How to stop pickles and fruit from floating when preserving

It has been an exceptional week of preserving – so many posts to get caught up on.  We have pickled onions, garlic and cucumbers.  We had made sauce, stewed tomatoes and pears with Kahlua.  Our newly minted preserving shelf is overfilling and it is definitely time to do some eating!

We recently had a question in our comments in regards to peaches and how to stop them from floating (you can see the thread and Anu’s question here).  We use the same trick for peaches as we do for pickles so I thought I might be able to share a bit about floating fruit and veggies in preserving.

Here is a few thoughts:

  1. Floating happens to the best of us.  As long as your seal is tight and your headspace the right amount, you should not have to worry about it other than a possible loss of color in the fruit at the top of the float.  Exposed parts can become tougher and less tasty.  Rotate jars from time to time and shake things up in the jar to rotate in the fruit (just not in the first 24 hours).
  2. Take care to pack them tightly and eliminate air bubbles before processing.  Large air pockets will work their way to the top of the jar during boiling – this can loosen your fruit.
  3. Susan (a friend from work) tells me her mother placed a piece of rye bread at the top of her pickles to keep them submerged.  I have never seen this and suspect it would not be seen as a safe practice today though it worked for her family for years.  I have never seen this done.

Now for the ultimate tip – something I call seatbelting:

We use bottle neck jars (i.e. not widemouth) for anything that can float.  We pack fruit or veggies tightly and start by placing them vertically until we get near the top.  As we near the top, we rotate the contents so they are perpendicular to their lower counterparts and ensure they are too wide to float.  We essentially use a layer of sideways produce as seatbelt to hold the lower layers in.  This has worked great with beans, pickles and pears this year.  For peaches I would place an entire half peach at the top of a jar (but lower than the bottleneck) to stop the rest from rising.

Look at the top of the jar of pickles below and note the horizontal pickle wedged in the neck of the jar to hold the others down – there are several sideways pickles in the entire jar:

How to stop pickles and fruit from floating when preserving

Note this jar of beans – only one of the beans can be seen as a seatbelt from the front of the jar:

How to stop pickles and fruit from floating when preserving

Note here that all of the beans not touching the bottom are seatbelting the others in:

Anyone have any other tricks out there?

Comments

  1. Thanks very much; this is helpful advice. After the frustration of floating tomatoes and peaches I switched to making various sauces, jams and chutney, which were much more satisfying. The end products behaved just as the recipes indicated they would!
    Anu

  2. this is brilliant, but now I need some narrow-mouth jars :D

    • Thank you Anita and Anu!

      Just like GI Joe said – knowing is half the battle! (I think patience may be the second half as we have our share of floaters!).

  3. Maryalice says:

    Thanks so much. This “floating”, especially with green beans, has been a source of embarassment and frustration for me so I REALLY appreciate the information. I just made spicy pickled green beans and I may have cut them too short because they have floated up at least an inch from the bottom. When the recipe talks about head space, does that apply to both the brine and the produce? I always worry that it won’t be safe if the beans (or other veggies) get above the brine and I keep whittling away at the beans.

  4. betsya@hotmail.co.uk says:

    floats in jars mostly when:
    1. Fruit contains more air than the liquid. I don’t mean air bubbles, though of course that’s a problem too. I mean air in the flesh of the fruit. Hot packing with a light precook expells air.
    2. The syrup had too much sugar. Sugar concentration of syrup should match that if fruit and most fruits do best in a light or light-medium syrup.
    3. Too much headspace (air) in jar.
    4. Screw bands are too tight with result that air is not expelled during processing (too much air in jar again).
    If floating occurs in jar that’s been properly vented during processing, top fruit may discolor. If jars are fully vented, then floating fruit may wind up looking like a bad science experiment.
    I’ve never heard of sat belting; a great idea!!!

    • Joel, Sorry about the typos in my comment yesterday about preventing fruit from floating in jars. I was typing on my teeny phone and between my fat fingers, a touchscreen, iphone’s willful spell check, and my own lousy eyesight – this is what happens. …

  5. Thank you for the seatbelting idea! I am struggling with a recipe for pickled pears and frustrated that the fruit is floating. I think I’ll raw pack and seatbelt them and see how that comes out.

    • Let us know how it goes! I’ve been using it for years and it’s truly the one way that makes the difference for me Wendy!

      Joel

  6. To keep the veggies or fruit under the brine, stick a ziplock baggie in the top of the jar with it open at the top and sides of the bag folded over the top of the jar. Then fill the bag with water making sure everything is being pushed down. Then put on the air tight lid over the edges of the baggy. The weight of the water in the baggy should keep the veg/fruit from floating. Good luck!

    • Hi Naya!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Plastic will indeed work and many use it. I tend to avoid it in my home ferments because I’m not a big fan of it touching my food for a prolonged period of time. I often use a jar or a plate or vegetables like in this post to hold it down.

      Having said that, lots of people are comfortable with plastic and do use it so not saying your idea is wrong; just not for me. :)

      Joel

  7. Bob Williams says:

    I just started today with pickling a hot pepper mix. I chopped all my peppers up and followed all the rules. At least I thought I did. when they came out of the water bath all 4 pint jars have floating pepper slices. What did I do wrong and sre these peppers still good to eat later?

    • Bob,

      Greetings! Your peppers will be fine as long as they are sealed and you followed a tested recipe and worked clean. In other words, floating shouldn’t make them unsafe. The ones on the surface may lose some color – if that worries you you can flip the jars every few weeks.

      Sometimes things float. You could seatbelt them like in this post by using some larger chunks of peppers on the top in the future.

      Welcome to pickling – thrilled to hear of people trying new things like this! :)

      J

  8. Karine Kersh says:

    A slice of rye bread was placed on top of cucumbers in brine ( In a crock) to develop certain yeasts for sour pickles. It was removed after the pickles “fermented” and was never placed in the canning jars ( this would cause extreme spoilage after canning!)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] sprouts grown here complimented with with pickled beans, garlic and hot pepper (some tricks on them here and here) and 5-year Black River (Prince Edward County) [...]

  2. [...] I call “seatbelting” which solves all floating issues (click the link to learn how to stop pickles from floating).  It’s an easy trick – you essentially place the last few vegetables horiziontally [...]

  3. [...] with floating peaches?  Seatbelting works for them as [...]

  4. [...] Seatbelting – this is how to stop veggies from floating in your jars when pickling or canning in general. [...]

  5. [...] – How to stop pickles from floating (works with other veggies too).  We’ll have to get a post up on how to pickle beans (one of [...]

  6. [...] that a lot of my apricots floated up, so I probably should have packed them more tightly. Read this interesting article over at Well Preserved, to learn more about how to stop your fruit from [...]

  7. [...] you struggle with having fruit and vegetables float when canning, check out our article on “seat belting” which can be used with peaches to keep them buckled in! Advertisement [...]

  8. [...] ‘seatbelt‘ (this is my term for stopping all fruits and veg from floating while preserving) the top [...]

  9. [...] Pack a clean mason jar with the apples.  Use large slices last and wedge them in the thin opening to stop them from floating.  We stop fruit and veg from floating all the time like this and call it seatbelting. [...]

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