Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Did My Canning Jar Break?

I recently had a canning jar break during processing, and while this is a rare event, it still caught me off-guard and disappointed me a little.  I was canning Quick Dills with Garlic and Chiles and had placed my filled jars into the canner minutes earlier only to hear the tell-tale pop of a pint jar breaking in the canner.  Since I was in the middle of this canning operation, I left the jar in the canner and continued to process the remaining jars.  Once the processing time was over, however, I removed the broken jar, and this is what I found.  

Jar with bottom broken off

So, why did this happen?  Well, for anyone getting into canning and even for those with experience, this can seem like a set-back.  In actuality, it is not that big a deal although it can be messy, and it obviously means you have lost the ingredients from that particular jar to the garbage.  For the most part, this problem can be easily avoided, though.  Here are some reasons why a canning jar may break before, during, or after processing.  

  • The number one thing to remember is to use jars meant for canning today.  That means no use of mayo jars or jars that once held store-bought jelly.  Those jars are meant for commercial canning which is different from canning at home.  That also means no canning in vintage jars.  I know those old blue Ball jars are pretty, but they are best kept for dry ingredients such as beans, rice, and pasta.
  • We may not realize it, but each time we pack a jar or remove its contents, we are possibly scratching the insides of the jar, particularly if you are using metal utensils.  Make sure to inspect your jars thoroughly before using them to make sure there are no cracks or chips anywhere, even on the rim (which can prevent proper sealing).  To prevent cracks or chips, use plastic utensils to pack jars and remove air bubbles. I find that a plastic chopstick works great for removing bubbles in a safe manner.  
  • The leading cause of jar breakage is probably a temperature difference in the jar and its surroundings.  When I was a kid, I filled a glass with ice and put it in the freezer until the tea had been made.  Once the tea was finished, I poured the hot tea over the ice in the frozen glass, and guess what?  The glass cracked.  Same thing goes for canning jars.  Packing hot food into a cooler jar, putting a cooler jar into your boiling water bath, or placing your hot jar on a cool surface after processing can all lead to breakage.  The tricky thing is that sometimes it take a little longer to pack your jars correctly before they cool down.  In that case, make sure you are packing as quickly as possible and keeping all other jars warm as you do so. 
  • The last factor for jar breakage can be the age of the jar.  Although jars last years (some say as long as ten), they will eventually need to be replaced.  
I feel pretty certain that my jar cracked because it was too cool when I put it into the boiling water.  Even though it had been sterilized in boiling water and was filled with boiling vinegar before being placed into the bath, I think the jar had been too cool when the vinegar was poured in and it weakened it causing it to break in the canner.  

The main thing to remember is that this doesn't happen often and is not a disaster when it does.  If you have already begun processing, don't stop your timing just to remove the broken jar.  Yes, you may have a bit of a mess to clean up afterwards in your canner, but you don't want to stop processing and then have to start it all over again just for one jar.  That could result in a loss of quality in your other jars as well (think softer pickles if they have been partially processed and then reprocessed).  If you jar is holding something like jelly or jam, make sure you thoroughly clean the other jars before storing them.  If, on the other hand, the breakage occurs before your processing time has officially begun, by all means remove the broken jar from the water before continuing.  If for some reason, a jar breaks during pressure canning (I will be posting soon about pressure canning green beans), continue processing as usual.  Do not open the pressure canner until all the proper steps have been taken and you are sure the pressure in the canner is zero.  Usually when a jar breaks it breaks into large pieces rather than shards, so it is easy to locate all the pieces and remove them safely.  Most importantly, if this happens, keep calm and can on!   
 

21 comments:

  1. I had problems with breakage last summer. I banged a few jars on the edge of my sink while washing them and, even though there was no visible damage, the jars broke during processing. I just need to be more careful in the future!

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  2. Also trapped air bubbles! My friend was once so proud of how tightly she packed beans into a jar for pickling, but I forgot to teach her to bubble her jars. The bottom of both jars broke out.

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  3. You're right, Kate. Air bubbles are nasty little things, and you really should do all you can to remove them before processing jars. Thanks for adding that to the post!

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  4. Well, I am experienced in canning, and last summer I bought a bunch of new jars, and these brand new Ball jars broke at an unbelievable rate, and still are. Apparantly, even my wash water to to hot for them to handle. I had one batch that ever jar in the canner broke! The ones that did not, are breaking as I empty them and go to wash them by hand. I have noticed small bubbles in the glass. I think they are just making them cheaper and cheaper and I need to find a different brand of canning jar that can handle canning, and wash water! I wrote the company with no reply from them what so ever. I am disgusted!

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    1. If you notice the newer jars are much lighter weight wise than the older ones. I have had more Ball jars break than the cheap Main Stay jars from Walmart. The going rate for breakage is 10 Ball jars to 1 Main Stay jar.
      I have several jars that were my mother in laws and my husband's grandmother's and NONE of them have broke and they are much heavier than the newer ones.
      Do NOT write the company call if it is Ball, Kerr or Golden Harvest jar that breaks and they will usually send you coupons to replace them. 800-240-3340 for Jarden.

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  5. I am an experienced canner, too, and I have broken 3 jars in processing so far this year. This is unprecedented for me -- only one has broken in over 20 years otherwise. I am wondering about my new stainless steel canner. It is huge, and the rack has a gap in the centre. I suspect that the jars which broke tipped slightly, and touched the bottom of the canner during processing. I will be lacing up the gap with kitchen twine to see if my breakage rate will go down.

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    1. It is the cheaper made newer jars.

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  7. This is my second year canning. Last year, not a single jar broke. Did tomatoes, beets, and applesauce. Today is the first time I pickled. I had four jars break. Very disheartening. These were Ball jars. I used Mrs. Wage's dill pickles with 5% vinegar. After the first jar broke, I went back and made sure about air bubbles. Last week, I had no problem with the jars and jam. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the mixture?! Oh well, ended up with 4 quarts and 2 pints of pickles. Thanks for the comments here! At least I know I am not alone.

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    1. I just had one out of four jars break making the same pickles with Ball quart jars. I even carefully got all of the air out. I'm new to canning, and this is the first time it has happened.

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  8. I have been canning for 50 years and last year I had several jars break--green beans, peaches, etc.
    I was using the rack which came with canner. My sister-in-law suggested trying a raised piece of metal from another canner which was about 3/4 inch off the bottom. Worked great until yesterday as I was canning tomatoes. Two quarts of tomatoes in two different batches broke. Now I am wondering
    was it air bubbles, jars too full, acid or too old of jars? I was cold packing them. I did cool the water in canner from the batch before but water was still hot, Maybe I should have started with cold water in canner since jars were cold. ?????

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  9. This is the first year I have ever had jars break. The first jar was cold packed tomatoes so I did the rest hot packed and the second time it was hot packed tomatoes. These were both wide mouth Ball jars, purchased last year. What a mess!

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  10. Same problem here! We've been canning for a few years now and this is the first time we've had jars break during canning (applesauce today). Two have broken so far. They are Ball jars that we were recycling. We'll try with some new jars on our next batch and report back if we have the same problem.

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  11. I have been canning for 40 yrs and this past summer was the first time I heard of the bottom of the jars breaking off. I had no problem but a friend lost 2 jars while processing. These were not new Ball jars. Then today I brought up one of my qts. of pickles from this summer's canning. It still held a vacuum with no leakage. I opened the metal lid and screwed on a plastic lid. As I picked the jar up to put in the refrig the bottom just fell out and I had pickles and vinegar all over the kitchen floor. What a mess! This has never happened before in 40 yrs of canning. Now I'm gunshy when I bring up another qt of pickels.

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  12. I canned 4 quarts of dilly beans today, heard a crack when the 3rd jar went into the hot bath, noticed after the bath was over, a jar was floating, the bottom had broke off. Been canning for years, first time I lost 2 quarts. Bummer, I did not inspect the jars before and these jars have been used a few times. Must grow more beans.

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  13. So happy to see I am not the only one. I have canned and froze foods for many years in my Ball Jars. I recently had 2 half gallons crack in the freezer. I was so upset that I searched the website to find that the half gallons today are not tempered like they use to be. They truly have changed the quality to cut expense so now I must see if this is why it is happening in the canner and oven as well.

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  14. Last year I had no problem with my jars, this year I lost two in one batch. I canning green beans. As I've read other ppl's comments, I'm left wondering if maybe Ball jars are the common link, and I'm wondering if the jars are over recycled... Like a plastic bag from the grocery stores, they are all thinner and weaker... I wonder if Ball jars are the same way?

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  15. I have been using ball jars for about 4 years and every year I lose at least 1 jar per batch, it is getting really frustrating after all the work that goes into it.

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  16. WOW< Alot of Ball jar issues. I am using old canning jars and have for over 25 years.. And when I say old I mean they were grandparents past on to me. I had a couple times in those years where I had breakage. Maybe I have lost a dozen in that time frame. I believe it was the cold into too hot of a bath. All the comments I read seems like Ball is selling a thinner or cheaper product if that is possible. Check out your local thrift stores ladies and buy old stock. They don't make em like they use too! What I am trying to find is this: The bottom popped off my jar of peaches today. Can I eat the peaches? There is no glass shards. Just a clean break. I hate to waste such good organic peaches.

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    1. It does seem that broken jars are becoming common for many folks. I lose a jar or so each season, sometimes for reasons I could foresee, and sometimes for reasons that are lost to me. I don't know if there is a difference between older jars and newer jars in terms of quality. It would be interesting to know though. I have a lot of older jars as well, but many of them I choose not to can with because they may be weakened from years of use and/or have chips too small for me to see with the naked eye. I use those for storing dry goods instead. I just don't know that there is a perfect answer when it comes to broken jars except to use good quality jars and to be as careful as possible by putting hot items in hot jars, hot jars in hot canners, etc.

      In regards to the peaches, I am sure you have probably already done something with them, but I will give my opinion for future reference anyway. If it were me, I would eat the peaches in the other jars (the ones that didn't break), but I would discard the peaches in the broken jar. Even if there are no visible shards of glass, there may still be slivers of glass too small for you to see. It is difficult to think of wasting such good fruit, but I would do that to be on the safe side. Use your best judgement.

      Good luck with your canning!

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  17. While canning peaches two jars broke, one before boiling and one during, my jars and syrup where hot, I'm using golden harvest jars, I've had the jars three and two years, is there a time limit on how long you can use them, sad to see all those peaches go in trash

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