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Pickles, relishes and chutneys are perfect accompaniments to so many dishes. They add gusto to plain food and dress up everything else. From appetizers to entrees and even desserts, a pickle, relish or chutney can complement any flavour.
Current preserving and food safety information recommend 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 failure or spoilage will not occur even if the general directions set out below are followed.
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 the 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). Raise rack holding jars and hook handles on sides of the 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 the recipe.
5. Drain one jar at a time into the sink and fill the jar immediately with the prepared product, leaving headspace specified in the 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 the jar and food. After removing air bubbles, add additional liquid or product, if required, to maintain the 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 overtighten. “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 the 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 the canner is full, lower rack into hot water. Be sure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water; add boiling water, if required. Place lid on the canner and turn heat to high.
9. When water returns to a full rolling boil, begin counting processing time specified in the 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 the center of each lid. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use the 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.
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.
Take our pickling information with you into the kitchen by downloading our PDF guide. This guide includes processing instructions and recipes for Brined Dill Pickles, Freezer Pickles, Pickled Beets and Pickled Ginger.
Note: ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen information and recommendations contained in this publication have been researched and are in accordance with current guidelines published by Bernardin Ltd. and the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia. We acknowledge their assistance. The Bernardin Ltd. "Guide to Home Preserving" is available at retail outlets in Alberta.
The methods and procedures outlined in this publication are recognized as safe. Many factors over which we have no control may cause spoilage. ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen assumes no responsibility for any failures or spoilage that may occur.