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It’s Blackberry Season. Make Sure Your Jars are Sealed.

It’s blackberry season, and my little bush is producing huge berries like crazy. I’ve never had such a bumper crop. I’ve harvested enough to eat my fill, make two cobblers, and make eight jars of jelly so far. In a few days, I should have enough fruit to make another batch. This year’s berries are huge, plump, and juicy.

I prefer jam, but my husband can’t eat seeds anymore and requested I make jelly this year. It’s more work, but the result is just as sweet. I don’t think there’s anything prettier than something I grew, harvested, turned into a yummy treat, and preserved for future enjoyment.

As I was making jelly a few nights ago, it occurred to me that not everyone grows, harvests, and preserves their own food. Blackberry jelly recipes are plentiful online, so I won’t share one today. I will offer a valuable piece of advice, though. One thing I refuse to compromise on is the brand of pectin I use. I only use Sure-Jell in my jelly and jam. I’ve had good luck with my preserves setting up with Sure-Jell. I once used another brand and ended up with ice cream topping instead of jam. The stuff just would not set up. Lesson learned.

I posted some good advice on canning jam/jelly a few years ago. I thought this would be a good time to share the wisdom again. I posted the following in August of 2017.

A friend of mine recently gave me a jar of jam. Someone had given it to him, but he doesn’t eat sweets. He knew I made at least one kind of jam every year, so he gave it to me under the assumption that I eat a lot of it. He knows me pretty well. I eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches three or four times a week, so it was a good call on his part.

The gift was a beautiful rich purple blackberry jam. I was really looking forward to slathering that on my peanut butter sandwich a few days ago. However, when I unscrewed the ring, I knew immediately that I could not eat this jam.

The jar didn’t properly seal during the canning process, and jam leaked out from beneath the flat, coating the rim and ring. It would have been dangerous to consume what was surely delicious jam because bacteria grows in unsealed jars. Eating something from a jar that didn’t properly seal can make you extremely ill and in some cases kill you. If you ever have a jar that doesn’t seal after 24 hours, immediately put it in the refrigerator where it will stay safe to eat for a few months.

There are many reasons that jars fail to seal. She could have had a bad flat. She may not have gotten the rim of the jar wiped off well enough before installing the flat and ring. The jar could have been flawed. She may have overfilled the jar and caused her jam to boil over onto the rim. She may not have gotten the ring tightened enough. The jar may have been disturbed before it could seal. You really need to let your jars set for a good 24 hours after processing before putting them away.

The way you can tell if your jar is sealed or not is if the center of the lid is concave. The below picture shows a properly sealed jar of my homemade pear jam. I hope you can see this okay. The lid is concave instead of the center being rounded out. You can also tell whether the jar is sealed by unscrewing the ring and trying to gently lift the flat. If it doesn’t budge, you are good to go.

I just took a batch of salsa out of the canner, and not all of my jars have sealed yet. Below is an example of a jar that hasn’t sealed. Notice the little circle in the center is puffed up. Once the jar seals, it will be pulled down. You will hear a loud popping sound when the jar seals. Four of my eight jars have sealed so far. Some jars pop immediately while others take several hours to announce their success.

Canning is a lot of work and very time consuming. I personally find great satisfaction in preserving summer’s bounty to eat later when nothing is vine ripened. Anyone can have a bad seal. It’s happened to me a couple of times. You just have to make sure to check it out before eating it or giving it as a gift.

I give my home-canned goodness as gifts to many of my friends and family during the holidays. I make everything with love and want to share it. Some of those close to me even put in requests. My nephew asks for my salsa every year. My best friend adores my pear butter and offers to take any extra off my hands. It makes me happy to share the fruits of my labor. Remember, love is the secret ingredient to the best cooking. Just make sure those jars seal.

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you enjoyed these seeds of wisdom, please subscribe to my blog, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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