Pressure Canning Made Simple.
The only safe method for low acid foods.
Learning pressure canning will open huge opportunities for you to safely can much more than you can safely can using only a water bath canner. Pressure canning is the only safe method for home canning vegetables, meat, fish, shellfish and any other low acid foods.
It is of course noisy and many people are reluctant due to their lack of understanding of the process. Many people hear the noise (it isn't that bad) and they think it is going to blow up. It isn't. There is nothing unsafe about using a home pressure canner. It is no more dangerous than cooking and preparing any other meal in the kitchen. Follow the manufacturer instructions and you will have no problems.
It is important to understand that all Low Acid Food must be processed using the pressure canning method.
The Pressure Canning Process
Collect all of your supplies:
Wash and rinse your jars and lids.
Jars can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. You don't need to sterilize jars in pressure canning. The high temperatures reached in the canner will sterilize everything. You DO need to start with clean jars.
Add water to your canner. Your canner manufacturer instructions will discuss how much water to use for your canner. If you have purchased your canner used, use 3 - 4 inches of water.
You do not have to cover the jars with water in pressure canning like you do in water bath canning. On longer processing times you may add a little more. You do not want the water to "cook" completely out during processing. 3-4 inches will be safe in almost all cases.
Remember with this process we are concerned about pressure not temperature. Temperature will be obtained by controlling the proper pressure for your elevation.
Set rack on the bottom of the canner and heat water until hot, not boiling. Keep warm. If you do not have a rack, get creative. The only purpose of the rack is to keep the jars off of the bottom of the canner and away from direct heat contact. I have used small charcoal grill racks, my wife uses a towel, and one creative lady used a wire rack off of a dart board.
Keep jars and lids hot until ready to be filled.
Place the clean jars upside down in a large pot with 2 or 3 inches of hot water. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Leave the jars in the water until ready to be filled. Some people prefer washing them in the dishwasher and leaving them in the dishwasher and pull them out as they are used.
My dishwasher is named Cindi and she isn't always home when I am canning (I think she purposely plans to not be home). Needless to say, I usually use the wash the jars by hand method.
Keep lid seals warm by placing the seals in a small pan of water. Bring to just below a boil. Do not boil the lids. You are only trying to warm the seal compound on the lid to assist the sealing process. Leave the seals in the hot but not boiling water until ready for a jar.
If I am short on stove space (this happens quite often since I am spatially challenged in my cooking area), I heat my lids in the same pot I am warming my jars and remove them with a magnetic wand when I need them.
I have a LARGE All-American Pressure Canner and it takes up a lot of room on my little stove so a small sauce pan with my lids in it is all that will fit nicely on the burner next to the canner.
Fill the jars leaving the recommended head space per your recipe. It is worth the effort to be as careful as possible in not getting foods, syrups, salt, etc on the rim of the jars when packing them.
A funnel is a great help here during pressure canning.
Remove air bubbles by running a non-metallic spatula down the sides and around the inside of the jar.
Next time you are out for Chinese, grab some of the plastic chopsticks. They work too.
Wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel. You must be sure that you remove any food, salt, syrup, etc on the rim because it will prevent the jar from sealing.
Place seals and rings on jars. Remove a lid from the hot water and place a cap on each jar, making sure it's centered and seated with the rubber edge directly over the rim.
(If lids stick together, plunge them into cold water; then submerge them again in boiling water.) The rings do not have to be heated. Screw the ring band on by hand as tightly as you comfortably can.
The purpose of the ring is only to locate and hold the lid until it seals during the pressure canning process. Do not over tighten, finger tight is just fine. You may want a pot holder or hand towel to hold the jars when tightening the lids because they will be hot.
Place jars in the pressure canner. The jars must not sit directly on the direct heat on the bottom of the canner. Be sure to use some sort of rack. Be sure jars are not touching each other. Turn the jars as necessary so there is airspace around each jar so the steam can properly circulate around the jar for processing.
Place the cover securely on the pressure canner. Be careful to tighten the lid down evenly. If you tighten the lid crooked, it can be very hard to get off after processing.
Venting. Heat the water to boiling. At this point steam should be escaping from the vent or the weighted gauge opening. Leave the weighted gauge off of the canner or open the petcock depending on the type of canner that you have.
While maintaining high heat setting, exhaust steam for 10 minutes before placing the weighted gage on the canner or before closing the vent/petcock depending on your type of pressure canner.
The canner will pressurize in the next 3 to 5 minutes. This is an important step so do not skip it. This pushes all the air from the canner. After the 10 minutes of venting, THEN place weight on the vent port or close the vent/petcock and let the pressure build.
The pressure will not be at the required setting yet. After the venting process when you close the petcock or replace the weighted pressure gauge your heat will continue until canner reaches the correct pressure.
Adjust/lower heat under the canner to maintain a steady pressure at or slightly above (never less than) the correct gauge pressure. Quick and large pressure variations during processing may cause liquid losses from jars.
Weighted gauges should jiggle about 2 or 3 times per minute. On Presto canners, they should rock slowly throughout the process.
The proper pressure required may need adjusted per your recipe depending on your altitude.
Start timing from the time you have achieved the proper pressure.
Check your gauge often. In pressure canning you must maintain the correct pressure. The best way to ensure this is to stay in or near the kitchen and check the gauge occasionally. You can be getting your next batch ready. You can take a break since pressure canning times tend to be longer than Water Bath so it will be a while before you will need to do the next step.
After you have canned a few times you will have a pretty good idea of your stove settings to maintain the proper pressure.
When time is up, turn off the heat. Do not remove weights or open petcocks. Let the canner set until pressure comes back to zero. Removing the lid before the pressure returns to zero pressure can damage jars and it is not safe.
DO NOT try to speed up the cooling process in any way. The canner must be allowed to cool naturally on its own.
Do not remove the weight or open the vent until the canner reaches zero pressure. When the pressure in the canner is at zero, the pressure is now released and you can remove the weight or open the vent.
Carefully remove the lid because hot steam will be released when the lid is removed. Tilt the lid so the steam releases away from you and away from your face when removing the lid
Remove the jars
from the canner using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars and set them upright on a wooden board or a thick towel to cool. Be sure they are in a draft free area and leave 1 - 2 inches space between each jar so air can circulate.
You will hear the jars individually pop. They do this as they seal. Some people will like to count the pops but if you loose count, it is OK. You can still check that the jars have sealed even if you don't hear or count all of the popping sounds.
Do not press the lids at this point. Leave the jars alone until completely cool. This may take up to 12 hours.
Do not turn the jars upside down for any reason. Some people believe this helps. It doesn't and it can effect sealing.
After jars have cooled, NOW you may press on the lids to check the seal. The seal should be sucked down and not pop up. If you find a jar that did not seal, simply put the jar in the fridge and plan on using that food within a few days. If you have the worst case scenario and have several jars that do not seal, they can be reprocessed per the original recipe. You should reprocess food if needed within 12 hours of completion of the original batch.
Remove the screw cap and wash the jar. The outsides will often be sticky. It is a good idea (but not essential) to store without the screw cap. The caps can rust if you leave them on and this can affect the seal. Rust is most likely if you are storing your canning jars in a damp area like a basement. If so, definitely remove the lids.
Label the jar.
You may think that labeling the type of food isn't necessary because you feel you will be able to tell what is in the jar. BUT, this is a big but, you will experiment with various recipes. You will try different ingredients and you may use different types of apples, meats, etc.
When you open your jars later and use them, there will be some that you will definitely want to make again and those that you won't. Proper labeling allows you to know what you have when you open a jar at a later date.
Some people like to buy fancy canning labels. I write what I want to know on the lid with a Sharpie marker. The lid is going to be thrown away when you open the can anyway. I'm to cheap to buy labels when the lid works just as well.
Always record a date. That way you will be able to ensure that you are using the oldest ones first. Trust me, as minor as this sounds, it is a good habit to get into.
Store your jars in a cool, dark, dry environment. You do not want to store your canned gods in an area that gets extremely hot. The ideal temperature for storing your canned goods is between 50 and 70 degrees. A little warm is OK but avoid excessive heat.
Like anything, it takes time and patience. Many of the variables we discussed here will become second nature after you get a few batches under your belt. Practice makes perfect. The more you can the more these things will become normal. You will do them all without thinking after your first harvest or two.
These are general pressure canning instructions. Each recipe will be a bit different in how the food is prepared for processing and the correct processing times to use.
Practice makes perfect in anything we do in life. Canning is the same. Practice, practice, practice.
Some other tips
Plan ahead. You will find that at harvest time you will have a lot to can. With Water Bath canning, you can process foods with different processing times in the same pot. If one food takes 15 minutes and another takes 20, you can put them all in the canner and remove the 15 minute food when it is done and let the 20 minute food remain until it is complete.
With pressure canning, once you lock the lid in place, you are committed until the process is done. I consider the foods I have to can and group the ones with the same processing times and can them together. When pressure canning, I want to take full use of my canner since the processing times are usually much longer than water bath canning.
If you have items that are close in processing times, you can group them and process them to the food with the longest processing time so you can fully load your pressure canner whenever possible.
Gather your supplies. If you house is like mine, you need to collect your supplies and equipment and make sure you have everything before you prepare your food. It is frustrating to spend time preparing your food and then realize you can't find something you need. Someone borrowed it, the grandkids used it for some vital backyard project they were working on, or no one can remember where they put it when they used it last.
Prepare your food per the recipe instructions. If you are doing large batches, refrigerate the food that is prepared and waiting to be processed. I usually try to prepare enough for one batch and while that batch is processing, I prepare food for the next batch I will do when the present batch is completed.
I do not prepare multiple batches all at once because things can and will go wrong at my house. It is a good practice and I always try to process any food I prepare as soon as I have the food prepared.
Processing large amounts and then having something go wrong is very discouraging, Things like the power going out, you realize you checked everything except the propane and it runs out, or your wife tells her best friend she can use your canner and she loans it out when you are in the middle of preparing your food. Of course, none of these of these have personally happened to me.....very often. I prepare only what I know I can process.
While my batch is processing, I use that time to prepare my next batch.
Click Here for Pressure canning Supplies and Equipment
Click here to return from Pressure Canning to the Home Page
Click here to go from Pressure Canning to the Water Bath Canning Page