Pressure Canning.

Since I only finished my very first pressure canner experience about five minutes ago, I hesitated to even post a blog about how to do it.  However, I wanted to at least share the experience.  So, I decided that I will just post a very (very very) simple explanation of what I did.  Since you can blow things up with a pressure canner, I am going to put a huge disclaimer on here that says “read your canner’s instruction book from cover to cover before attempting and do not rely on anything that I say below as gospel”.  Think of it more as an overview of what you are getting yourself into if you decide to use a pressure canner.

  • I’ll start by saying that it was surprisingly easy.  I think I just had myself so worked up about monitoring and keeping the right pressure, etc.
  • My canner was a Christmas gift (thanks Mom & Dad!).  I did pick it out ahead of time though.  It is an American Pressure Canner, model 921.  It holds 19 pint jars, or 7 quart jars.
  • What were the reasons I selected this canner?  Having absolutely no experience to go on, I decided that I wanted one that held a good number of jars at one time (I didn’t want to be messing around with multiple batches every time I made something).  I wanted one that seemed sturdy.  I also liked how this canner does not have a rubber gasket to seal it shut, because that can crack over time with age.  This has a metal to metal seal (which requires that you add a thin layer of vaseline between lid and pot).
  • It is definitely heavy and big.  I’m still not quite sure where I’m going to store it.
  • Due to its weight, it is not recommended for glass-top stoves.  I have a regular old-school electric stove so it works fine for me.
  • So, basically you start by making your food.  I am still exploring the world of what I can and can’t can (haha).  I started with a chicken tortilla soup.  It has chicken, black beans, tomatoes, etc.  Nothing that seemed like it might be problematic.
  • My reading tells me that you want everything to be hot.  So, start as soon as your food is cooked (and still hot).  You want your canning jars to be hot (although you don’t have to boil to sterilize like you do with a regular water bath canner).  And, you want the water in the canner to be hot.
  • So, when I started my assembly line, I had 2-3 inches of hot water in the bottom of the canner, and a big pot full of hot water/jars.
  • Fill each jar to the recommended level (for my recipe it was one inch from the top).
  • Put on lid/screw band, tighten, and put into the canner.  (make sure you use the racks for the canner and do not place jars directly on the bottom).
  • Once canner is filled, put on lid and tighten.  (a few things about the lid: first, look through the steam vent to make sure it is clear.  second, when you tighten the wingnuts to seal it do them evenly around the pot, never tighten just one all the way first).
  • Put the burner on high and wait.  My canner instructs you to wait until steam is venting from the steam vent for seven minutes.  Then put on the weight to the appropriate selection (i.e. 5, 10, or 15 pounds).
  • This is where it was sort of tricky, and I wished I had someone with me to say “you’re doing it right”.  There is a pressure gauge, but everything I read said “don’t rely on the gauge as foolproof, rely on the weight”.  The weight is supposed to “jiggle” 1-4 times per minute when it’s at the right temperature/pressure.  It took me a little while to find the “ideal” spot where it isn’t overventing or underpressure, but I got there.  I was a little frustrated that there was NO guidance to how hot that might be (i.e. leave it close to high, put it to a simmer?).  I found on my stove that the right level ended up being just below Medium.  My stove tends to run hot so not sure how that would translate for anyone else.
  • Start your timer when the weight starts to jiggle and cook until done according to your instructions.
  • Turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce to zero.  Then remove the weight and let any remaining steam vent before opening the lid.  Open the lid AWAY from you.
  • My lid got stuck (which apparently isn’t too uncommon since my instruction book told me how to unstick it).  Wedge a screwdriver in the proper location at the proper angle and it pops right open.
  • I removed all jars and placed on a towel on the counter to cool.  At this point I laughed to myself – one of the websites that I actually had gotten a lot of recipe ideas from always made me chuckle, because the author of the blog said in every single one something about “listen to that wonderful happy noise of the jars ‘pinging’ shut”.  It really IS a happy noise 🙂  I never got to can so many jars at one time before so it was funny to hear them all going off as they sealed.

That’s about it!  Again – READ your instruction book before attempting anything with a canner.  This is just something to tell you what you expect in a very general sense.  Look for more recipes coming soon, there are so many that I want to try!

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