Why You Should Keep A Chopstick On Hand While Canning

'Tis the season for strawberries — and cucumbers, beans, corn, and tomatoes. With home canning, all your favorite produce is in-season all year round. "Can" you dig it? (Pun intended). One of the first rules folks learn when canning is that a safely sealed jar is all about forming a high vacuum. But this doesn't mean packing every jar full because, believe it or not, leaving some room in the jar is actually important in home canning. Adequate headspace (the space between your canned product and the lid) is needed for your food to expand during hot processing. In cool-packed jars, headspace creates the vacuum. But there's one thing that can thwart a good seal and ruin your entire jar: air bubbles.

According to Garden Betty, "bubbling" is when you remove the trapped air bubbles that rise to the surface of your home-canned food before you seal it for good. It's a small step but a hugely important one. If you allow those air bubbles to hang around, they can cause your jar to seal improperly. Plus, says Kitchn, if there's too much air in your sealed jar, it can cause discoloration in your food and even mess up the flavor. So, how can you get those bubbles out? 

Ball Mason Jars makes a dedicated bubble remover specifically designed for this purpose. But there's a good chance the perfect tool for the job is already hiding at the back of your utensil drawer. (Or in the bottom of your takeout bag.)

Chop out air bubbles

For quick and easy bubbling, Garden Betty recommends using a chopstick. It's long, thin, and typically made from wood or plastic. When working with delicate home-canned foods, it's best to avoid using metal knives for bubbling, as they can scratch or cause hairline cracks in glass jars. This runs the risk of letting air in, which is essentially an open door for botulism, so prevent spoilage by popping those pesky air bubbles.

To do it, says RusticWise, insert the chopstick along the side of the filled jar and slowly circle the rim's circumference. Take care not to stir the contents of your jar or agitate them too much — just move it enough to free any trapped air bubbles. Per Healthy Canning, it's also useful to gently press the contents toward the center of the jar to release any bubbles if your produce is sturdy enough to handle that kind of motion. If any significant bubbles pop, refill the hole it creates with more food to maintain the recommended headspace.