The mystery of the popping jam lids…

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I feel so fortunate to have moved into a house with so many seasonal bouquet ingredients growing everywhere you look!
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I just love this time of year, everything is so beautiful outside. We’ve been making a list of garden tasks that need to be done before winter sets in…the list, it’s long! Since we’ve moved in we haven’t been able to spend as much time getting the garden going as we had hoped. Our focus has been on the house and hopefully we can get all our projects done so that the next growing season we can turn our thoughts fully to the outside. Because our focus has been off the garden we haven’t had as much to put up or preserve. This time last year, we had 26 quart jars of tomato sauce put up. 16 jars of peaches, 10 bags of frozen nectarines, and well over a dozen jars of jam in the pantry, catsup, chutney’s, barbecue sauces etc. This year we maybe got a measly amount canned or frozen. Nothing went to waste, we ate or gave away all our fruit, but we just didn’t have the energy or produce to do more.

With the little we did get canned, we had a bit of a disaster. In fact what happen still remains a mystery. Last week, when our oldest was making his almond butter and jelly sandwich he ran out of jam. We reached for a new jar to find that the seal had popped. We reached for another one, that too had been broken. Seven jars, all their seals broken! These were all different jams, canned from different times of the year. As we tend to be a bit conservative on the food safety meter, we threw them all away, who knows how long they had been unsealed. Uhg. Then this past Sunday we were all sitting in the kitchen. Praire Home Companion was playing on the radio, I was cutting Scott’s hair, the boys were again packing their lunch snacks into little containers and we heard a loud ‘poink’ come from the pantry. Not again! Another jam lid popped.

Those of you who do their own canning, know that ‘ping’ sound that you hear when the jars seal. It’s a soul satisfying sound that gives you an inner happiness. A happiness to know that the job you did was successful, that you have worked to preserve a little bit of summer that will nourish your family in the dark months, that you are somehow connected to previous generations, oh I could go on and on. Hearing that ‘poink’ sound of a jar unsealing randomly in the pantry gives you pretty much the opposite feeling.

Do you have any idea why this happened? Our suspicion is that we got a bum package of lids. Only some of the lids have popped, so I don’t think it wasn’t some sort of atmospheric condition. It wasn’t a bad canning job, as they were different jams done over different times of the year. And this only happened with the small mouth jar lids, none of the large mouth lids have popped…yet! If you have any insight, I’d love to hear it.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The mystery of the popping jam lids…

  1. You probably did this. But you have to wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth before putting on the lid for a good seal.

    • asonomagarden

      We have been in the habit of wiping the rims, although not with vinegar like Victoria suggested, just with hot water. Thanks to Nancy about the headspace advice too. We do leave about 1/2 an inch for those little jars. Hmmm. We’ve been canning every year for the nine years we’ve been married and never had this happen. It’s so odd!

  2. Nancy

    It could possibly be that not enough headspace was left in the jar. You need about 1/2 inch headspace in pints that contain sugar, syrup, or water, and 3/4 inch headspace in quarts. For narrow topped containers leave 3/4 inch headspace in pints and 1-1/2 inch headspace for quarts.

  3. Victoria Bird

    Ginger’s damp cloth should also have been soaked or sprayed with vineger, which will really get the goop off the top of the jar. How disappointing! Have you read “The Dirty Life”? Good book for the 15 minutes/day you have some time.

  4. This post has been a educational one for me. I’ve been lucky, I guess. I’m going to remember the jar lip wiping. Thanks.

  5. I wish I had an answer- I have never had the pleasure of canning…yet. Lovely captures- those shades in the flowers are so pretty.

  6. KimH

    Uhm… perhaps a passed past inhabitant of the house is visiting and trying to let you know they’re around. Or perhaps one of your passed family members. ;)
    If you cant figure out the cause, try asking the “thin air” to please stop playing with your jars since it took such hard work to make them.
    Sedonia is the land of heightened spiritual energy.

    Perhaps you are correct and its a batch of bad lids. Have you counted them? Hopefully they stop at 12 if you bought new lids.
    Also, have you seen the new reusable lids? Im planning on buying some next year! Nice!!

  7. I’m going for a batch of bad lids. I have had them not seal because I didn’t wipe them well enough but that happens right away!

  8. KimH

    Yesterday, I was on YouTube watching a couple of a gals videos that are canning related. http://www.youtube.com/user/BexarPrepper#p/u/28/6-bgUAkcMQM
    She mentioned that an entire batch of green beans she made were bad because of the brand of jars she had. Not only that, she said the rings sealing area wasnt as thick as Ball’s were.
    Did you by chance use MainStay canning jars? Thats what she used. She said there was a little bump on the rim of the jars but she thought it would be ok, but obviously, it wasnt.
    I wondered if that might be your problem also.. defective jars &/or lids.

  9. are you possibly at a different altitude than you were, that is really strange especially to have some from all different batches etc. Not sure if the altitude would have anything to do with it but hey no one else seems to know either :) Love your blog!

  10. Melinda

    I’m thinking it may be a altitude problem, too. Not that I’m an expert, but I know altitude makes a difference in lots of things that have to do with cooking. I hope you don’t lose anymore of your hard work!

    Thanks for sharing your recipes and inspiration. I love your blog.

  11. Amy

    Hello! I took on my first canning adventure two weeks ago because of an over abundance of satsumas this year. All was well, I listened and was delighted to hear the “pop” a few minutes after taking the jam out of the water bath. I thought I was accomplished!

    But…..now, ugh, I’m a bit miffed. I took all of the rings off for storage. I also heard that this was a good way to detect a poorly sealed jar as the lids would pop off if bad. Well, the last few nights I’ve heard a popping sound coming from my jars of jam. I go to check them to see which one popped its top and low and behold…..none actually have the physical signs of being popped off. Am I going mad? The last thing I would want would to ruin 4 batches of jam!

  12. I lost a bunch of stuff I canned when we moved bc it froze. A wide variety of previously sealed items lost their seals.

  13. smallbrook ranch

    sitting at my desk i have been hearing the same popping. my canned goods are in a pantry(closet) in the same room and i hear it with the temp change, although i have not found the cans with the unsealed lids, it remains a mystery to me till i find the ones that are popping.

  14. Clare

    Scary.. I hate to say it. But botulism can cause jar lids to pop. http://missvickie.com/canning/canning%20errors.html. Yikes! And what a disapointement…better luck next time.

  15. Weird. Maybe the jar rings weren’t applied tight enough during canning? Check here for other ideas: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/cannedfoodproblems.html

    • smallbrook ranch

      I think I figured my poppin lids… I have some dry ingredients in jars with new lids that I did not seal, just vacumn packed them, I think they are popping when the heat goes on and the house starts warming up. Hoping I am right, never had any problems and been canning for years.

  16. KimH

    I still think about those popping lids.. I occasionally hear lids popping around here.. I havent even vacuum sealed them…just put herbs and spices in jars and close the lid.. Every time I hear one, I think about this story.. how bizarre, how bizarre. ;)

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