Canning precooked ham

I would like to know how to can a ham. One you buy pre cooked.

Joanne Kuhlers
Sioux City, Iowa

Canning ham is really easy. Slice ham into fat-free, boneless 1 inch slices or chunks. Cut for fitting into jar or convenient sizes. Very lightly brown in minimal oil then pack hot meat into jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Make a broth from the pan drippings. Ladle hot broth over ham, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process pints and half pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. Hint: I can up lots of smaller ham dices in half pints to use in lots of recipes from omelets, scalloped potatoes, soups and many other recipes. Very handy! — Jackie

Testing acidity of canned food

Have you ever seen anything on using test strips to verify the acidity of food you are water bath canning? If this works, what kind of numbers might one look for in a PH test?

Jean Baltes
San Jose, California

Usually folks only use pH test strips when they are selling water bathed foods such as pickles at Farmers Markets as buyers have no way of knowing if the foods were canned properly. If a home canner puts up only family food, I don’t feel these are necessary if the person doing the canning follows the directions of a good modern canning manual, not skipping steps such as adding vinegar or lemon juice when it is listed. Personally, I like to keep things simple yet do it right. — Jackie

Canning pickles with garlic

I have a recipe that I really like for pickled beans (dilly beans) and a recipe for pickled cucumbers. Both of them call for adding one whole peeled clove of garlic to each pint jar then process 5 minutes only. I know garlic is not recommended for pressure canning, but is it okay pickled? We have made and eaten both of these types of pickles before, but after reading that garlic should not be canned, I am now worried. And can you please explain if and why it is necessary to boil properly pressure canned food before eating it? It seems that anything should be killed by the pressure canning process. I would like to just dump my green beans into a skillet with some onions. Also just wanted to let you know that I love your books and re-read them whenever I am feeling discouraged.

Jennifer Owens
Middlefield, Ohio

Don’t worry about adding cloves of garlic to your pickle recipes. The acid in the vinegar makes them safe. The “don’t can garlic” is for canning garlic as a sole ingredient of the jar. I’ve been adding cloves of garlic to my recipes for decades and I’m still kickin’. Seriously, all modern canning books contain recipes for pickles with garlic cloves added so be at ease.

The “boil before eating” is just a second safeguard against any possible botulism. But you don’t have to boil the beans, etc. Just heating them to boiling temperature via roasting, baking or frying works just fine. — Jackie


  1. There are two issues with using paper strips to determine whether a recipe may be water-bathed:

    The first is inherent to these paper strips, since they indicate pH by changing colour and your preparations aren’t clear as water. Good luck it your batch involves tomatoes, turmeric, etc.!

    The second point is that if you test the acidity just after having filled a jar, you’ll basically have tested the pH of the brine, not of the entire contents. The more water your foods contain, the more it will dilute the acid and bring the pH up.
    It is possible to make a small test batch, seal it in a jar (if possible after basic processing), refrigerate for about one month to allow the acidity levels to balance, and then to test the contents.

    Basic pH-metres are relatively cheap and don’t require too much of an upkeep. You can check cheap made-in-china gadgets for appropriate button batteries, which are sufficiently long-lasting despite their lower quality. These pH-metres are immune to colouration from food, but do require the product to be at room temperature (some model allow for automatic temp adjustment, but the price tag adjusts even faster.)

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