Liquid loss in home canning? I have been asked questions about this topic numerous times. It is frustrating, but sometimes liquid is lost during processing. It happens to the best of us…even me! And sometimes, it drives me crazy!
When is the Liquid Loss Too Much? Is My Food Safe?
First, let me say that as long as the liquid loss is not extreme, the food is fine. Extreme can be defined as more than half the liquid.
If you have jars that have experienced extreme home canning liquid loss–more than half the jar, for example–put them in the fridge and plan on using them. If the loss is lower than you like, but not extreme, place them in the front of the cupboard so they get used first.
Sometimes food above the liquid mark may darken. (I have not had that happen to mine.) As long as you are sure you processed it correctly, just use the food as usual.
Possible Reasons for Liquid Loss
This might mean you had incorrect headspace.
Possibly you did not get out air bubbles before putting on the lids.
Your pressure canner may have fluctuated in pressure during processing. Try to keep that pressure as level as you can.
Foods like beans may have simply soaked up all the water. (Beans should be partially cooked prior to canning.)
You might not have had the screw band on tight enough. The lid should be snug but not tightened down too tight. Just finger tight is fine.
Of all these reasons, there are 3 that stand out as being most likely.
- You removed your jars too quickly from the canner after processing.
- You allowed pressure to fluctuate in your canner during processing.
- You are raw packing food (and that is not bad but it can make liquid loss more likely).
Removing Jars Too Quickly
The most common cause I’ve found for liquid loss in home canning? Hurrying the cooling down process, decreasing pressure in a pressure canner too quickly, or removing jars too quickly from a water bath canner.
What to Do When Using a Pressure Canner:
Always allow the canner to cool and reduce pressure to zero naturally. Do not speed up the cooling process with cold water, cool rags laid on the lid, or any other method. Just leave the canner sit at room temperature and cool. When it has come to zero pressure, remove the weights. Wait 10 minutes. Then take the lid off the canner.
Let the jars rest for 5 minutes or so in the open canner before removing them.
When the canner and jars are reducing pressure, you want them to decrease pressure equally. If you cool the canner off, the pressure in the jars will cool slower and result in more pressure inside the jar than around the jar. Contents in the jar will swell and liquid is pushed out.
What to Do When Using a Water Bath Canner:
When your processing time is up, turn off your heat source and remove the lid to the canner. I allow my jars to rest for 5 minutes or so before lifting the jar rack and bringing the jars out of the water. Then allow the jars to rest another 5 minutes or so in the rack above the hot water. There have been occasions where, when I bring my jars up out of the water, they are still rapidly boiling and liquid will be bubbling out. Some bubbling is normal, but when it is is so hard that you can actually see liquid seeping out, that is too much.
If that happens, put the jars back down in the water and wait another couple of minutes. After the jars have rested a bit above the water, you can remove them to the counter to finish cooling.
This does NOT mean leaving your jars in the canner overnight or even for several hours. You do still want to get them out in a reasonable time. Just don’t rush it.
Allowing pressure to fluctuate in a pressure canner can be a problem. When pressure canning, you don’t want your pressure to rise higher than required. If your pressure is too high, you’re more likely to experience liquid loss.
You also want to do your best to keep the pressure steady. Try not to allow it to fluctuate up and down during processing. That up and down pressure is likely to cause liquid loss. And remember…if it dips too low, you’ll have to start your time over again.
Raw Packed Food Has More Air
Many foods are perfectly safe for raw packing. Raw food naturally has more air it in, and it will be expelled from the jars during processing.
Remember, raw pack does not mean don’t process. It just means not pre-cooking your food before you process. Raw packing sometimes causes floating in fruit too. This is why for many foods, it is suggested that even though you can do a raw pack, a hot pack has a better end quality.
So is the Food Still Safe?
So even though liquid loss in home canning is certainly a bummer, and your jars are not nearly as pretty when that happens, remember your food will be fine. If liquid loss is excessive (halfway or lower), go ahead and put it in the fridge. And those with milder liquid loss, place in the front of your cupboards, so they get used first.
A Note About All American Pressure Canners
One thing I have noticed when I use my All American Pressure Canner is that the gauge will sometimes read zero, but when I pull the weight off the pipe, steam escapes. I can tell that there is still pressure inside the canner.
If that happens to you, put that weight back on immediately and give the canner more time to cool down. It can be frustrating, because that gauge reads zero, but the pressure steaming out indicates it is not zero!
So especially with an All American, have patience! Don’t rush the canner.
I mention this in my review/comparison of the two most popular canner brands here.
E-Mails I’ve Received Regarding Liquid Loss in Home Canning
liquid loss in home canning
“I am canning green beans and chard in an American Pressure canner. I am using Ball screw on rings with new covers every time. I leave one inch head space. I tighten the cover down with modest torque on the ring.
“Liquid escapes from the jar into the canner every time. Is this normal? As an engineer (retired) I don’t see how the pressure inside the jar can be greater than the pressure in the canner. Is this a head space issue? Reggie”
It sounds as if you are doing things right.
I’ve had others question why they lose liquid too. What happens is that as the food is boiling under pressure, the contents of the jar expand. Then, as it cools, the lids are sucked down and a vacuum is formed.
It is common for some liquid to seep out into the water. You don’t want too much liquid to boil out, however.
When you open the lid to the canner, the air will cool very quickly…much quicker than the jars will. This is when more siphoning may happen.
If you are loosing too much liquid, you might be taking your jars out of the canner too soon. Be sure and let the canner cool down naturally. Don’t try to speed it up by running cool water over it or anything.
When the canner pressure is back at zero, take off the lid, but let the jars set for about 5 minutes. Then take them out of the pressure canner.
I will sometimes just open the lid, leaving it set on the canner cocked off to the side. (Be careful of the steam–it will burn your face or fingers!) This will allow the jars to cool slower and the contents will not push out of the jars as much.
And this is coming from a very un-engineering type person! :0) So I hope it makes sense the way I explained it.
“Hi, I am wondering if it is safe to eat canned green beans if there is no water in the jar. An Amish friend gave some to my husband and I wonder if they are safe to eat. I have never had any can food that was not full of water. The seals seem to be tight.
“Thank you for you help, Neina”
Hmmm, there is no water at all? That is not good. I have had liquid loss in home canning and it has still been safe, but an extreme loss like that isn’t ok.
It would all depend on your knowledge of your Amish friend’s canning methods. I’ve read that many still follow old procedures and will use a waterbath on green beans. This is not safe, and I personally would never eat them like that.
Unless you know this friend well enough to ask how it was processed, I’d suggest being safe rather than sorry, and not eating them.
It can be tricky sometimes with something like this. You don’t want to offend the gift giver, but you also don’t want to get sick.
Here are a couple of pages you might be interested in:
This is an index to many articles on canning safety.
This one is on canning green beans safely.
“I have a question about the corn I canned this week. This is the first time I have ever put corn up in canning jars. I have usually put it in the freezer. I did not blanch it first so I used the hot pack version I found in the booklet that came with my pressure canner.
“After processing and cooling the liquid in the jar had reduced quite a bit. I am not sure why or if this will affect the safety of the corn. This is worse in the quarts and only in a couple off the pints.
“I am wondering what might have caused this. I would appreciate any help you can give me with this. I am new to canning and even though it is a lot of work it is a very gratifying hobby. Thanks in advance for your help.
“God Bless You, Renee ~ Louisiana”
As long as you followed the correct time and pressure required for canning corn, you should be all right. Liquid loss in home canning will sometimes occur. I have had that happen as well, and the corn is fine.
It is possible that there was not enough headspace in your jars. Corn is starchy and will swell when being processed. That might have pushed the liquid out or simply absorbed a lot of liquid.
Be sure and check the seals on your jars. Sometimes, if the liquid gets pushed out, it may leave deposits on the sealing compound and prevent a good seal.
I hope that helps, and I hope you continue to enjoy your new hobby.
“I’m new to canning. A couple of weeks ago I made pickled beets and water bath canned them. The vinegar mixture does not cover the top layer of beets. Are they still safe to use?
Yes, your beets should be okay. I assume you mean after you processed, the liquid level was down, but you had the liquid full to the correct headspace when you filled your jars.
Sometimes, liquid loss happens during processing. Unless it is extreme, your foods will be fine. The food above the liquid may darken a bit.
“liquid loss in home canning”
“Help!!! It seems every time I pressure can I am losing nearly half of my liquid. The jars come out only two thirds full. What am I doing wrong? I have a pressure weight, not a gauge.
This is one of those things that is hard to say just why it happens.
These are some possibilities:
It might mean you had incorrect headspace. Or possibly you did not get air bubbles out before putting on the lids.
Did you try to speed up the cool down time after your processing time is completed? Be sure and let the canner cool all the way down on its own. Then, when your pressure is at zero and you open the lid, leave the jars for 2-3 minutes more before taking them out of the canner. This slows the cooling a bit and lessens liquid loss.
As long as you used the correct processing pressure, time, and method, you should be okay.
Your food will be fine. The food above the liquid level may darken a bit.
If liquid loss is excessive (like well below halfway), go ahead and put the jar in the front of your storage area so it will get used first.
More Articles on Canning Safety
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Canning safety overkill is a concept that doesn’t make much sense. Food can be spoiled even without mold. Botulism is the #1 worry for improperly canned food. SimplyCanning.com goes into more detail.
Home canning and boiling your food to death. Boiling low-acid foods prior to eating them – not during the processing. Let’s clear a few things up.
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Page last updated: 11/14/2020.