I'm not sure exactly how I came across the blogger, Just Plain Marie, but she hooked me from the start. I
was intrigued by all the food she was putting up while living in an apartment. She processed a whole pig in
there. Oh, yes, she did. Well, she's a wiz with her pressure canner and since I have been back and forth
between wanting to learn to pressure can and just sticking to my hot water bath-ing methods, I asked her to
convince me to go the pressure canner route and she has done just that. I'm putting a pressure canner on my
If she convinces you as well, she suggests that the pressure canner you chose have a three piece weight and
not just a gauge. She feels the gauges are unreliable and a lot more work. I bookmarked this blog post awhile
ago which provides some great things to think about when shopping for a pressure canner.
Without further ado, be prepared to be no longer scared (if you were in the first place). Thank you Just Plain Marie!
Why Bother Pressure Canning? Whenever I talk about pressure canning, I find people who believe that it is too difficult, too much effort and work, and invariably, too scary. Those who are familiar with my blog know that I am strongly in favour of canning according to modern, tested, USDA-approved canning methods. That means Boiling Water Bath Canning (BWB) for high-acid foods (pickles, jams and jellies, most fruit) and Pressure Canning (PC) for everything else. In fact, I pressure can everything if I can get away with it. Why? Simply put, it is easier, less effort and work, and less scary and accident-prone than Boiling Water Bath Canning. In addition, Pressure Canning uses significantly less water, heats up my kitchen less, can process more jars at a time, works for an incredible array of practical, useful, every day foods, and produces food that is safe in a normal kitchen cupboard. Before I go into the details of BWB and PC, let's mention one outdated method which many people use - Open Kettle Canning. That is the method by which you boil and sterilize your jars and then add hot food to them, add hot lids and rings, seal them tight and let a vacuam form without any heat processing at all. Unfortunately, it is possible to have a very good seal form and still have unsafe canned goods if bacteria remain alive inside the sealed jar. There are conditions under which I would consider doing Open Kettle Canning, but they are few and I won't go into them here. Now the practical reason not to do Open Kettle Canning is that you must boil your jars to sterilize them, which means you already have the huge pot of water ready to do the five to twenty minutes of heat processing necessary for safety! With all of that, why is my Pressure Canner the most beloved tool in my kitchen? I do not need to sterilize my jars. I wash them with the rest of my dishes, ensure that there are no food bits in them, and then fill them with the food I want to Pressure Can. That means I don't have a huge pot of boiling water on my stovetop to deal with. When doing BWB canning, it is extremely important that the jars be steriled before adding the food, as the jars will only be heated to 212F. I do not need to heat the food. I keep my food (meat, vegetables, sauce) cold, add it to cold jars, and use room temperature water in my Pressure Canner. I have never had a jar break. BWB requires hot food to be put into hot jars and added to boiling water - there are many, many opportunities for burns. Once I have my jars in the Pressure Canner, seal it and start up the heat, I have very little work to do for between one and three hours. I watch until the steam appears and then count ten minutes, then I add the appropriate weight to the steam vent. I putter around the kitchen until I hear the weight starting to rock, and then I note the time and set the timer. The only thing I then have to do is gently lower the heat if the weight is rocking too rapidly. When the time is up, I turn off the heat and wait for the pressure to be gone (gauge is at zero, no steam is releasing, and pressure lock has unlocked). Then I open the canner and use a jar lifter to remove my food. As for less water - my Pressure Canner (and they're all slightly different) uses 3 quarts of water. That's all. There's a fill line inside my canner that's about 2" from the bottom. My Boiling Water Bath canner is about the same size, and it holds almost 20 quarts of water because the water must completely cover the jars by one or two inches. Which do you think is easier and safer to lift to the sink and pour out? Of course, 20 quarts of water also takes a long time to come to a boil. Whenever I do Boiling Water Bath Canning, my kitchen fills with steam. That's
because I have several gallons of water boiling away on my stove for such a long time. That wouldn't be a problem during a dry winter day, but most food isn't harvested in cold weather. Even though the Pressure Canner brings the food to a bacteria-destroying 240F, far less steam is created. Or rather, it's created but it's kept inside the canner. Less water is used, and very little water is boiled away into the air, The standard Boiling Water Bath canner will hold 7 1-quart jars or 9 1-pint jars. In order to do more, you need to process those, remove them and then add more. Technically, this means you can do as many jars as you have the energy to process. The problem, though, is that the water is boiling away all that time, topping it up with fresh water as it boils away. In order to keep my BWB canner at a full boil, I usually have the burner set at maximum. This is hot, steamy work that wastes a lot of water (as steam) and uses a lot of heating fuel. The benefit with the Pressure Canner shows up primarily when doing smaller jars. I can process 18 pint jars at a time, and each pint jar holds 1 pound of meat. So what foods do I Pressure Can? Looking in my cupboards, I see cooked ground beef, meatballs in pasta sauce, chicken broth, pork broth, baked beans, chicken soup starter, potatoes, carrots, chicken in many forms, ham, pork chunks, spaghetti sauce .... the list is endless. When my cupboard is fully stocked with home-canned foods, I can make a beef stew in ten minutes that tastes like it has slow cooked all day. I can whip up incredible cream of chicken soup in five minutes. Spaghetti and meatballs is a quick meal. Potatoes are $7 for 10 at the grocery store? I'm not worried - my home-canned potatoes can be roasted, mashed, added to stew, or made into potato salad. As for safety in the cupboard, we just went through a heat wave. We rarely see temperatures over 80F, but they were hovering around 100F all week. I expected to see jars popping in the heat. Instead ... a few days ago, my toddler got into one of my boxes of canned foods and was carrying around a jar of pork chunks in broth, and holding it by the flat lid! The seal held beautifully. I stopped worrying! None of this is to say that Boiling Water Bath canning is bad. On the contrary, pickles must be done in a BWB, as must jams and jellies and most fruits. Pressure Canning would destroy these foods. I experimented with Pressure Canning some of my rhubarb this year - those jars turned out darker and overcooked. Oh, they'll still be edible (and my goodness, they're safe!) but they won't taste as good as the BWB jars. There is definitely a place for both Boiling Water Bath canning and Pressure Canning, and I do both. However, when it comes to energy and water conservation, safety, convenience and ease, the Pressure Canner can't be beat!Pin It