Pressure canning may seem intimidating at first but it actually takes less prep work than water bath canning. Did you know, pressure canning is the only safe way to can low-acidity foods such as vegetables, mushrooms, broth, soup/stew, and meat? So, take the leap and start preserving produce from your own garden this season!
What is Pressure Canning?
There are two styles of canning: pressure canning and hot water bath canning? The main differences are:
- Pressure canning uses pressure while hot water bath uses only boiling water.
- Pressure canning does not require cans to be completely submerged while hot water bath does.
- Pressure canning requires longer processing times than hot water bath.
- Pressure canning is for low-acid foods while hot water bath canning is for high acid foods.
- Pressure canner with gauge and weight – There are different canners for pressure canning and water bath canning. A dual purpose canner can accommodate both hot water bath and pressure canning.
- Canning Accessories – You will benefit from accessories such as a jar lifter, large funnel, and bubble remover/headspace measurement tool.
- Glass Canning Jars – The rings are reusable, but you must use brand new lids each time as the seal is one time use only. (There are both regular and wide mouth jars in multiple sizes).
- The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving – This book is full of 400 recipes, tips, troubleshooting and detailed diagrams to ensure canning success.
- Chef’s knife, food processor or mandolin – Depending on the quantity of vegetables that you plan on prepping, a food processor is a huge time saver.
- Stockpot for boiling water. Remember raw packed veggies have boiling water poured over them and hot packed veggies are boiled in the water then added to jars.
Raw-pack vs Hot-pack
I personally prefer the raw-pack method because it takes much less prep time (however, this method is not an option for some vegetables). Fresh, raw veggies are packed into hot, clean jars and boiling water is poured over them. The veggies are cooked while processing in the canner. If you fear your veggies will become over-cooked during long processing times, use this method. The only drawback is that vegetables tend to float in the jars after processing.
The hot-pack method is when vegetables are pre-cooked in boiling water, then added to clean jars. Vegetables that take longer to cook through, such as okra, beets, leafy greens, potatoes, and winter squash are best hot packed. With the hot pack method, vegetables shrink before being packed in the canner so more can fit in each jar. Hot packed vegetables don’t float in their jar after being canned. Recipes will indicate which method to use for your intended vegetable.
Canning can be a lengthy process, especially when you’re inexperienced. I have learned through trial and error, how to streamline the whole process and multitask.
Put jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher on a quick cycle. Wash more than you think you’ll need. Fill the canner with a few inches of water and 1TBSP vinegar (to keep jars from getting a cloudy film on the outside) and start pre-heating the canner on the stove (without the lid). Get a stock pot in addition to the canner and begin boiling water (enough to fill your jars). Get out your cutting board or food processor and begin preparing vegetables. (As this typically takes 30-60 minutes, the jars should be clean and the water should be boiling by the time you’re done.)
Now, pack the veggies into your jars (boil veggies for time indicated on recipe prior to packing if using the hot-pack method). Remove air bubbles and check the headspace according to your recipe. Put on lids and rings. Place filled jars into the canner and adjust the water level so it covers 1/2 to 2/3 of the jars.
Boil for 10 minutes, then put the pressure on (place the weight on the vent pipe). When the pressure gauge reaches 10lbs of pressure, adjust the burner heat to maintain (but not drop below) this number. Process at 10lbs pressure for the time indicated on your recipe. Set a timer and check the pressure gauge every few minutes to make sure a minimum of 10lbs pressure is maintained.
When the timer goes off, switch the burner off and allow the pressure gauge to drop to 0lbs before you open the lid. Angle that lid so the steam vents away from you as you lift it off. Remove jars from the canner with a jar lifter (Don’t burn yourself!) and place them on a kitchen towel to cool for 4 or 5 hours.
As the jars cool, the metal lids will make a popping noise which tells you they have properly sealed for safe long term storage. If one of your lids don’t seal, it means something went wrong during processing. The jar will not be shelf stable, but it can be kept in the refrigerator and used within a week.
Check that every lid has popped by:
- Listening to and counting all the pops and
- Pushing on the center of every lid to ensure it is concave.
Write with a sharpie on the top of every metal lid, the date and the name of the recipe. (You can make cute little labels later, but if they fall off, you will still be able to tell your jars apart.) Save that recipe for next year when you’re craving more and your stores have run out! Make notes throughout the year how much you used of each recipe and plan to adjust the quantities for next year.
Looking for other methods for saving your garden produce?
Learn these 8 ways to preserve your harvest!