Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Food preservation and canning troubleshooting guide

Quick facts

  • Check your equipment and review current canning recommendations to prevent potential problems.
  • If you are using recipes or procedures written before 1994, you are using outdated materials.

Why didn't the lid seal? How do I keep my peaches from floating? Many problems with home canned products can be traced using non-recommended or outdated canning equipment or procedures.

If you are using recipes or procedures written before 1994, you are using outdated materials. For safety's sake, please update your methods.

Choose reliable and safe home canning recipes

Some sources of food preservation recipes may not be based on fact or research.  When it comes to home canning, it is important to always use current research-based recipes. 

Safe home canning recipes are developed by researchers who repeat the entire recipe preparation and canning process many times to get accurate data. Microorganisms are put into the jars to make sure the processing time is sufficient to destroy them.  

Where do I find reliable recipes? 

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a major source of research-based food preservation recommendations. You can find these recommendations at the National Center for Home Food Preservation
  • State Extension services that are partners with USDA are also credible sources. 
  • Plus, recent editions of Ball publications (The Ball Blue Book, Complete Book of Home Preserving) are reliable. 

How do I know if a recipe is “reliable”? 

Make sure your canning recipes follow the latest guidelines. Depending on the food, all recipes must be canned either in a boiling water canner or steam canner (high acid foods) or in a pressure canner (low acid foods).

  • Significant changes to canning guidelines were made in 1994 that are critical to canning tomatoes, pickles and meats.
  • In 2006 and 2009, canning guidelines were reviewed and revised again. 
  • Be sure your recipes are based on guidelines developed after 1994 (or later).

How do I know if a source is NOT providing reliable recipes? 

Be suspicious of short cuts. If you notice any of the following red flags, check another source:

  • Directions for canning non-pickled vegetables and meats that do not include a pressure canner.
  • The recipe is “made-up” or changed by the person providing the information.
  • Directions for processing jars in the oven, dishwasher, or an appliance other than a pressure or boiling water canner.
  • Directions for putting hot food or liquid into jars and putting on lids with no additional processing.
  • If the source does not provide information about processing at different elevations. 
    • NOTE: Recipes are developed assuming you are at sea-level. Water boils at a lower temperature when you go to higher elevations. As a result, you must process food longer to destroy pathogens.
    • Minnesota is above sea level and many areas are above 1,000 feet requiring more time or increased pressure.

Common problems


Carol Ann Burtness and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educators, and Deb Botzek-Linn

Reviewed in 2020

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.