack method is preferred for nearly all vegetables, meats, poultry, seafoods and most fruits.

In the water bath (boiling-water) method, food that is hot packed usually requires less processing time than raw packed because it is already hot when it goes into the canner. However, with the pressure (steam-pressure) canner, there isn't a difference in processing time. During the time it takes for the pressure (steam-pressure) canner to reach 10 pounds and when you begin timing the processing, the raw packed food has become as hot as it would have been if it were initially packed hot.

Raw Pack

Foods that would be delicate after they are cooked, such as whole peaches, are usually easier to handle if they are raw packed. The food is placed into the jars while it is raw. It should be packed firmly but not crushed. Boiling brine, syrup, juice or water is added if additional liquid is needed. There may be some shrinkage when the food is processed, causing some foods to float to the top of the jar or expanding the headspace.

Fill hot canning jars quickly, using a wide-mouth canning funnel and a ladle to make the job easier, quicker, and less messy.

When packing fruit, vegetables, and pickles, fill one hot jar at a time, remove air bubbles, clean the rim and apply the hot lid and adjust the cap immediately after the jar is filled and use a jar lifter to place the filled jar onto the canner rack in the canner before proceeding to the next jar.

When making soft spreads like jam or jelly, fill all the hot jars at once, otherwise the spread left in the pan will cool too much and begin to set up. Remove air bubbles, clean the jar rim, apply the hot lid and adjust the cap before using a jar lifter to place the jar onto the canner rack in the canner. Partially set spread will not pour smoothly from the ladle and will increase the possibility of air bubbles becoming trapped in the jars.

Repeat these procedures until the canner rack is full or the recipe is gone.

Always use a ladle to transfer food to the hot canning jars. This is especially true for transferring hot soft spreads or preserves from the pan to the jars. Never pour a soft spread over the edge of the pan and into the jars. Undissolved sugar granules can be picked up from the sides of the pan and can result in the spread developing a grainy or gritty texture. Undissolved sugar may also cause the formation of crystals in jams, jellies, marmalades or other soft spreads.

Canning jars and lids should be hot before filling. Keep jars in a saucepot with hot (not boiling) simmering water. Hot foods should be placed in hot jars to prevent the jars from breaking as a result of sudden temperature change. Lids can be placed in a lid rack in a saucepot or placed in a saucepan in hot (not boiling) simmering water. Use either a magnetic lid wand, or tongs for removing the lids from the hot water and placing on the jars. Lids are placed in simmering water to make the sealing compound on the rims pliable for easy sealing.

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