Monday, December 13, 2021

Answering some questions

Lots of people asked questions on yesterday's post, Testing a Theory. Unfortunately I haven't been able to answer any of them because once in a while Blogger glitches and doesn't let me reply to any questions. Go figure.

So I thought what I would do is go down the list of comments, and make replies as needed. If more people ask question in response to this post, I'll add them at the bottom of this post and answer as best I can. Sorry about that, but I can't control Blogger glitches.

Questions in the order they were asked:

Q: When will you do a longevity inspection? Also do you pop the lid into its original shape with the dimple out?

A:  With disposable lids, they either seal or they don't. I've rarely had a jar unseal after storing it in the pantry, and I've canned thousands upon thousands of jars of food over the last 30 years. If the dimple is out, the lid didn't seal. If the lid didn't seal once out of the canner, then simply refrigerate it and use it up in a few days. If the lid unsealed after a period of time in storage, then don't risk using it. The food should be discarded in a place animals can't get to it.

It's surprisingly hard to photograph the "dimple" in the center of a canning lid, but I tried. The jar on the left is processed and sealed; notice the "insie" (inverted) dimple in the center. The jar on the right hasn't been processed yet; notice the "outsie" dimple.

Q: I have always water bathed my salsa and was curious as to why you used the pressure canner?

A. Never ever ever water-bath salsa. Salsa contains endless low-acid components such as bell peppers, onions, etc. The rule of thumb while canning is to process the food in accordance with the ingredient requiring the longest processing time. If you consult your canning book (I always recommend having a canning reference book on hand), they will ALWAYS recommend pressure-canning anything with low-acid ingredients such as peppers or onions.

Q: Can you please explain how you get your lids off the first time canner jar with out making a crease or a "lift" on the outside of the lid? I have tried many various ways and it seems like there is always an imperfection.

A: Yeah, it's kinda tricky. I used to use the bottle-cap feature on our can opener for prying lids off canning jars:

Then a few years ago I ordered a dedicated lid opener from Tattler (the red one). I liked it so well I later ordered a couple extras (the blue one).

However when I compared the two, I found they were different.

The red lifter – the one I ordered earlier – had a metal lip for prying up the lid.

The later version is blunt plastic.

I presume the reason this was modified is because Tattler got too many complaints that the metal lip was piercing the rubber gasket in the process of prying open a jar. I've never done that with the red opener, but only because I'm very careful.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying, use a blunt lifter of some sort on the disposable lids and gently work it until the seal breaks (other readers provided some excellent ideas in their replies to the last post). You might have to rotate the jar and pry at the lid from different positions before the seal breaks. But don't just use a sharp object (like the bottle opener feature) and bend the lid to open it. This way your disposable lids will likely be in fine shape to use again.

Q: I never thought of canning a store bought item (duh!) so thank you again and I will try it. Would water bath be good or does pressure canned do better for an already processed food product.

A: For things we often use, I like buying in bulk (usually from a restaurant supply store) and re-canning them into smaller and more manageable sizes. The usual things I re-can are mustard, pizza sauce, and of course salsa. I've also re-canned ketchup and barbecue sauce. The mustard can be canned in a water-bath since it's high-acid (30 minutes at a rolling boil). Same with ketchup, barbecue sauce, and pizza sauce IF it is nothing but tomatoes and spices. Salsa should be done in a pressure canner, 30 minutes for pints at 10 lbs. pressure (adjusted for your elevation).

If anyone has any more questions, just pose them in the comments and I'll answer them on this post.


  1. To pop the lids without bending them I use a spoon with the convex side up. Run the spoon up the thread on the jar until it’s tight to the lid and lift/pry the edge until you hear air entering the jar.

  2. The comments on canning salsa are interesting to me, as I have water bath canned a salsa recipe from the Ball Blue Book every summer for probably 10 years. (Zesty Salsa)

    I found these comments on the University of Minnesota Extension website:
    "Salsa needs added acid to ensure product safety. Tomato varieties and colors can be mixed and matched for salsa but you still need added acid to make sure the product will be safe.
    Researchers at North Dakota State University tested 14 varieties of tomatoes grown at a ND research center. They tested the pH or acidity level of tomatoes and salsa made with lemon juice and salsa made without lemon juice. All 14 varieties of tomatoes tested had a pH above 4.6. All salsa with added bottled lemon juice tested well below a pH of 4.6 needed to prevent botulism. All varieties of salsa without added lemon juice tested above 4.6 and a risk for botulism. This research explains why an acid must be added to tomatoes when home canning them to lower the pH and prevent botulism. "

    What you are saying about processing food according to the longest processing time makes sense to me. However, the UMN website also says the following:

    "There are only USDA tested salsa recipes and processes for boiling water canning. There are no tested pressure-canning process for salsa."

    That being said, it makes sense to me that pressure canning salsa would be the safest way to can salsa. Just because there are no tested pressure canning recipes, doesn't mean pressure canning salsa isn't safe.

  3. This link on canning salsas was interesting as well:

  4. I really hate to disagree with the queen of canning, but Ball and Kerr have many recipes for salsas that can be water bath canned. I'm guessing the addition of vinegar to acidify the salsa makes this possible.

  5. I ended up buying a gizmo called a pry-a-lid. At the time a got this (a few months ago) It was not this expensive. I did get one that is considered NOS (new old stock) this type allows for re-using the lid.

  6. Thanks for all the great information.

  7. Here is how I unseal a jar without bending top of lid or distorting rim. Feel free to post this.

    Find a knife and use the not sharp side. The thicker the backside, the better. I used a knife from a set of really good tableware.

    Now, take the sealed jar and find the area where the rim of the lid is closest to the threads of the jar.

    Put the knife in that area and parallel to the top of the jar. In other words, not crooked.

    Now, gently press the blade against the lid, which is sort of a twisting motion. Keep moving the position of the knife just slightly and still in the area closest to rim and jar threads. Be careful.

    Soon, the lid pops loose. I have never bent a lid this way.

    Try it sometime.


    When canning guides talk about pressure processing mixed veggies they're referring to soup/stew mixes which might also contain meat. When adding low acid ingredients to tomato products like sauce they must be pressure canned because you aren't adding enough acid to lower the ph into water bath territory. Salsa has an acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice) added for more than flavor, it lowers the ph enough that it doesn't require pressure canning. The link above from the University of Georgia-Atlanta explains it better than I can. In Wisconsin the Master Food Preserver class uses UGA's book 'So Easy to Preserve' as the gold standard text book.