​All Things Pickled

Current preserving and food safety information recommends that home canned pickled products be processed in a boiling water bath. Using this technique, filled jars are heated in boiling water for a specific length of time in order to destroy microorganisms and enzymes that may cause spoilage. This heating step, called processing, not only destroys spoilage organisms but also forces air out of the jars. As the jars cool, airtight vacuum seals form, preventing air and microorganisms from re-entering jars. Specific processing times are established through laboratory testing.

There are quick and easy recipes for pickled products that do not require processing. These pickles must be either refrigerated or frozen.

Research is continually being conducted in the area of home canning. As a result, recommendations may change. Many factors over which we have no control may cause seal failures or spoilage. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that seal failures or spoilage will not occur even if the general directions set out below are followed.

WARNING: Seal failures or spoilage may not be apparent from the appearance or odour of the home canned pickled products. Consumption of spoiled food can lead to serious illness or death. ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen assumes no responsibility or liability for any seal failures or spoilage that may occur as a result of following the general directions set out below.

General Directions for Processing Pickled Products

1. Before beginning, review the information in the following steps. Assemble all equipment and ingredients.

2. Visually inspect canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause jars to break. Screw bands may be reused. Check to ensure screw bands show no rust, are in good condition and fit properly on jars. Discard any jars and screw bands that are not in good condition. Use new metal lids each time to ensure a vacuum seal. Wash jars, screw bands and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well.

3. Sterilize jars just before use. To sterilize jars, place upright into rack in a boiling water canner. Cover with room temperature water. Place lid on canner. Place over high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 15 minutes or as required (see Canning At High Altitudes below). Raise rack holding jars and hook handles on sides of canner. Leave water-filled jars in canner until ready to fill. Prepare metal lids according to manufacturer’s instructions; leave in hot water until ready to use. Screw bands do not need to be sterilized.

4. Use fresh, top quality produce. Wash thoroughly. Prepare according to recipe.

5. Drain one jar at a time into sink and fill jar immediately with prepared product, leaving headspace specified in recipe. Headspace is the space at the top of the jar between the underside of the lid and the top of the food or liquid.

6. Remove air bubbles by sliding a non-metallic utensil, such as a narrow rubber spatula or plastic knife, between jar and food. After removing air bubbles, add additional liquid or product, if required, to maintain correct headspace. Wipe jar rim thoroughly with a clean damp cloth.

7. Center lid on jar. Apply screw band just until “fingertip tight”. Do not over tighten. “Fingertip tight” allows some give between the lid and jar and allows air to escape during processing. This creates a vacuum seal as the product cools.

8. Place filled jar into the raised canner rack. Repeat process with remaining jars and prepared product (starting at step 5). When all jars are filled or canner is full, lower rack into hot water. Be sure jars are covered by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water; add boiling water, if required. Place lid on canner and turn heat to high.

9. When water returns to a full rolling boil, begin counting processing time specified in recipe. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle and steady boil for the required time. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Allow boil to subside. Using a jar lifter, remove jars from water without tilting and place upright on a rack, dry towel or a cutting board to cool in a draft-free place. Do not retighten screw bands or turn jars upside down as seals may be broken. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 - 24 hours.

10. After cooling, check jars for vacuum seal by pressing on center of each lid. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use product within three months or reprocess within 24 hours of original processing. Reprocessing is not recommended as it gives a significantly overcooked product. However, if reprocessing is desired, empty jars, reserving product and liquid. Repeat all steps.

11. To store sealed jars, wipe with a clean damp cloth. Remove, wash and dry screw bands. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label jars and store in a cool dark place for up to one year. If a sealed jar becomes unsealed after some time in storage, this may indicate spoilage from microbial growth. Discard the contents of the jar. Unless otherwise specified, all pickled products, once opened, should be refrigerated and used within three months

Canning At High Altitudes

In most home canning recipes, recommended times for processing in a boiling water bath are given for altitudes of up to 1000 ft (305 m). When canning at higher altitudes, sterilizing and processing times must be extended. As air is thinner at higher altitudes, water boils at temperatures lower than 212ºF (100ºC). These lower temperatures are less effective in destroying microorganisms, therefore increased processing times are necessary to ensure the safety of home canned foods preserved at higher altitudes.

Unless otherwise specified, the times given in this publication are for altitudes of 1001 - 3000 ft (305 - 914 m). For altitudes higher than 3000 ft (914 m), add 5 minutes to sterilizing and processing times.
​1001 – 3000 ft (305 – 914 m) ​3001 – 6000 ft (915 – 1829 m)
​Edmonton: 2201 ft (671 m) ​Banff: 4534 ft (1382 m)
​Fort McMurray: 1001 ft (305 m) ​Calgary: 3557 ft (1084 m)
​Grande Prairie: 2149 ft (655 m) ​Jasper: 3470 ft (1058 m)
​Lloydminster: 2129 ft (649 m) ​Lethbridge: 2983 ft (909 m)
​Peace River: 1102 ft (336 m)
​Red Deer: 2822 ft (860 m)
Additional Information

1. Glass lids may be used for canning, however, new rubber rings must be used each time. Soften rubber rings in hot water for 5 minutes. Sterilize lids in boiling water for 15 minutes or as required (see Canning At High Altitudes). As each jar is filled, stretch rubber ring gently onto lid and place on clean jar rim. Apply screw band tightly and then turn back 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) to allow the air to vent during processing. Once processing time is complete, carefully retighten the screw band immediately after jars are removed from canner. Do not turn jars upside down as seals may be broken.

2. Any deep pot with a lid, such as a stock pot, that allows for at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water above jars may be used in place of a boiling water canner. A rack, such as a cake cooling rack, may be used to elevate jars off bottom of canner. A deep pressure canner may also be used. Place the lid loosely on the pressure canner. Do not lock lid into place and leave vent open so that steam escapes and pressure does not build up inside.
View this information and recipes as a PDF: All Things Pickled (PDF, 104 kb)
Last updated on January 18, 2019