Inversion Canning for Jams/Jellies: A Safety Discussion

I wanted to write a update post to my post on inversion canning based on some of the responses I have gotten about inversion canning. Before we get started with this discussion, if you haven’t seen my post about Inversion canning, you can view that post here.

Apparently there are many people who feel that this method is not safe and that the US government says is is not an accepted method for canning or that it is not an approved method of canning by the USDA. They also say that this method is not approved for those entering items in a contest.

That last one is so simple to me. I think the people to whom inversion canning appeals…are like me. They have not the slightest intention of entering their jam or jelly in a contest. They just want a simple method with which to make a jam or jelly. Then they want to enjoy their yummy homemade jam/jelly.

As for the other issue, I did some research about all of this because I am not the type of person to believe everything I hear. I also don’t necessarily trust that our government knows it all or, honestly, even that they have my best interest at heart. There are many practices that we adhere to in our country that I completely disagree with related to our food supply and how food gets to our table in America. In my opinion Europe is far ahead of is in it’s food production, safety and practices. I don’t want to further make this simple post controversial by adding more as that is not my point. I am just trying to give you a foundation for my opinion.

I went straight to the source in order to gain the correct information. You can read the same document I read here: Preserving Foods: Processing Jams and Jellies.

No where in that article does it state that you can’t use the inversion method. Nor does it say anything about life threatening illnesses as have been stated can happen. It also does not state that the boiling method of canning is the only approved method for canning.

What the article states is that the USDA and the Cooperative Extension endorse the boiling method of canning. Their main reason has to do with mold growth related to spoilage of the food you have made and preserved. They say that they don’t want you to lose any of that expensive food you have just canned (my paraphrase) so the most foolproof method of preserving will be the boiling method.

If you read the article, there is a Q & A section which addresses the inversion method of canning. In that section, they let you know that it is not their recommended method because you might get interrupted and your product might cool down too much. They also let you know that it is possible that the vacuum seal may not be strong enough with this method and finally they warn that you will be working with the hot product and you could get burned. In addition to that, they let you know that if you don’t get the lids on tightly, you may further get burned if the hot jam spills out as you are inverting your jar.

I feel like they are talking to a dumby. No really, you are working with a hot product!? I am shocked. You are going to be working with a hot product either way. I also think it is quite obvious that you need to do this inversion method quickly and while super hot. It is my understanding that you must do the boiling method exactly the same working with you extremely hot jam.

As to the claim that the seal is weaker with the inversion method. I, of course, read that this may not actually be true. I read that with today’s jars with the pop top (you know the center button), if that button is down and not popping up, you have a strong enough seal. You will have to make up your own mind on that one.

By the way, they are right that you might get burned….I would actually say you will get burned or at least your fingers will need a few days to recover. Maybe I do things totally wrong, but I haven’t found a way to deal with the molten lava that is hot jam without my fingers taking a hit. It’s hot. If that scares you, don’t do it.

As to the potential for mold, the article says that their is a potential risk for mold growth. It says that some molds may produce mycotoxins. They state that they don’t know what the actual danger is to humans consuming mycotoxins, but that animal studies seem to show a potential risk and therefore there may be a risk to humans. It is also a possibility that these mycotoxins may be carcinogenic in animals, but again they don’t know if it has any role in human disease. So therefore it is difficult to assess the health risk of consuming molding jam or jelly. They then go on to make sure you know that if you find moldy jam, you should throw it away…the whole jar.

Now this is where I may get many comments and my own views may be a problem in stirring up more controversy. I’ll take a risk. Listen, what they are saying above is that their is a potential for mold growth on your precious jam or jelly and that it may or may not grow a mold called a mycotoxin (they don’t know if it is this kind of mold or not). That mold may or may not be a carcinogenic (cause cancer). OK, really, it may or may not grow the mold that may or may not be a carcinogenic in animals. Really? There are so many items that are in our food supply and/or our food production and beauty products that are known carcinogenics and our government says are perfectly safe. So, for ME, this is not enough to make me stop using the inversion method of canning.

I love that they feel the need to tell us that we should throw away any jars of jam or jelly in which we find mold…I did not know that(read that really sarcastically), did you?

Anyway, nowhere in this article is there reference to botulism and other scary problems with food safety as was told to me in reference to inversion canning is not safe. Maybe it would be part of the discussion if we were talking about using the inversion method with salsa and spaghetti sauce (tomato based things) but that is not what we are discussing here.

My final thing to add to this ‘discussion,’ is that I have accidentally eaten moldy jam before. It wasn’t even my homemade jam, it was store bought. It was the most disgusting food experience I think I have ever had. I still shudder when I think about it and I can unfortunately still remember the taste. That Boysenberry jam has yet to be allowed back in my house. I wouldn’t wish moldy jam on anyone. I also think that the potential for mold growth is there with any NATURAL food product.

Now this is just my opinion and I think you need to do your own research and decide what you are comfortable with. Are you comfortable with the idea that your inversion jams and jellies may spoil faster than the using the boiling method? (Which, by the way, has not been my experience at all.) Does the potential for not being able to screw a lid on correctly and dumping hot jam all over your kitchen terrify you? Are you really worried that you may get interrupted too many times and not be able to process your jam/jelly while it is really hot? If you answer yes to those questions, then I would suggest you not to use the inversion method.

As to who should use the inversion method…I can’t really tell you that. I can only tell you that I will continue to use the inversion method. I am comfortable with the ‘risks’ and I love the rewards. I will not use the inversion method for anything but jams/jellies and I have used it for syrup as well. I do think their are greater risks with preserving other types of food and I am not willing to take those risks. I have tasted moldy jam and I have lived to tell about it. I still shudder from it, but I’m still alive and kicking!:) (I am in no way trying to make light of the fact that their are some sickness/disease that can come from mold and I do understand that it can happen…I am merely making light of my disgusting mold ‘incident.’ Blech Blech Blech!)

Please check your jams/jellies for mold before you eat them whether they are homemade or store bought…it is disgusting and you don’t want that experience…trust me….shuddering now.

Thanks for stopping back by and learning with me.

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  • Snapdragon-55 - July 18, 2012 - 9:39 pm

    Your last reply provides a small level of relief … you’re right, it doesn’t fulfil other concerns but maybe this trick for jars will help.  Pectin inserts now address prepping ONLY for BWB which no longer requires sterile jars before processing 10 min at boiling point …this makes your posting point moot without a little additional instruction or clear reference recommendation. 

    Try this: wash jars in soapy water for clean (water temp really has no effect on sterile), arrange in a small pan and slip into a 225-250 oven before you start the jam on the stove.  By the time the jam has pectin and is ready to pour, the jars are STERILE without major effort.  And hot enough to receive molten jam.  An easy win-win.

    Sterile jars and very hot fruit will at least reduce the inherent risk remaining of not processing in a BWB.  Good luck, gal … I hope you do broaden your canning horizons.  Even with use of a BWB, there’s a much satisfaction (and addiction) to providing better foods for family & friends.  Jams, chutneys, salsas, oh my!ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:39 pm

    Even before you replied back to me, I had been thinking about what you had replied with earlier. I have had an insanely busy week+, so I didn’t have time to get to any of it until now. 

    I can agree with you that I am probably not as clear as need be to get the point across, especially with as quickly as most people read blog posts (usually skimming and looking at pictures). I had been thinking about that as well as my responsibility since I am the one who posted. While I do feel perfectly safe using the inversion method for jams/jellies, as I have stated before, I would not use it for other types of canning. I decided to change the title of my posts. I decided rather than the title being ‘Inversion Canning,’ I would change it to ‘Inversion Canning for Jams/Jellies.’ I can’t go back and make that clear for people who have already read it. However, I feel better changing the title so that at least if they read the title it is clear for what I am using this method. I also changed the title for the 2nd post on the discussion about safety – this post.
    Anyway, I would guess that is not quite as much as you would like to see me change. However, I do feel safe using this method for jams/jellies and that is based on the research I have done as well as my personal experience. I do want to do what I can in retrospect to convey that this is the only thing for which I use this method. As far as the inserts and the boiling jars and/or how to prepare them. I see your point, however for me that wasn’t the point of my post. Maybe in your view point it should have been, but for me, I feel like that is part of what someone else who wants to use any version of canning needs to figure out on their own. My inserts do say to wash the jars and rings in HOT soapy water and to put the lids in near boiling water to wait to be used. That is what I do and I assume that others will follow what their pectin or book has to say.Thank you for the book recommendation. If I decide to try further canning, I will definitely look into that book. ReplyCancel

  • Snapdragon-55 - July 18, 2012 - 9:39 pm

    Oh good, let me share experience in writing instructions for the craft industry.  After 20+ years, the one hammered experience is that few people actually read multiple instructions even when suggested.  I didn’t catch what you meant & I copy edit instructions.  I keep inserts from pectin boxes and recent years do not discuss sterilizing jars precisely because of the BWB.  Without the BWB, inversion canning is flirting with greater danger without sterilizing the jars for at least 10 min in boiling water or 10 min in 250 oven, etc. If I’m going to have to do that, the BWB is actually easier to do.  I haven’t burnt my fingers in years…love a jar lifter.  May I suggest the Ball Blue Book (aka: BBB)? It is the least expensive, most complete primer available.  You can find it at Walmart or Amazon.ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    I agree with you in regard to the Botulism. That is why I specifically wrote in my post that I would not recommend it nor would I use inversion with anything other than jams/jellies. I was specific about not using it with tomatoes. I also didn’t mention the prep of the jars and lids b/c I said to follow the direction that came with your pectin. It tells you what to do in that and for me that wasn’t the point of my post. 
    I do appreciate a variety of opinions. That is my personality and I am always willing to learn as well as admit I am wrong if I feel that I learn something that convinces me I am. 
    Thanks for coming back and adding more to our discussion. ReplyCancel

  • Snapdragon-55 - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    You are correct about your chosen singular article. Botulism is a rarity in jams and jellies but not so in other canned goods.  Advocating the open-kettle method of canning opens the door to the unitiated to trying it with relishes, sweet pickles and the like … many assume you’ve done all your homework before blogging.  Sterilizing the glass jars and lids which, even in my grandmother’s day of inversion canning, was an absolute not mentioned in your how-to article.  If you already have had the jars in near-boiling water waiting to be used, one might as well finish sealing the jars with a BWB.  And from the science aspect, a 10 min period of boiling heat does create a stronger vacuum. It is good of you to appreciate the expression of contrasting opinions.  Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    I would never try this.  Just take the small amount of extra time to can the regular way. ReplyCancel

  • leigh - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    I would be very nervous to try this. I have canned jellys and jams for years now. The death of my family, loved one or friend far out weighs the burnt fingers or time that it takes for BWB….I know that it truly is your own choice on what you do in your own home, I am all about that. BUT, please re-read the facts about this. I would hate to hear that anyone would become sick or die from eating something that you were not informed on.ReplyCancel

  • Snapdragon-55 - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Well, good luck with this as I’m in the camp of the BWB process. I’m much happier taking that extra step to ensure that home-canned goods will not surprise family or friends.  And no, I didn’t drink the Koolaid per government advice … the USDA recommendations come from university extensions who, as ordinary folk like you and I, took years of study and experimentation to perfect the safer and yet simple method of heat processing high acid foods.  FWIW, the botulism strain that can affect home canned goods frequently has no odor, no mold, no taste before it pops the lid (ouch!).  Many have surfed through years without surprises but I do recall my grandmother speaking of the unfortunates who opened a “bad jar” in her day and suffered the consequences.ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Your Welcome!ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Glad to have enlightened someone. Although with the ‘controversy’ that has surrounded this, I’m nervous to have recommended it.
    Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly Montgomery - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Thanks for this additional information.  ReplyCancel

  • Micki Weinrich Sellers - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    I’ve never heard of this method of canning at all. Thanks for enlightening me! It’s soooo hot here that the thought of boiling just makes me start sweating. And, TBH we go through jam so fast…it won’t even have time to get moldy!ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! It has been a bit more of a controversial topic than I ever anticipated, but I agree and do plan to continue with my jams and jellies. 
    Have a great day!ReplyCancel

  • Angela Peters6 - July 18, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    Keep doing what you’re doing!! I learned to can the exact way you are doing it and nobody has died from my jelly yet 😉

    New follow from the blog hop :) Hope you get a chance to stop by my blog :) xo, Jersey Girl hairsprayandhighheels.blogspot.comReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:55 pm

    Thank you for your opinion.ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:55 pm

    Thank you for your concern and your opinion.ReplyCancel

  • K Coake - July 18, 2012 - 9:55 pm

    Thank you for your opinion and btw, there is not one mention of botulism in the article that I refer to in this post that is from the extension office. ReplyCancel

  • chuck - January 14, 2013 - 1:42 pm

    i work for a small tomato sauce business and we use the inversion method. we also use special lids with a tiny amount of adhesive, i think it’s called plastisol, that melts and bonds to the jar with the 190 degree plus sauce. the method is approved by the state and federal authorities, for what it’s worth. many commercial food products in the grocery use this hot fill inversion method.

    i have used this method at home to can gallons of tomato sauce in ball jars with just the bands and lids. it has worked fine.

    is there an acid ph requirement for this method? i wouldn’t do meat, but if you’re canning jams and jellies, do you think that apple butter would work just the same? i’ve got a wicked apple mustard recipe i want to start canning.

    thanks for the discussion, it took me a while to find much info on this.ReplyCancel

    • K Coake - January 16, 2013 - 2:58 am

      I’m amazed to hear that a tomato sauce business using this method. I think that is really neat.
      In answer to your question, I’m not an expert in this area. I don’t know what the ph would need to be. I think there is much debate about whether this method is safe or not. All I was able to find was linked to in this post.
      Sorry I can’t be more help.

  • Lynne Gill - January 7, 2015 - 4:19 pm

    Hi, I found this because I am searching for new jam recipes. I live in the UK. I make jam the way I always do – like the inversion method OR EVEN wait for it!!!! Without inverting my jars! Yes! People in Europe have been making jelly, jams and marmalades this way for CENTURIES without getting botulism. Our manufacturers do not process in water bath. One of your fellow Americans who frequently posts youtube videos, Janie someone, has taken me to task for not jamming the proper way, she says no trader would get their product past USA import controls making it that way as it was DANGEROUS! Good God! We made jam that way before modern America was discovered! I KNOW bottling fruit and veggies you need to water bath or even pressure can them, but NOT jams and jellies etc. I am SO GLAD to read your blog post and know that there are some people with common sense over there. Hope you find this – I am a couple of years out of date!!ReplyCancel

    • KC Coake - January 7, 2015 - 8:31 pm

      I’m so glad you left me a comment! I actually groaned when I saw I had a comment on this blog post. It stirred up so much stinking controversy and I was dreading what someone had to say this time. I LOVE your response! I love how you say ‘we made jam that way before America was discovered’…awesome line! LOL! Glad I could attempt to prove that America has a few people with common sense. 😉 Of course I spent 3 full summers in England and Scotland and did a month of student teaching in London…so perhaps I learned a bit more than I thought while I was there. Hehe! Thanks for being a bright spot in my day today.ReplyCancel

      • Lynne Gill - January 8, 2015 - 2:27 am

        Hi KC – lovely to find this when I got up this morning!
        Re all the controversy. Y’know, I have found with on-line communication, people do take offence VERY fast, because they go immediatley into defensive mode; you present a different view? Heck you must be criticising my entire life-style!And so it goes. The woman I asked my original question of ie can you explain to me why most American jam methods, including yours, use a further water bath process, which TBH I thought was a pretty mild enquiry, jumped down m y throat as though I had insulted her mother!
        The thing is, regardless of how much science you throw at me to back up why YOU process this way, I am merely maintaining that WE do it, quite safely, THIS way. I am not decrying your method, but PLEASE do not be in denial that MY method is safe, as long as your equipment is sterilised and clean. My feeling about government is, when you (both USA and UK) do something about the crap that is permitted in our foodstuffs by the food industry, I will feel more likely to trust you on this!
        Sorry to rant, KC! I do get carried away. At the moment I al planning guerrilla warfare in the gardening centres by sticking TOXIC notices on every ROUNDUP container I can manage I get so incensed by the double standards. Don’t get me started on GM foods!
        Anyway, thanks for responding. I love your blog, and have subscribed . All the best from a very cold and dark England at 0730 this morning! Lynne xReplyCancel

        • KC Coake - January 8, 2015 - 8:50 pm

          You are so right, Lynne! I do think that part of the issue with feelings getting hurt online is that you can’t know the tone that the person is using. It is so easy to read into something what the person did not intend. I want to join you in your notices on Round-up! Sounds like a great idea! At least you have labeling of GM foods there…we’ve got nothing here. We have tried to pass laws but the big companies have so much money they either get it stopped or sue until they stop the laws that we voted on. Really sad. Hopefully one day we will get them passed and can end that crap! :-) Have a great night (or day).ReplyCancel

  • Christopher Wilson - April 23, 2016 - 4:38 pm

    I came across this read while researching mustard recipes. I own a small jam company and also have my masters in preserving. We use the inversion process. I thought I would mention that the USDA doesn’t usually back the inversion method for home processors. When I started my company this was frustrating, finding the difference in the rules. The Govt assumes everyone lacks common sense and education, which is why they simplify it, and slap warnings where none are needed. The inversion process when done correctly is safe for certain products. Those would be high sugar products (jam, jelly, marmalades etc…) or Acidified products that have been approved for this type of processing. Usually the PH of the recipe must remain below 4.6. As far as botulism goes, it is rare to impossible for botulism to grow in a high sugar or high brine base. Botulism grows in a sealed vacuum void of salt, sugar, or vinegar (acids). The highest risk of food botulism comes from vacuum sealed meats or vegetables left on the counter in their bags to thaw, they should be thawed in open bags as botulism cannot grow in air, again it needs a vaccum (like outer space). Most of this information can be found from your state Agriculture Dept, or the FDA. Again it will be simplified. Great site, thanks for the read!ReplyCancel

    • KC Coake - April 24, 2016 - 8:18 pm

      Thanks so much for the clarification. I love the info. and am glad you left it so others can read it. Inversion canning is SO easy, good to know I’m not going to kill my family if I keep doing it(just being dramatic like all of the people who left comments on the post that preceded this one 😉 )ReplyCancel

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