Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question, or require help with your home preserving, please call (07) 3808 2576 or email Valerie with as much information about your question or problem as possible at valerie@greenlivingaustralia.com.au


 

Should I process all my preserves, even jams ?

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Yes, except some egg based preserves such as Lemon Butter, which are meant to be kept in the fridge.

Modern home preserving techniques, which offer the safest results, all call for "Boiling Water Bath" processing for high acid foods, and "Pressure Processing " for low acid foods.

Mouldy Preserves

This Jam was not "boiling water bath" processed,
and was covered in mould when opened.

Read more on Valerie's Blog about mould, and the health risks.

Should I sterilise my jars & lids?
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If processing times are less than ten minutes, your clean jars and lids should be sterilised in boiling water before being filled.

How can I tell the difference between "High Acid" and "Low Acid" preserves ?

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Your recipe and directions should tell you. If not, check the ingredients, most pickle recipes contain vinegar, which increases the acidity. Most fruit based preserves will be high acid because of the fruit acid in the fruits themselves. Some recipes, like tomato based pasta sauce will call for the addition of lemon juice to raise the acidity to a safe level (do not leave this out).

What is "Boiling Water Bath" processing ?

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"Boiling Water Bath" processing, for high acid foods, is where you place your filled and closed jars of pickles, jams, fruit, or sauces into a big pot of hot water. The water has to be deep enough for the jars to be covered by at least 25mm. The pot is then heated until the water begins to boil, this is the start of your "processing time" ... the water must be kept at a rolling boil for the processing time specified.

The heat can then be turned off, and both the jars and water allowed to cool, or the jars can be carefully lifted out of the water, and allowed to cool on the kitchen counter.

What is "Pressure Processing" ?

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"Pressure Processing" for low acid foods, requires a Pressure Canner, which is a sealed vessel. The increased pressure inside the sealed canner allows the contents to reach a higher temperature than 100° C. This higher temperature is required to kill botulism spores, and botulism that can thrive in low acid, anaerobic conditions.

I have an old book on preserving that does not have processing times, what do I do ?

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Old books and recipes can be great, but you need to find a modern book, with the correct processing methods, or you can look at the USDA Complete Guide to Home Preserving. Find a recipe that has similar ingredients, and use the processing method, and times given.

How do I tell if my preserve or jam has reached set point ?

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The set point of jam is 105 to 106 degrees C. Use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. To test your jam for set point, place a small plate in the fridge of freezer for a few minutes. Remove a small amount of the jam and place it on the chilled plate and return it to the fridge or freezer to bring the jam sample you are testing to room temperature. If the jam has reached set point it will hold its shape and form wrinkles when it is pushed with your finger.

It is important to remove your jam from the heat while testing for set point, as if it is ready, you do not want to overcook your jam while performing this test. If it is not set, return it to the heat and continue cooking, then test again.

What is pectin ?

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Pectin occurs naturally in fruits; however, some fruits have higher natural pectin then others. The pectin content is determined by the type of fruit and the ripeness of the fruit, with the riper fruit having lower pectin levels. Fruit that is under ripe has a higher level of pectin. Pectin assists in setting your jams and preserves.

Do I need to add pectin to my jam ?

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There are two ways to make jams, jellies and preserves. The fast way, which uses added pectin, and the slow way, which does not. Pectin is a natural gelling agent and its addition to your jam will give you more consistent results and take you less time. Without added pectin you are relying on the unknown quantity of natural pectin in the fruit, which changes the cooking time to get to set point. Adding pectin can take the guess work out of jam making and is a good idea for those new to this craft.

We now supply "Pure Pectin" in our shop, this is a commercial grade Pectin, with NO added sugar.

Does Green Living Australia sell jars ?

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While we do supply some jars for customers who visit our store in Underwood, SE Qld. neither our couriers nor Australia Post seem very optomistic regarding shipping of the jars without spending a fortune on protective packaging.

We prefer to promote and use FREE jars for home preserving, rescued from the recycle bin, or collected from neighbours, friends, and workmates.

Part of our desire to re-use or recycle, comes from the wish to reduce our own "carbon footprint" ... we even consider it greener to re-use, rather than to recycle, and we definitely don't wish to ship empty jars half way around the world ... this could be considered environmentally irresponsible, when there are viable alternatives available, at more than competitive prices.

Are all jars the same ?

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No. There are three types of common jars suitable for preserving.

  • Twist Top jars, commonly found on the supermarket shelf full of food, buy the food, and get the jar for FREE.
  • Screw Top jars, known in America as Mason Jars, are sold in supermarkets and specialty stores solely for the purpose of home preserving, and can be expensive.
  • Fowlers Vacola jars, the traditional Australian preserving system, can be both difficult to get and expensive.

There are also jars that are NOT suitable for home preserving, such as jars with plastic lids.

Is it safe to home preserve in a "Twist top" jar ?

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Yes. Valerie has been using 2nd hand "Twist Top" jars for home preserving for years (with new lids), for both "Boiling Water Bath" processing of high acid foods, and "Pressure Preserving" low acid foods in a pressure canner.

Like all jars, you must inspect the jar for any damage, such as chips on the rim, or any cracks, and if you know your jar has received any hard knocks you may wish to not use it.

How do I measure a "Twist Top" lid size ?

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The best way to measure your jars, is actually to measure your old lids. Turn the lid over, and measure from the inside of the rolled edge, across the diameter, to the inside of the rolled edge on the other side, like this 70 mm lid.

Lid Measuring

Very few jars on the supermarket shelf do not fit our standard sizes.

What is a "Mason Jar" ?

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A "Mason Jar" is the American system for home preserving, and is a "Screw Top" system.

How can I tell the difference between "Twist Top" and "Screw Top", or Mason Jars ?

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It is very easy to see the difference between the two types of jar just by looking at the outside of the jar, just below the rim.

A "Twist Top" jar will have four short angled ridges, or beads of glass equally spaced around the outside of the jar just below the rim, making four "threads".

The "Screw Top" jar, or Mason Jar will have one long angled ridge, or bead of glass, going all the way round the outside of the jar and overlapping, just below the rim, making one "thread".

Does Green Living Australia sell Mason Jar Lids ?

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No we do not sell Mason Jar lids..

Quite simply we like the environmentally sound practice of recycling or re-using what we can, when we can, and this includes regular twist top jars as seen on the supermarket shelves, full of food. Once empty these jars are thrown out every day all over the country, and it seems a shame not to take advantage of this. And best of all these jars, with new lids are perfect for all preserving, even low acid "pressure preserving".

Another benefit of FREE jars is that when you proudly give your preserves away, you are not always wondering if you will see your expensive preserving jar again.


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