Canning is an excellent method of preserving food. Once the food is safely preserved in the glass jars, it stays tucked away on the shelf awaiting use. There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from pulling one of those home-canned jars of goodness off the shelf to use in feeding your family. The cost savings is usually quite high. There are just so many pros to canning your own food.
The only con I can come up with for pressure canning is fear. Many folks are fearful of the process. They’ve heard horror stories of the canner exploding or of food that was not preserved correctly causing illness.
Done correctly, pressure canning is safe. There are just some simple rules to follow.
Low acid foods must be pressure canned. These foods include meats, dairy, sea food, poultry, vegetables, and many fruits.
NOTE – Pressure saucepans are not meant to be canners and should not be used as such.
The best source of information and recipes is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. A canning tool set is an invaluable addition to your canning setup. This set includes a jar funnel, jar lifter, magnetic wand to lift lids & rings from hot water, and a bubble remover & headspace tool. This is a worthwhile $10 investment to your canning arsenal. Jars can be reused, but be sure to check for cracks, especially around the top. New jars do cost, so take care of them accordingly. I prefer to can in wide-mouth jars for ease of both filling and emptying, as well as washing. Lids cannot be re-used, but rings can. Be sure to remove the rings once the canned foods are cooled, they are not needed for storage and can actually rust in place. Removing them prevents this from happening.
Before beginning your canning session, check the canner gasket for cracks. If any gaskets or seals that are dried out or cracked, replace them. This is important so that the canner will hold pressure while you are processing the foods. Be sure the vent is open. You can clear the vent using a small brush or pipe cleaner. If you have a dial gauge pressure canner, that gauge needs to be tested annually.
The basics to pressure canning:
Begin by sterilizing the jars. Next, put the lids and rings into a saucepan, covered with water. Heat this pan on medium. Don’t allow this water to boil, just get very warm. Fill the canner with the recommended amount of water (this will vary according to the canner’s instructions) in the bottom of the canner with the rack in place. You must use the rack so that the jars are not touching the bottom of the canner. I add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to prevent water stains on the jars. Place the canner on the stove top, using a burner that closely matches the size of the canner and heat the water (do not put the lid on at this point).
While this water is heating, I get to work filling the jars and adding the lids and rings. Be sure to follow the directions for the particular food you are canning in allowing the proper amount of headspace of the jars. Using a non-metallic spatula, clear the air bubbles in the jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel (or clean towel). Once you have filled the jars, added the lids and rings; use a jar lifter to place the jars into the canner onto the canning rack. Put the lid on the canner, closing it securely but making sure that the vent is open. This is not the time to leave the kitchen.
When a plume of steam is coming from the vent, set a timer for 10 minutes and let the canner exhaust through the vent for that period of time. After 10 minutes, close the vent (usually with a weight in a weighted-gauge canner or the vent cover in a dial gauge type). I have a weighted gauge canner, so I wait to hear the weight jiggling. I then adjust the heat until that weight is slowly rocking. Follow the directions listed in your guide as to how much weight and for how long to process.
Once you have reached the desired pressure, start the timing process. Maintain the correct pressure as loss of pressure means you will have to start the process over. When the canning process is completed, turn off the heat. During the cooling process, the canner is de-pressurizing. If you can move the canner safely from the burner, do so. Don’t try to cool it quicker by running cold water over it! It may take as long to depressurize as it does to pressure can the food. When all pressure is out of the canner, remove the weight from the vent or open the petcock. Wait about 10 minutes, then lift the lid with the underside away from you to avoid burning yourself. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars to a rack or folded towel to cool for 24 hours. Test for seals. Label and store.
It’s incredibly rewarding to pull those jars out of the canner.
Have you pressure canned? What are your favorite foods to can?
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