*queue Hey Hey It's Saturday cheesy memories*
Hello! General Bottling here!
Okay, enough of that.
Over at BT's we've been talking about bottling stuff, and I though I'd copy down my notes on bottling stuff, the basic methods you can apply to anything you want to bottle, like jams, sauces, pickles, stewed fruit etc. I still find it disconcerting that it's called canning on the US. Bottles, people. Bottles.
In general, to bottle something:
1) the liquid must be boiling hot. If you've let something cool down, bring it back up to a boil for a few minutes.
2) the jars and lids must also be hot, to avoid explodifications. Hot liquid + cool jar can sometimes = bang. You can be mildly cheaty and do this straight out of the dishwasher. Or if they're already clean, microwave them (except the lids, put them in a bowl of boiling water). I tend to stick jars and lids on a tray in the oven on about 100C until you say OUCH when you touch them.
3) put your hot bottles onto a teatowel on the kitchen bench to help avoid other explodifications. Hot bottle + hard or cool surface may = bang.
4) leave about 1 - 1.5 cm for expanding/contracting at the top. Where the bottle becomes the neck is often a good guide.
5) ideally, wait until the liquid is no longer steaming, then put lids on. Too hot can mean too much condensation. If it's too cool, you may not get a good seal.
6) once filled, you can do one of three things:
A: Seal lids about quarter turn too loose (ie, not completely tight) and boil in a saucepan of water, making sure the water doesn't come right up to the neck. The boiling expands the bottle, causing a tight seal. You still need to check this seal and make sure it's tight. It usually is.
B: Seal lids completely (as tightly as you can by hand) and turn upside down to cool. Turning upside down helps to create a vacuum against the lid as it cools, thus making the seal tight.
C: Be a slack tart and just seal tightly. I like to think this isn't completely slack, because if I turn jam upside down it would set like that and then be messy-looking when I turn it back upright. I do it for sloppy things though.
7) Rest the bottles on a teatowel until room temperature (see explodifications, bottles thereof).
8) In theory, pop-tops should pop down. If they haven't, and they pop down when you press them, it's worked. I usually have a few which go SNAP and it's very satisfying ;-) If they don't, it's still probably worked but you might like to store them in the fridge just in case. So far I haven't had any problems.
9) I've used some jars with plastic screw lids (like the Vegemite jars) for things that either aren't going to be kept for very long, or are going to be kept in the fridge. So far, so good.
Got any other tips to add?
Note: As exciting as it sounds, I haven't had any exploderating bottles experiences, nor do I want to. I'll leave that to Dr Nik to explore ;-)