Long-time readers will remember one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to learn six new skills. Pressure canning is now on the list of acquired skills. I have canned, or in layman’s terms, put-up jams, jellies, and salsas for years. Last year I added pickles. Now that I have successfully learned how to use a pressure canner I expect to really expand my preserving.
Pressure Canning vs. Water Bath Canning
There is quite a bit of difference between the water bath canning I have done for years and pressure canning. For starters, water bath canning really does not need special equipment. Although I have a large water bath canner, for many years I just used my spaghetti pot and lined the bottom with a towel. However, a pressure canner is designed just for canning.
To be honest, I have had the canner for a few months. But it sat in its box. First in the basement, then for the last month at the top of the stairs. Its’ main job was intimidation. Yes, I was scared of this device.
For those of you that don’t can, a water bath canner is used with foods that are acidic in nature. Or have lots of vinegar in the recipe. As long as you achieve a good seal on the can, there is little to fear. On the other hand, low acid foods need pressure sealing in order to eliminate the danger of botulism. Therein lies the source of my fear. I worry that I will not use the pressure canner correctly. And there is no one I want to poison.
This year the garden is in overdrive, thanks to the new raised row garden. Therefore, I need to learn how to can. My green beans, eggplant, acorn squash and pumpkin all need preserving. I only have so much freezer space! So I decided to start with something simple-green beans.
I spent two days procrastinating by reading everything possible about processing green beans. Then after picking four pounds of green beans, I opened the pressure canner box. Reading the directions and assembling the canner delayed the moment by another hour. But finally I was ready to can.
Snapping four pounds of green beans takes a bit of time. It brought back memories of the women on my Dad’s side of the family snapping beans at what used to be the family cottage in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. Not a bad thing when you are alone at the kitchen sink washing and preparing to can.
Moment of Truth
Finally, the time arrived to can. The green beans were ready, the canner was fully assembled. Then following the canner directions, I placed three quarts of water in the bottom of the canner. I added warm water. I have a quart size Pyrex measuring cup which I nuked in the microwave. The book suggested warming to no more than 180 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t measure, but it wasn’t boiling.
I had kept the canning jars hot by filling with boiling water while the beans were being processed. The beans were boiled for five minutes, partially cooking them. When I water bath can, the jars are in the canner until ready to fill. So this step was different.
After filling the jars with beans and leaving the proper head space of an inch, I placed the five pints in the canner. I lined the arrows on the lid and canner top, rotated clockwise and turned up the heat. Then I waited. And waited.
Steam needs to vent for ten minutes before the pressure regulator is placed atop the vent. Time passed fairly quickly as I was able to clean up the mess I made snapping the ends off the beans. But then time seemed to crawl once the pressure regulator was put in place. An automatic air vent/cover lock struggled to pop-up. Perhaps it was because of the first time use. Or maybe this is normal. Future canning’s will tell.
Finally, the pressure gauge began to move up. My altitude dictates a pressure of 12 which is just above the standard. The trick to pressure canning is to keep the canner at the right pressure. If the canner falls below the pressure needed for your altitude it means resetting the clock. This I did not want to do. So I watched like an eagle. I did have to adjust the heat throughout the canning. But it was worth it in the end. No restart of the clock for me.
After the twenty minutes elapsed, the pressure canner was lifted off the heat and allowed to cool. Think of a car radiator, much the same concept. You don’t want to open either when hot. Once the canner cooled down, I lifted the lid and removed the five pints onto a kitchen towel. Longtime preservists will appreciate the thrill of hearing five metallic pings shortly thereafter.
The four pounds ending up filling five pints with enough left over that I froze the remainder in a quart size freezer bag. I am out of pint size jars. So is my small town!
I am so glad I learned this skill. The lovely pings indicate a good seal. I have a feeling this new pressure canner will get plenty of use this fall. Unlike a water bath can, I will need to stay in the kitchen paying close attention to the pressure. But I think the time spent will be worthwhile.
A major difference between the two types of canneries is how altitude is handled. In water bath canning, additional time is added to the process. However, in pressure canning all geographic locations use the same amount of time. It is the pressure which is changed.
Yes it is far easier to buy the cans at the grocery store. But I love to garden and I don’t want the produce to go to waste. I can control what goes into the food. Next time you read a label with lots of hard to pronounce ingredients, you might understand my point. Of course reading labels could be a whole separate blog post!
If you so desire I would love to hear about your successes. Feel free to share recipes too! I was so caught up in the process only a few pictures were taken. But there is always next time!