Tag: Preserves

Pressure Canning- My Newest Skill

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.

Abundant Garden

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.

Pressure Time

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!

Final Thoughts

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!

Green beans piled in front of a pressure canner
Ready to start
Cannery with pressure gauge on top
Intimidating Dial
Empty large pot
Empty canner
5 jars of green beans alongside recipe books
Final Product


Small Batch Preserving

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard has been around awhile and I make recipes from it fairly often. Each recipe offers detailed directions and many have variations presented. I kept checking this book out from the library and liked it so much I finally bought a copy. I count it in my Top Five cookbooks.

If your garden is like mine, the vegetables don’t ripen all at once, thus the necessity of making small batches. The book also provides great combination recipes for fruits which eliminates the monotony of jams and preserves.

In addition to the recipes, Topp and Howard cover basic safety procedures for preserving and canning. Their step-by-step guidelines are easy to follow. They cover the four ways to preserve food.

The book contains charts for high altitude adjustments, multiple glossaries and lots of How To’s in a step by step format. One can find recipes for jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles, sauces, vinaigrettes and oils. The output is measured in cups with most yielding less than 4 cups. Large color photographs of the prepared preserves are grouped in two locations so there is a need to flip from one section of the book to another in order to compare your outcome with that of the authors.

The recipes span the range of the taste buds from sweet to savory as well as spicy. One of the things I like the most about Small-Batch Preserving is the combination jams and jellies. For example, my gooseberry yield this year was small, most likely due to a late freeze. But, combining the gooseberries with sour cherries allowed me to use the berries in a jam. Additionally, the book includes multiple recipes with blueberries. Since blueberries are low in acidity, many cookbooks leave out this super fruit.

The salsa and chutney recipes follow a similar vein. Combinations of fruits and vegetables in recipes ranging from tart to sweet with varying degrees of spiciness can be found in the book. Last fall I made both fruit and vegetable chutneys. Favorites were the Orchard Chutney featuring peaches, apples and onions and the Apple Plum Chutney. Again all these recipes were quick to make due to the small amounts.

A wide range of pickle recipes can be found in Small Batch Preserving. While cucumbers are the feature of this section, one can also find recipes for pickled peaches and beets. I am a relative novice at pickling. Last fall I tried eight of the pickle recipes. All disappeared before Christmas.

If you like to make your own preserves but don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen this book is for you.