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Water loss in canned tomatoes

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Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  Glendale-gardener on 8/6/2011, 1:20 pm

Okay, so this is my first time canning ever. In past years, I have always frozen my extra tomatoes, but this year I had so many I wanted to give canning a try.

I read the Ball Book of Canning and the instruction parts of Preserving the Harvest. The latter book recommended using a pressure canner for tomatoes even though some still say the the water bath is fine, so that is what I did. I bought the Presto 16 qt pressure canner. My husband helped me and we followed the directions correctly accorsing to the canner instructions.

It said to process at 11 lbs pressure for 25 minutes. We closed it up and waited for the steam to be steady for about 10 minutes, then put the weight on and waited for the pressure to build before adjusting the heat. (I am using a 16,000 btu gas cooktop)

Problem during the process: We waited until the pressure had started to build up to 8 or 9 to start adjusting the heat, but it got up to 12 , then 13 lbs of pressure so we kept adjusting the heat down until it finally settled on 11. We were concerned about it going over the recommended #, but according to the book, it is better to overprocess than to underprocess, so we didn't worry about it.

I had 3 pint jars and 2 quart jars in the canner (I wanted to start small for the first try) I made sure that there was only the required 1/2" of space at the top and I thought I had gotten all the air bubbles out but the pint jars now look like they have about 3/4" of space at the top (which I wouldn't have worried about) but the quart jars have about 1.5" of space. Also, the tomatoes are all floating at the top and all the juice and water is at the bottom. That part I guess is just because I didn't pack them tightly enough but I'm concerned about the space at the top.

Is the water loss a problem? The trouble shooting section of the Ball Book says water loss could be due to fluctuating pressure but it doesn't say if that means I need to scrap this batch or if it is okay.

If it is NOT okay, can I just open these jars and start over with clean jars and try again?

When I do do try again(I still have many lbs of tomatoes already picked), should I start at a lower temperature than high since my btu's are quite high already or was that right?

When is the proper time to start messing with the temp? Or did I misunderstand that part of the instructions?

Sorry for the super long post! Just trying to give all the info the first time!

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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  littlesapphire on 8/6/2011, 3:19 pm

Hey Glendale! I do more water bath canning than I do pressure canning, but I'll tell you what I've learned. As far as I can tell, the added space in the jars is from fluctuating temperatures. Since the lid isn't sealed in the beginning, the up and down of the temp lets some of the water out. I've had this happen too, and it's never given me any problems with the food inside the jar.

I wouldn't try opening the jars and recanning them, because after being processed a second time, the toms will probably come out all mush. Just store them away, and when you open them to eat them later on, do the smell and sight test. If they look good and smell good, they are almost certainly good to eat.

I also wouldn't worry about the toms floating to the top. No matter how hard I try, I can't pack my veggies/fruit close enough to prevent this from happening. I think it's just what happens with food that is mostly water! But hey, it's a good thing. When you take the toms out to eat, you'll have free tomato juice left in the jar Very Happy

Good luck next time! Pressure canning is an art form that takes some practice before you know what works best for you.

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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  miinva on 8/6/2011, 6:40 pm

I use a water canner at home, but I went to a friend's last fall and we did some salsa with her pressure canner, as well as some stewed tomatoes, and she said it's normal for the tomatoes to separate from the juice. She cans the juice she drains off her tomatoes and it looks like clear pink juice with some stuff in the bottom, but she said that's perfectly alright. I wouldn't worry about the separation and I suspect the water loss is from the higher temperature, but I don't think it'll damage your tomatoes. I'm with littlesapphire, give them the look and smell test when you go to eat them, but don't worry about it overly.


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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  happycamper on 8/7/2011, 3:44 am

Glendale-gardener, your tomatoes are fine and don't re-process them as it will change the consistancy of the fruit. If the jars are sealed then you are good providing you processed them for the right amount of time for quarts and pints at the correct pressure.

I will try and answer all your questions.

Venting the canner for 10 minutes was correct.

Add the weight and bring the canner up to the correct pressure, correct again. Most pressure canners will continue to build pressure and need the heat to be adjusted down to the recommended pounds called for in the recipe.

What you experienced in your jars is called "Float" when the liquid is at the bottom and the fruit/veggie rises to the top. This is normal and tight packing will limit it but it is not a problem.

The space at the top of the jar can be caused by over processing (when the vacuum is created) or also by too many air bubbles left in the jar. What you may discover is that the tomatoes at the top exposed to the additional air may change color in time (year or so) but this does not mean they are bad, it is due to the additional water loss.

The proper time to adjust the temperature is when you go over the desired amount of pounds for the recipe. I can nearly all veggies, fruits and meats. As you get more experience with the canner you will not have these issues. If they sealed you did a good job!

Here is a link that has great information on canning nearly everything.


Last edited by happycamper on 8/7/2011, 3:47 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added USDA canning link)

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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  camprn on 8/7/2011, 7:06 am

+1 what happycamper said! Congratulations on your first successful canning!


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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  miinva on 8/7/2011, 3:30 pm

That's a great link! I'm about to do a batch of salsa Smile


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Re: Water loss in canned tomatoes

Post  Denese on 8/7/2011, 5:13 pm

I always pressure can my toms. I do occasionally have more space at the top when coming out of the canner compared to what went in the canner. It's never been a problem. It probably is the extra bubbles in your packing. That's one of the reasons I usually don't pack whole. I prefer to peel, squish, heat through, and then fill my jars. I figure I'm gonna squish 'em anyway, so I just go ahead and do that ahead of time. And, mine always separate from the juice a little... perfectly normal. As has been said before, as long as they sealed, you're good to go. Not sure that it makes any difference, but I never mix quarts and pints. Not sure if I read that somewhere, or just info I gleaned from my mother and grandmother. I'm sure you'll enjoy your home canned produce. I always do!

Happy Canning!


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