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Learn how to pressure can your own meats, vegetables, and soups so you can proudly have flavorful, high-quality foods that save money, build self-reliance, and create quick and easy meals on busy nights.
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WHY LEARN TO PRESSURE CAN
Canning your own meat, vegetables, and soups produces flavorful, high-quality foods that save money, build self-reliance, and create lifelong memories when canning and enjoying the food for a meal.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF PRESSURE CANNING
Pressure canning is a way to safely preserve low acid foods such as meats, vegetables, and soups. The pressure canner is able to heat the food to a higher and constant temperature to kill botulism spores. Using a boiling water bath canner only kills botulism bacteria, but the spores can survive in low acid foods that are not heated above the boiling point for a specific length of time.
CAN YOU PRESSURE CAN IN A PRESSURE COOKER?
According to the National Center for Home Preservation, you should not use an electric pressure cooker to safely can with. Even if there are instructions for pressure canning in the manufacturer’s directions, we do not support the use of the USDA canning processes in the electric, multi-cooker appliances now containing “canning” or “steam canning” buttons on their front panels.
I suggest reading the extensive article, Should I can in my electric multi-cooker appliance? to learn more about why you should not use an electric pressure cooker to can.
WHAT FOODS REQUIRE PRESSURE CANNING?
Pressure canning is the only processing method that reaches the high temperature (240°F) needed to preserve low-acid foods safely. It is the combination of time and temperature that will destroy food-borne bacteria and create a vacuum seal necessary to prevent spoilage. This process is required to preserve foods and recipes like:
FOODS THAT CANNOT BE CANNED?
According to SBCanning, fats and dairy products will go rancid and develop bacteria within your jar if left unrefrigerated and mixed in with other ingredients to form a recipe.
Oats, wheat, and flour products will also go rancid. Also, during processing, the heat will not penetrate through the recipe’s ingredients and will not kill the jar’s bacteria. That would be the same for any “mashed” vegetable like mash potatoes, butternut squash, or pumpkin.
FOODS TO AVOID CANNING
- Fats: Oils and mayonnaise
- Dairy: butter, milk, cheese, sour cream, cream, any yogurt, buttermilk, eggs, goat, or any other animal milk
- Vegan alternative proteins: soy and tofu
- Grains: Oats, wheat, barley, grains, rice, bread, noodles or pasta, hominy, crackers, biscuits, and pie dough
- Vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts (pickled ok), cabbage(pickled or fermented sauerkraut), cauliflower (pickle ok), eggplant (pickled ok), summer squash (pickled ok), olives (pickled ok), lettuce, artichokes, mashed parsnips, mashed squash, mash potatoes, and mashed pumpkin
- Fruits: Bananas, avocados, and coconut milk
- Meats: avoid high fat such as duck, liver and giblets, hot dogs, meats with fillers
- Candy: Caramels, peppermints, marshmallow
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF CANNED FOOD HAS BOTULISM?
Botulism is not always visible. The best way to ensure your food is safe is to follow these procedures after sealing your jars. After processing your recipe, be sure and check the product seals before storing it. Go through these checkpoints after canning a batch of jars.
- Wait 24 hours or overnight for jars to cool.
- Press the center of the lid. If it is down and will not move, it is sealed.
- If the lid looks concave (curved down), it is sealed.
- Pick the jar up by the lid; the lid should not come off.
- Tap the lid with a spoon. A clear ringing sound indicates the jar is sealed. Moreover, if food has expanded in the jar and is touching the lid, the lid may still be sealed even with a dull sound.
HOW TO PRESSURE CAN WITHOUT A CANNER
You can not pressure can without a pressure cooker. Using a pressure canner for low acid foods is the only way to ensure foods do not become contaminated with botulism.
However, if you would like to can high acid foods, you can safely do so in a water bath canner. For more information, see my post, WATER BATH CANNING FOR BEGINNERS.
HOW DO YOU PRESSURE CAN AT HOME
If you are new to canning, then be sure and read through HOW TO START CANNING AT HOME. Learning the basic steps of canning for beginners is a fun and economical way to make great tasting fresh foods available to enjoy year-round.
Pressure canning at home is easy and safe if you take the time to learn proper procedures. Start by becoming familiar with A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CANNING TERMS.
This list of Beginner Canning Terms will help you start learning how to safely home can fruits, vegetables, and meats. Canning terms are mostly simple; however, the canning community has some terms that might be a little confusing.
This Beginner Canning Terms will be a great reference for terms that you are not familiar with. Be sure and bookmark this page so you can refer to it as needed.
Next, learn what proper supplies you will need with this CANNING SUPPLIES GUIDE. This canning supplies guide is the perfect way to start learning how to economically can your own healthy vegetables, jams, soups, and meats.
HOW MUCH WATER GOES IN A CANNER
For most recipes, add 3 inches of hot water into the canner. Too much water is unlikely to cause harm, but too little could boil dry. This could cause your jars to break, or you could have jars not properly sealed. To prevent water stains on jars, add 2 tablespoons white vinegar to water in the canner. Always use a canning rack.
PRESSURE CANNING TIMES
Getting accurate information on how long to pressure can low-acid foods is very important for food safety.
For an example of pressure canning times of typical low-acid foods, visit the University of Minnesota Extention article Pressure Canning Quick Reference Chart. For a complete timing list, be sure to purchase an up to date canning cookbook such as Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO PRESSURE CANNING
It is important to read through the instructions before starting. Becoming familiar with the steps before you start ensures your success.
BEFORE YOU ADD THE CANNING JARS
CHECK THAT CANNER IS IN GOOD WORKING ORDER: Make sure the pressure canner is working properly before preparing food. Clean lid gaskets and other parts according to the manufacturer’s directions; make sure all vent pipes are clear and contain no trapped material or mineral deposits.
ADD WATER TO CANNER: Center the canner over the burner. The burner and range must be level. Your pressure canner can be damaged if the burner puts out too much heat. In general, do not use on an outdoor LP gas burner or gas range burner over 12,000 BTU’s. Check your manufacturer’s directions for more information about appropriate burners.
ADDING WATER TO YOUR CANNER
Put the rack and hot water into the canner. If the amount of water is not specified with a given food, use enough water so it is 2 to 3 inches high in the canner. Longer processes required more water. Some specific products (for example, smoked fish) require that you start with even more water in the canner. Always follow the directions with USDA processes for specific foods if they require more water to be added to the canner.
HOT PACKED FOODS
For hot packed foods, you can bring the water to 180 degrees F. ahead of time, but be careful not to boil the water or heat it long enough for the depth to decrease. For raw packed foods, the water should only be brought to 140 degrees F.
ADDING FOOD FILLED JARS TO CANNER
FILL CANNER WITH JARS: Place filled jars, fitted with lids and ring bands, on the jar rack in the canner, using a jar lifter. When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter is securely positioned below the neck of the jar (below the ring band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid.
PREPARING THE CANNER FOR PROCESSING
CLOSE THE CANNER: Fasten the canner lid securely. Leave the weight off the vent pipe or open the petcock.
BUILD UP STEAM PRESSURE: Turn the heat setting to its highest position. Heat until the water boils and steam flows freely in a funnel-shape from the open vent pipe or petcock. While maintaining the high heat setting, let the steam flow (exhaust) continuously for 10 minutes.
PRESSURIZE THE CANNER: After this venting, or exhausting, of the canner, place the counterweight or weighted gauge on the vent pipe, or close the petcock. The canner will pressurize during the next 3 to 10 minutes.
PROCESSING THE CANNING JARS
PROCESS TIMING: Start timing the process when the pressure reading on the dial gauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached, or, for canners without dial gauges, when the weighted gauge begins to jiggle or rock as the manufacturer describes.
REGULATE THE HEAT TEMPERATURE: Regulate the heat under the canner to maintain a steady pressure at, or slightly above, the correct gauge pressure. One type of weighted gauge should jiggle a certain number of times per minute, while another type should rock slowly throughout the process – check the manufacturer’s directions.
Loss of pressure at any time can result in underprocessing, or unsafe food. Quick and large pressure variations during processing may cause unnecessary liquid losses from jars.
If at any time pressure goes below the recommended amount, bring the canner back to pressure and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning (using the total original process time). This is important for the safety of the food.
AFTER COOKING TIME IS DONE: When the timed process is completed, turn off the heat, remove the canner from the heat (electric burner) if possible, and let the canner cool down naturally. (Lift the canner to move it; do not slide the canner. It is also okay to leave the canner in place after you have turned off the burner. It is better to do so than to let jars inside the canner tilt or tip over if the canner is too heavy to move easily.)
PROPERLY ALLOWING PRESSURE TO RELEASE FROM CANNER
DE-PRESSURIZE: While the canner is cooling, it is also de-pressurizing. Do not force cool the canner. Forced cooling may result in food spoilage. Cooling the canner with cold running water or opening the vent pipe before the canner is fully depressurized are types of forced cooling. They will also cause loss of liquid from jars and seal failures. Forced cooling may also warp the canner lid.
Even after a dial gauge canner has cooled until the dial reads zero pounds pressure, be cautious in removing the weight from the vent pipe. Tilt the weight slightly to make sure no steam escapes before pulling it all the way off. Newer canners will also have a cover lock in the lid or handle that must release after cooling before the lids are twisted off.
OPENING A CANNER AFTER PROCESSING
Do not force the lid open if the cover locks are not released. Manufacturers will provide more detailed instructions for particular models. Depressurization of older canner models without dial gauges should be timed. Standard-size heavy-walled canners require about 30 minutes when loaded with pints and 45 minutes when loaded with quarts.
Newer thin-walled canners cool more rapidly and are equipped with vent locks that are designed to open when the pressure is gone. These canners are depressurized when the piston in the vent lock drops to a normal position. Some of these locks are hidden in handles and cannot be seen; however, the lid will not turn open until the lock is released.
AFTER CANNER IS COOLED AND DEPRESSURIZED
After the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weight from the vent pipe or open the petcock. Wait 10 minutes; then unfasten the lid and remove it carefully. Lift the lid with the underside away from you so that the steam coming out of the canner does not burn your face.
REMOVING PROCESSED FOOD JARS
REMOVE THE JARS: Using a jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time, being careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.
ALLOW JARS TO REST: Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.
STORING YOUR CANNED GOODS AND CANNER
STORING JARS: Remove ring bands from sealed jars. Ring bands can be washed and dried and put away for use another time. Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use it first.
a) Wash jars and lids to remove all residues.
b) Label jars and store in a cool, dry place out of direct light.
STORING CANNER: Dry the canner, lid, and gasket. Take off removable petcocks and safety valves; wash and dry thoroughly. Follow maintenance and storage instructions that come from your canner manufacturer.
Reprinted with permission from the University of Georgia.
Andress, E. (2014rev.). Preserving Food: Using Pressure Canners. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension.
PRESSURE CANNING RECIPES
- Canning Tomato Soup with Fresh Tomatoes Recipe: Can up a batch of the best homemade tomato soup to enjoy all winter long using this Canning Tomato Soup with Fresh Tomatoes Recipe.
- Canned Green Tomato Salsa: Canned Green Tomato Salsa has a combination of green tomatoes, chilies, onions, and cilantro which creates a salsa with authentic Mexican flavors. It is perfect with chips or as a condiment for fajitas, burritos, and quesadillas.
- Canned Boiled Peanuts: Canned Boiled Peanuts are cooked green peanuts that create a salty and sometimes spicy southern treat.
- Canning Chickpeas: Canning chickpeas yourself yields a superior product and opens the door to creating unique flavors not found in common grocery store cans of chickpeas.