Food Preservation: Pressure Canning
Today we’re going to look at pressure canning. This is a completely different method than the hot water bath canning we talked about last week. It requires a different pot, for starters, as shown in the photo. A pressure canner is made of thick aluminum with a clamping lid and is used to can foods with a low acidic content. Here’s a post I wrote about choosing a pressure canner.
Many many people who are into canning never venture into pressure canning. There are two primary reasons. One, pressure canners are a lot more expensive. Two, people are afraid of them. What if the pressure gets too great inside and the pot blows up?
The truth is that you have to pay attention to your canner and NOT let the pressure build too high. However, the pot does have a release valve so it’s highly unlikely that the whole thing will blow up and kill someone. Really!
If you already hot-water-bath can (and I recommend becoming familiar with that method first) you already have a jar lifter, canning jars, snap lids, and screw bands. All those can be used in a pressure canner as well.
In pressure canning, the jars should be a teensy bit less full and don’t require liquid to the top, though it doesn’t hurt. The canner just needs an inch or so of water in total–just enough to make steam, which is what builds the pressure. The whole idea is that steam, under pressure, is at a higher temperature than boiling water, which causes a more secure seal for non-acidic foods.
Regardless of the type of pressure canner, be extremely careful not to damage the rim of the pot by clunking your spoon or anything against it. Aluminum is soft and easily damaged, which may cause it to lose its seal.
I can’t stress enough to become familiar with your pressure canner and the instructions that come with it. Warning aside, I love my pressure canners. Yes, I have two. One is tall enough for two-quart jars. I usually use this very large pot for making big batches of soup that I then ladle into jars and pressure can in the regular sized canner.
Some things I pressure can include:
Dry beans: I blogged about canning dry beans a month or two ago.
Soups. Because we live on a farm, raising our own meat, I like to make lots of soup. If I do this in the fall, in particular, I’m also able to make use of garden over-runs on tomatoes, vegetables, and herbs. I also can both chicken and beef broths (with some meat) with only very basic seasonings, so I can create soups on the fly in the winter.
There’s nothing like popping open a quart of homemade soup in the dead of winter and having a hot lunch in minutes! Mmm.
Pasta Sauces: If these have meat in them, or even just a lot of vegetables like mushrooms or roasted zucchini or eggplant, pressure canning is a must. Pasta is a very fast winter meal, and it’s wonderful having our own summer flavors in the pasta jar.
Stews and Chilis: There are lots of recipes that can be safely pressure canned. When Jim used to work from a remote tent camp week after week, I often sent pints of homemade canned foods for him to reheat. (He didn’t have access to ice for a cooler.) I don’t do this a lot these days, but it’s handy to have some jars available.
Have you ever pressure canned? If not, are you tempted? What would you like to home-can that requires this method?