Monday, August 8, 2011

Pressure Canning Basics

Ok I guess it's time to tackle pressure canning in more detail. Pressure canners are different from pressure cookers and they are not interchangeable. Pressure canners are much heavier so they can handle being under pressure for long periods of time and cool down much slower. I have an All American Pressure Canner Model # 915 that I got over 30 years ago at a garage sale for $35. It was the best investment I've ever made! I wish I had a bigger one but so far I haven't found another great bargain laying about. I rarely have time to hit garage sales but when I do or hit 2nd hand stores I always look for canning supplies! I also tell friends and that's how I landed 5 big boxes of canning jars this year. A group of us ladies had been meeting in town and driving together to a scripture study group for a few years and I had mentioned often needing canning supplies. One of them slipped an e-mail into my box saying she was cleaning out her basement and found jars that she didn't need and would I like them. I answered her right back and went a running!

First I want to explain raw pack verses hot pack:

Raw pack is taking the raw cold product and packing tightly into your jars. You may want to add boiling water for vegetables but I rarely do for meats as they make their own broth as it pressure cans.

Hot pack is taking the vegetables or meat and precooking. Cover with the liquid you cooked it with or boiling water. Using the liquid you cook it in is preferred as it has all the minerals and vitamins in it then top off with boiling water if necessary. I use crushed tomato most of the time so after I skin my tomatoes and cut them up I bring them to boil in their juices and add canned tomato juice if needed and then pack into the jars so they end up more like crushed tomatoes I'd buy at the store. But of course I water bath tomatoes and can't think of another time I hot pack!

You need to use a pressure canner for all vegetables except for tomatoes and pickled vegetables like pickles and sauerkraut. Follow your guide book that comes with your canner but just in case you get one used with no guide book I will give you guidelines here.

  • Put 2 or 3 inches of water in the bottom of the canner.
  • You must use a rack in your canner! If you don't have a rack use a wire cooling rack or cover the bottom in canning screw bands.
  • Set your filled canning jars on your rack in the canner. If your canner is deep enough to allow for a second layer of jars then stagger the second layer or use a second rack. The rack is needed so the steam can flow around each container.
  • Fasten your lid down securely so that the steam can only escape via the petcock or weighted gauge. My lid twist into place and then has catches to tighten down all around the top. Always tighten them from opposite sides as you go around the top.
  • Now you are ready to cook! Turn on the heat and watch it. After about 10 minutes the steam will build up and your petcock will be going crazy or steam will be shooting though where your weighed gauge goes. After the steam has been building up and escaping for 10 minutes you are ready to add your weighted gauge or the petcock will seal and you'll start building pressure. My Mom's canner had weighted gauges she had to put on. My canner has a dial with petcock. You will need to ask your local Extension Office how much pressure you need to can at. Altitude makes a big difference. I need to can at 11 to 12 pounds pressure out here on the prairie. So make sure you call and ask for your area!
  • Once you have reached your pressure then you start counting the time it needs to cook. Times will be listed with each vegetable I list in the following days.
  • Do not let a draft flow over your canner and do not lift the petcock to reduce pressure! Pressure canners require you staying with them and focusing on them! If you are suppose to have 10 pounds of pressure then you need to keep it at 10 pounds of pressure the entire time is is processing! Not 8 pounds to 15 pounds! A steady 10 pounds or what ever level your area requires!
  • Once you have fulfilled the time and pressure then you turn it off and remove from the heat. Do not cool in a draft or pour cold water over it. Just let it cool down slowly on it's own!
  • Once the pressure is released then you can remove the lid and take your jars out using a jar lifter tool and place on a clean towel to finish cooling.

Nothing sounds better than the ping of those lids as they seal shut as they cool down! Now you are ready to pressure can! I'll be listing different vegetables this coming week and work toward doing meats later on.

Have a blessed day!

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