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What causes color changes in home-canned foods - and how to prevent it

What causes color changes in home-canned foods - and how to prevent it


Why do some of my home-canned foods, like green beans, corn, pears and some other fruit I can, sometimes change color?

In general, oxidation may cause foods to darken at the tops of jars. Oxidation is from air in the jars or too little heating or processing to destroy enzymes. Overprocessing may cause discolored foods throughout the containers. Here are some more specific color changes and their causes:

Pink and blue colors sometimes seen in canned pears, apples, and peaches are caused by chemical changes in the coloring matter of the fruit.

Brown, black, and gray colors may be caused by iron and copper from cooking utensils (or from water in some localities) in some foods. When canned corn turns brown, the discoloring may be due to the variety of the corn, to stage of ripeness, to overprocessing, or to copper or iron pans. Packing liquid may dissolve coloring materials from the foods. To help avoid this, use soft water and to avoid using brass, copper, iron, aluminum, zinc, or chipped enamelware. Also avoid using utensils that have worn surfaces. If the shiny silvery appearance is worn off, the tin metal underneath may be exposed. The water around green beans often may have a reddish brown tint to it. Again, that's not that unusual and may be due to iron or possibly overprocessing. Of course, if the lid bulges then discard the contents.

Darkening of foods at the tops of jars may be caused by oxidation due to air in the jars or by too little heating or processing to destroy enzymes.This is common in jams, jellies and fruit. Often just adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, or sprinkling Fruit Fresh or finely ground vitamin C tablets will help prevent this.

Overprocessing may cause discoloration of foods throughout the containers. Finally, the use of plain tin cans will cause some foods to lose color.

Reference: U.S.D.A. 1976. Home Canning of Fruits and Vegetables. Home and Garden Bulletin No. 8. (Issued February 1965, Slightly revised May 1976). United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Is it safe to eat discolored canned foods?

The color changes noted above do not mean the food is unsafe to eat. However, spoilage may also cause color changes. Any canned food that has an unusual color should be examined carefully before use.

Reference: U.S.D.A. 1976. Home Canning of Fruits and Vegetables. Home and Garden Bulletin No. 8. (Issued February 1965, Slightly revised May 1976). United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Who Invented the Canning Jar? Does Ball still make jars? - See:

A Brief History of the Home Canning Jar: From Mason to Kerr to Ball and More


Home canning is both an art and a science. Safety and quality are some of the reasons it is important to follow recommended recipes and procedures for home canning. That is the science. The art comes from the experience of what is "finger tight", when is the product packed too full or too loose or determining just the right ripeness.

Free Resources About Storing

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Canning books

Canning & Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward

click here for more information, reviews, prices for Canning and Preserving For Dummies




The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes Paperback

This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for jam, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)

Click here for more information about the
Ball Blue Book of Preserving



Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!





The Presto Pressure
canners are out
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are available!


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book