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Bottling the Bounty
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

September 16, 2007

Those who planted vegetable gardens earlier this year are now reaping the rewards...and reaping the rewards... and reaping the rewards! Take string beans for example. From one package of planted seed, I've picked 10 pounds of yellow beans at one time. A family of three can only eat so much of this particular vegetable before they start squirming for relief! So this year, I attempted to can our own vegetables for the first time.

The fear of botulism, that deadly and undetectable hazard associated with poorly processed foods, has always made me think twice about preserving vegetables using this method. But by using new lids, rings and following the processing instructions explicitly, I felt much more confident.

Judi Kingry, Marketing Manager for Bernardin Ltd., manufacturer of the most popular two-piece metal home canning closures and mason jars, eased my fears even more. "Problems like that are only possible if you are doing low acid foods like meats, fish and poultry. High acid foods are fruits, pickles and jams. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are in between. That's why we recommend adding a bit of lemon juice or citric acid to the jar."

Safe home canning requires "heat processing" of all foods. During heat processing the contents of jars expand and internal pressure changes take place. These changes allow gasses or air to be "vented" from the jar. After processing, the atmospheric pressure outside the jar is greater than inside due to "venting". This pressure difference causes the lid to be pulled down onto the jar causing a vacuum seal to be formed. The resulting seal prevents microorganisms and air from entering and contaminating the food. Hearing the lids snap down as they cool and seeing them indented is very reassuring to the processor!

Instructions for canning used to recommend "boiling lids" prior to placement on jars. This is no longer required for home canning success. This recommendation has been changed to "heat lids in hot water, NOT boiling," according to Kingry. "For years, Canadians have been advised to "boil lids five minutes" before placing them on filled jars," says Kingry. "We discovered that many home canners tended to follow the old adage - 'If a little is good, more must be better.' Extensive testing by our technologists revealed that boiling the lids too long, combined with overly tight application of the screw bands, could lead to seal failure."

Different vegetables require different processing times and each must have a designated headspace. This allows room for the contents to expand. One thing that concerned me about the beans I bottled was that although they had been processed correctly and all of the lids had snapped down due to the vacuum, many of them had beans sticking up above the liquid inside.

Kingry explained that beans have a lot of air in their cell walls and because the tendency is to pack them in tightly, they may rise up above the liquid after processing. "They may discolour, but it's nothing to worry about.

Bernardin has two minibooks (Tomatoes; Jams & Jellies) as well as a 128 page Guide to Home Preserving available for home processors. These books are described on their website:; You'll also find a terrific collection of recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables on this site. Have questions pertaining to canning? You can call Bernardin toll free at 888-430-4231

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