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Troubleshooting Common Canning Problems Home Canners Face

When canning problems arise, troubleshooting common canning problems can feel like rock in a hard place. 

Troubleshooting common canning problems is important to learn. When something isn’t right with your canned product, find out what went wrong. Track back your steps to recognize causes to find the solutions.

This guide will help you when troubleshooting common canning problems. But first, it’s a good idea to understand what is desirable in home canned products.

Sauces & Juice

It’s pretty simple, really. Sauces and juices should have a nice consistency throughout. They should be the right color, smell and taste.

Finally, canning lids should always seal firmly to preserve the freshness.


Jellies and jams should be “jelled“. Not too hard or liquid-y. The consistency should be very easily spreadable over fresh whole wheat bread or biscuits.

Plus, they should taste amazing as well. Still as sweet as if the produce to make it was fresh.


Many vegetables can be pickled. Cucumbers, beets, squash and so much more. You can even pickle eggs! The possibility for pickling is endless.

For those of us who enjoy the sour, sweet or dilly taste of pickled product, pickles are a great option to put up the endless amounts of cucumbers we can grow in a season.

The completed pickled product should have proper taste, color and crunch you desire. The pickling brine or juice should maintain the quality of the pickled product throughout the year until you are ready to enjoy it.


Preserved fruits should be stored in a light syrup. The fruit should be able to move easily through the syrup when the can is turned.

Also, the color and taste of the fruit should be high quality through the entire year the product is in the jar. It should taste and look as fresh as if you just picked it and cooked it up into the syrup.

By troubleshooting common canning problems, you can find a solution to the reason your canned product may not be up to par or desired.

troubleshooting common canning problems

Troubleshooting Common Canning Problems

And the best part about canning is that we have the ability to preserve our fresh produce to enjoy it longer. We can have cucumbers and beets in the winter. We can enjoy sweet corn in the spring. By preserving it correctly, it will still taste as fresh as the day you preserved it.

But, unforeseen problems can arise during canning no matter how prolific in the canning process one is. It’s best to not give up, but to figure out what is causing the problem. Troubleshooting common canning problems can help you figure out the problem and resolve it for next time. You can learn from the issue and find the solution by troubleshooting common canning problems.

This is all about learning. And not giving up. You wanted to can a delicious product or you would not be reading this post. So, here are typical problems that home canners are faced with. And how troubleshooting common canning problems can result in solutions to keep you on the right path through your canning adventure.


The formation of bubbles is a common problem when home canning jellies. Usually, air trapped in hot jelly causes bubbling.

So, hold the pot close to the top of the canning jar and don’t pour too slowly to prevent the air from becoming trapped in the hot jelly.

Bubbles can also be the result of an improper seal. The product becomes spoiled if too much air gets inside. So, make sure those lids are on tight. You’ll find that re positioning or reapplying lids are common troubleshooting common canning problems.

Color of Product

You’ll know if the color of your canned product doesn’t look right. And the color of your canned product could be “off” for several reasons.

Maybe you accidentally over processed the product. Be sure to follow processing guidelines exactly and accordingly.

Another reason could be caused by failing to can products that were at optimum stages of maturity. Produce should be brined within 24 hours of gathering. Storing in a cool, dark, and dry place can prevent the color change of the product as well.

Finally, minerals on your canning utensils or water can be the cause of the coloration change. The solution is to avoid using these utensils and to use soft water to maintain a colorful product.


Another problem when canning jellies can be crystallization of the product. One of the causes can be excess sugar. Fruit contains sugar so how much more you add in can really be too much.The solution is to invest in a jelmeter to test for proper sugar amounts.

Undissolved sugar in the pot is also a big problem. Be sure to wipe all crystals from the side with a damp cloth before filling the jars.

Finally, mixture becomes crystallized during processing when the mixture is cooked too slow or long. So, be sure to cook at a rapid boil. Then, when jelly point is reached, remove from the heat quickly. Troubleshooting common canning problems, such as crystallization in jellies, can help to achieve a quality and tasteful product.

The next “troubleshooting common canning problems” solution is finding the solution to poor flavor.


Preserving good flavor starts with choosing good produce that is in season and in it’s prime ripeness. Choose good, sound flavored fruit and vegetables to ensure quality flavor.

The difference in flavor is caused by overcooking or scorching the product on the stove. Stir the mixture frequently. And only cook to the jellying or boiling points.

Another reason flavor is off in pickled products could be the fault of the vinegar. Make sure you’re using a vinegar with 5% acid. Also, don’t use salt substitutes. Always use a proper canning salt to ensure the best taste.


When you see fruit floating up to the top in your preserves, this is a symptom of overripe fruit. Be sure to use a ripe product. Also, be sure to cook the fruit rapidly and follow directions. Under cooking the fruit can cause them to float.

Also, the fruit should be properly uniform. Random fruit chunks that are too big or too small can cause improper buoyancy in the syrup.


In jellies, it’s important to use firm, ripe fruit because green fruit has more starch that can result in the cloudy substance. Also, the way the juice was strained and worked  can make a big difference. Don’t squeeze the juice bye let it drip slowly through the jelly bag. Then, pour the juice into jars immediately upon reaching the gelling point.

In a nutshell, it’s important to work promptly and gently when preparing jellies. Another trick is to add 1/4 tsp. of butter to fruit and pectin mixture before boiling to prevent that excess foam from occurring.

Hollow Pickles

Of course, you want to prevent hollow pickles by using properly ripe and sized produce. You don’t want your produce to be too large or too small. The range of proper pickling cucumbers is small to medium. Big cucumbers should be fed to the pigs or used for relish.

Also, improper curing is caused by a weak brine. When fermenting, brine is kept at the proper strength and covered until fermentation is complete.

Finally, pickling is started within 24 hours of gathering produce to prevent hollow pickles.

Imperfect Seal

You know you are dealing with an imperfect seal when you fail to hear that anticipated “pop” of the lids sealing during cooling. Here are some reasons jars fail to seal.

First of all, did you follow the directions exactly? It’s important to follow directions from the manufacturer for proper preservation. Along with this, don’t reuse lids or rusty bands. Always purchase new lids year after year.

And be sure your jars are up to par with no chips or cracks in the jars. Examine these jars closely and use your fingers around the mouth of the jar to be sure you don’t miss anything.

Make sure your jar rims are clean, especially when canning meat. Trimming the fat from the meat helps, but always wipe the jar rim very well before closing up jars no matter what you are canning.

Finally, use your tools. Use a jar lifter and hot pot holder to grasp the jar below the lid. This avoids putting upward pressure on the lid.

Troubleshooting common canning problems

Improper Separation

Improper separation of juices can happen in tomato products if not prepared properly. The best way prevent separation is to heat the tomatoes quickly before working them up. This helps prevent the enzymatic change during handling.

I like to wash tomatoes and then heat them to boiling. Then, I place them immediately into a sink of cold water to cool completely. Then, I work them up for canning all kinds of delicious canned tomato products: Pizza sauces, ketchup and chili.

Troubleshooting common canning problems adds to your experience level. By figuring out canning problems and solving them, you become a more experienced and successful home canner. The next common problem is loss of liquid from canning jars.

Loss of liquid 

After jars are processed and you open the lid, you may notice loss of liquid in your canner. Loss of liquid is caused by a number of mishaps.

First of all, did you work out the air bubbles before you put the lid on? Running a spatula between the food product and the jar can help to remove the air bubbles. It’s also important to make sure you have proper head space in the jar before putting on the lid. Check out the Ball Blue Book for guidelines on proper head space for whatever product you are putting up.

The most obvious possibility is an improper seal of the lid on the jar. Always check the jar rims and clean the edges with a wet cloth before tightening the lid. Hand tighten jars to guarantee tightness.

Loss of liquid is also caused if the jars were not covered with water completely. Jars are covered completely with 1-2 inches of water during processing.

For pressure canners: During processing, maintain constant temperature to prevent fluctuating pressure. Then, let the pressure drop to zero naturally when finishing pressure canning. Wait 2 minutes before opening. This prevents the pressure lowering suddenly after processing.

Sediment in Jars 

White sediment is simply caused by bacteria during fermentation. The solution to preventing sediment where you don’t want it is to be sure the lids are airtight. It’s also a good idea to wash equipment before and after canning.

Another cause of sediment is salt. To prevent caking of your salt, use a canning salt.


One of the causes of shriveled fruit preserves could be if the syrup is too heavy for the fruit. So, a simple solution is to plump the fruit for 24 hours in the syrup, while following instructions for the type of fruit being preserved.

When pickling, shriveling occurs if the product was overcooked or the brine was too strong. Follow the directions and do not alter cooking times or recipe.

Also for pickles, it’s always best to brine the produce within 24 hours of gathering to ensure the best pickled product.

Spoilage or fermentation

Your product is spoiled for three common reasons. The first could be improper storage over time. Always store canned products in a cool dark place and consume within one year.

The second reason could be improper sealing. Always wipe the rims of the jars before adding lids and bands. Tighten lids on jars, sealing them airtight.

Finally, you know if the product did not seal properly that it failed to process properly. You can either consume the product within two weeks. Or you can reseal the lids and reprocess immediately to seal up the product.


Jellies too soft? Maybe you overcooked the fruit. This can lower the jellying capacity of pectin. Be sure to follow the recipe exactly – Don’t use too much water.

Cook the mixture rapidly to the jellying point. And finally, the acidity could be insufficient so add in some lemon juice if the fruit is lower in acid.

Finally, moving products too soon after canning can interrupt the setting process. Don’t move jellies for 12-24 hours after they are made.


If your preserves result in a sticky or gummy texture, you probably overcooked it. Be sure to follow the cooking directions.

Cook only until the mixture is thick and produce is translucent and can still easily move.


Overcooking can also result in a tough or hard preserved product. Make sure to follow all the directions. Watch the stoutness of the syrup when cooking preserves. Starting the fruit in too heavy of a syrup can result in the product being too hard.

During cooking, the syrup concentration will gradually increase. So, cook fruit according to the directions.

Finally, fruit is plumped 24 hours before canning. Allow the fruit to sit in the syrup overnight for at least 24 hours. This acts as a “marinade” and causes the fruit to take in the syrup prior to canning.


Troubleshooting common canning problems

Troubleshoot Solutions For Better Home Canned Products

In conclusion, as you read through this guide, you probably noticed a few main symptoms and solutions throughout. Here they are in a nutshell:

  • Choose ripe, colorful produce.
  • Don’t overcook and follow recipe instructions.
  • Be sure lids and jar rims are clean.
  • Proper handling and storage is key to keeping product properly preserved.

Troubleshooting common canning problems are important to ensure a safe product. So, when something doesn’t go right during canning, trouble shoot the solutions. Learn from the problems and avoid making the same mistakes. Remember why you started canning in the first place.

Remember, recognize and troubleshoot to continue to preserve home grown valuable product to enjoy all throughout the year.

[Tweet “What problems have you faced when canning fresh produce?”]

~ Much Love ~

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Friday 19th of October 2018

I am having an issue with the lids popping off my jars while water bath canning of tomatoes. Obviously, this sends the contents floating into the water and ruining the whole batch. I've tried everything people suggest - I have a little lemon juice and salt in each jar, tighten the lids just fingertip snug, made sure the jars and contents are warmed before putting them into the canner...what am I missing? I canned last year without any problems and this year it keeps happening. Help??? Thank you.

Mindy Young

Saturday 20th of October 2018

Dee - This has happened to me before, too. It sounds like you are doing things right. Fingertip tight lids...jars warmed. Do you have the correct head space? Sometimes if jars are packed too full this will happen. Also, did you sweep for air bubbles? Too much air in the jar can cause this as well. Enough water over the tops of the jar? I try to have at least 1 inch of water over the top. These are just a few ideas I'm trying to think of off the top of my head. Let me know if any of these might be it. I hope this helps.

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