Why You Must Use A Pressure Canner
Canning foods is coming back into style. It is probably due to the high cost of food in the stores. Not only that, but with the news of people getting sick from the various foods, from spinach to ground beef. It makes good sense to can your own foods. That way you know what is going into the jars. If you are growing the food yourself and then canning it, that is even better. That means you and your family are the only ones who have handled it. Make a practice of washing your hands and keeping all food preparation areas and utensils clean and there will be nothing to worry about.
What is surprising is that many people are afraid of using their pressure canner. They will not hurt you and even if you do something wrong, it usually only results in broken jars or jars that did not seal. If you need to feel more familiar with it and don't want to waste the food, do a practice run by canning water. Once you have used it you will find it is easier than you think.
A pressure canner is a must for canning foods that are low acid foods such as green beans, corn, beets, almost all vegetables, meats and main dish meals such as stews, soups, casseroles, etc. A water bath canner is used for high acid tomatoes (the newer hybrid tomatoes are low acid and must be pressure canned), fruits and dairy foods. A water bath canner will destroy mold, yeast and enzymes at temperatures below 212°F. Bacteria which causes botulism though, is not. Safe food products are processed at 240°F in order to destroy the bacteria. The pressure canner is the only way to do that.
Get To Know Your Pressure Canner
If you have a brand new pressure canner, read the instruction book that came with it, all the way through. If you bought one used, put the name of your canner into Google and the word "manual" in. That should bring up a site to buy or download the manual for your canner. Print it out so you will have it in the kitchen with you while you are using it. Look at the pictures of each part of the canner and get to know it.
Parts Of A Pressure Canner:
Pressure Dial Gauge - This is the dial on the canner lid showing you the progress of pressure building.
Pressure Regulator - This is a safety device that stops pressure of over 15 lbs. building in the canner.
Vent Pipe - The pressure regulator fits over this pipe and the excess pressure releases.
Air Vent/Cover Lock - "Vents" or exhausts air from the canner.
Locking Bracket - This becomes locked when the canner starts building pressure and the top cannot be removed if there is pressure in the canner.
Sealing Ring - The sealing ring sets inside the cover to make a pressure tight seal during the canning process.
Overpressure Plug - This plug sits on top of the cover and will release steam by popping in and out if the vent pipe become blocked.
Canning Cooking Rack - This rack sits on the bottom of the canner. Very important to have this in place for the jars to set on safely. They need to have something under them for safe pressure canning. Otherwise your jars will break.
Fill your canner with three inches of water only. Heat the water so when you are putting your hot jars of food in the canner the difference in temperature will not cause the jars to break. Once the canner if full, put the top on and turn the heat up. It should start venting, which is when steam comes out of the vent pipe on top. You need to do this for 10 minutes. After venting, put the Pressure Regulator on the vent pipe. It will quiet down now. Keep your eye on the gauge until it reaches the pressure your recipe tells you to use. Most of the foods are processed at 10 lb. of pressure. If you live above sea level, check your recipe book as it will give you the pressure you need to use.
Pressure Canner In Action
Experience Is All It Takes
Once it is up to pressure, start timing it according to your recipe. Some foods will be 20 minutes and others might be 90 minutes. It is important to follow the recipe in a good quality up to date canning book. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a reliable one to use. Keep your book nearby while you are canning.
After the time is up for your canning process, turn the stove off and let the pressure go down. Do not pour water on it to hurry it! Do not try to take the lid off until it reaches zero pressure! Once it has reached zero, remove the pressure regulator. Remove the top in a few minutes. Let the jars sit for about five minutes. Then take them out with your jar lifter and set them on a folded towel in a spot that they can sit quietly for 24 hours. You should hear the "ping" of each jar as it seals.
Be sure to take the top off the canner away from you. It is very hot and the steam can burn you. Be very careful lifting the jars out of the canner. A jar could break and the hot food fall on your legs, arms or feet. I don't mean to scare you but want to make sure you aware of all the dangers.
Canning food is a good way to preserve food that is you grow or buy from a farmers' market or even the grocery stores. Buying food on sale and canning it will give you a supply of good food for fast meals that are tasty and nutritious. In a power outage, that food is a lifesaver. It would just needed to be heated up. No loss of food due to the outage, as would be the case if the food is stored in a freezer. Many people have lost freezers full of food that way. Don't be one of them! Always preserve some of your food by home canning it.
One important point I want to make in this article is that a Pressure Cooker/Canner, and a pressure cooker, are two different items. A pressure cooker is smaller and does not can food. A pressure cooker is made specifically for canning food. Even though it can also be used as a water bath canner or a pressure cooker as well. So make sure you know which item you are purchasing!
I hope I have addressed some of the fears you may have had about canning food in a pressure canner. It will get easier as you do it more often. Pretty soon you will be looking forward to seeing all those pretty jars sitting on your pantry shelves! Good luck!