Canning with Ikea Korken Jars
The last time we were perusing the Ikea catalog, we fell in love with a picture of the Korken jars holding preserved fruit in a well-stocked pantry. Because the only safe way to store fruit long-term outside of the refrigerator or freezer is by canning it according to an approved recipe and method, the picture begged the question, “Can you can food in the Ikea Korken jars?” The very limited information that comes with the jars does refer vaguely (albeit in twelve languages) to “sterilization,” a buzzword familiar to those familiar with canning, but that’s about it. After endless Internet research and realizing many had raised the same question but few had answered it, and none definitively, we figured there was nothing left to do but try.
Being the mavericks of Korken canning that we are, we would be irresponsible if we didn’t provide the following disclaimer: proceed at your own risk. We don’t believe the Korken jars are approved by the USDA or your local extension, but we do strongly believe they are not the proper vessel for the novice canner. If you have never canned using the boiling water bath method before, we strongly suggest you cut your teeth on some good old-fashioned mason jars first.
For this experiment, we decided to pickle some beets and turnips, Lebanese style. The reason was twofold: 1) if you’re about to engage in some iffy canning, the general rule is that the more acidic the food is, the less likely it is to be listed as your cause of death by the coroner, and 2) we were really craving Lebanese food. We’ve posted the recipe here.
Well, let’s get on with it, shall we?
These small Korken jars hold slightly less than a pint of liquid, but they take up a lot more floor space in the canner than regular pint jars. We found four fit comfortably inside our standard-sized Granite Ware Water-Bath Canner. Squeezing a fifth one in the center, or adding a second layer would both be risky endeavors, in our opinion. So we are working with four.
Here is our canning station next to the cooktop. As you can see, we have laid down a double-layer of towels, a jar lifter, a head-space measurer, a ladle, an oven mitt, and a heat-proof measuring cup (which, for our recipe, worked better than a funnel to pour in the pickling brine). By force of habit, we also laid out a magnetic lid-lifter, which is not needed when canning with the Korken jars.
Remove the packaging from the Korken jars and wash both the jars and the rubber gaskets in hot soapy water. After rinsing, place the gasket on the lid with the tab facing frontwards so that it won’t get in the way of the clamp or hinge.
Place the open jars (with their lids propped up like an alligator mouth) in the canner and fill the canner with water until the jars are completely filled and submerged—but not much more than that. Cover the canner and bring the water to a rolling boil. Boil for at least ten minutes to sterilize the jars. Reduce the heat to a simmer while you prepare your recipe.
Once your food to be preserved is ready, you should work one jar at a time to fill, close, and replace jars in the canner—meaning the empty ones remain in the canner while you work. This is important, because it keeps the jars warm at all times and prevents cracking. Using a jar lifter, remove a jar out of the canner, tilting it to drain the water inside back into the canner. This is a bit trickier with the Korken jars—you need to ensure you are grabbing it by the base rather than the lid—but you’ll get the hang of it.
Fill the jar according to your recipe’s instructions, but leave a little more headspace than required by the recipe. This is because the inner ring of the lid displaces some of the contents when the jar is closed. Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp paper towel.
The jar’s lid should still be quite hot at this point, so use a fork or other handy tool to flip it over (for us, that magnetic lid lifter actually came in handy after all). Press down on the lid with a potholder or towel to avoid burning yourself, while fastening the clamp with your other hand. Place the filled, clamped jar in the canner using the jar lifter.
Once all of the jars have been filled and placed in the canner, you should have more than two inches of water above the jars. If for some reason you don’t, top it off. Cover the canner and bring the water to a rolling boil. Process the jars for the length of time required by your recipe.
After the processing time is over, turn the heat off and remove the lid from the canner. Let it sit for a full five minutes before removing the jars to the towels.
As an experienced boiling water bath canner, this is that special of special moments where you await the satisfying “pop” of the metal lid confirming a job well done. Well, you will obviously not get that with the Korken jars. To our surprise, we also did not pull out jars with tabs facing definitively down, the way the rubber gaskets in fancy-schmancy Weck jars do. So we began to worry a bit that the experiment had failed and our fridge would be full of Lebanese pickles for months. But what could we do but wait?
Oh, we waited all right. We waited overnight. In the morning, the jars had definitely cooled, and the tabs were not down. After comparing the look of our jars to the look of a properly-processed Weck jar for about an hour, we noticed something: the Korken gaskets are twice as thick. Perhaps the tabs were so thick, they were incapable of turning down. Feeling like idiots, we finally decided to just check the seal.
So we undid the clamp…
And we picked up the jar by just the lid, providing no support to the body of the jar…
And wouldn’t you know it? The jar was sealed! In fact, all of our jars had a very tight seal. So we’re putting the pickles in the pantry and calling this experiment a success!
(But, of course, we’re going to keep an eye on things, and will update you as we do.)
P.S. The BWB canning method takes a lot of water, and you didn’t think we were going to let you waste it, did you? Obviously, you can let it cool and use it as grey water, but our favorite thing to do is to plug the kitchen sink, squirt some dish soap around, and then pour the water, while it is still hot, into the sink for washing all those dishes we dirtied in the process of preserving our food. No matter how close your stove is to your sink, carrying around a huge pot of boiling water is no joke and has the potential for a number of accidents or injuries, so take care if you attempt this! Remove any potential problems on the floor, make sure the dogs and kids aren’t running around, wear protective clothing, shoes and oven mitts, and remove your glasses first (they will steam up quickly).