Class #4 of the Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certification Program: Pressure Canning
Pressure canning… up until this last class, the only thing I knew about pressure canning was that you needed to use it on low acidic foods to prevent botulism. Now, that is a good thing to know, but once you hear the word botulism, you tend to want to stay clear unless you really know what you’re doing. After my Can It class with Chef Miller, I’m excited by the possibilities of pressure canning!
A little history lesson: The first pressure cooker was created in 1679 by a French physicist, Denis Papin, and was known as the “digester” as it rendered bones super soft and edible. It was understood that trapped steam raised the cooking temperature higher than boiling alone, therefore cooking the food faster. What wasn’t understood so well, however, was how to regulate this steam, leading to many explosive disasters! Eventually, a pressure regulator spring was added to alleviate this problem. (As a side note, watching the valve move up and down inspired the engineering of the first commercial steam engine!) By the mid-1800’s, many farms had pressure cookers and by the 1920’s pressure canning and cooking was available for home use as well.
Pressure canning opens up a world of food preserving. In the words of the great Chef Miller, “You can’t live on pickles and jams alone!” Meats, stews, soups, beans, veggies… even peanuts! The list is endless. You can pressure can just about everything except purees, diary, and starches such as rice and pasta. Perhaps you had a great crop of green beans this year? Pressure can them and enjoy the fruits of your labor (or veggies of your labor, in this case) with Thanksgiving dinner.
The better pressure canners are either dial gauge or weighted gauge. The dial gauge will need to be sent out once a year to be calibrated, whereas the weighted canners use calibrated weights that never change. The more expensive canners are all metal, but if you have a model with any rubber gaskets, you’ll want to replace those every year if there are any signs of cracking. Whichever you decide to use, make sure they are UL rated and are a 4 quart minimum.
In class, we canned chicken and split pea soup. Pressure canning meat is the only way to can meat and a great solution for full freezers. Plus, the meat is already cooked, making dinner prep faster. Chicken enchiladas after a full day at work? Done! See how fast that was? For soups and stews, make a big ol’ batch and pressure can it! So much better than the sodium soups you buy in the store. Plus, canning allows you to season your foods they way you like them!
For the chicken, cut into one inch pieces or so, less skin and fat. Pack into cold, clean jars, wipe the rims and place the lids on, fingertip tight. We pressure canned the chicken for 75 minutes and let it cool down in the pressure cooker for another 45 minutes. Pressure canned jars must cool down in the pressure canners, as this is part of the cooking process.
The split pea soup goes into warm jars. Most items for pressure canning call for a one inch head space. The quart sized jars of soup were processed for 90 minutes. (See recipe below)
This is an All American Pressure Cooker/Canner that is metal-to-metal with no rubber gaskets. Chef Miller is tightening down the lid. By the way, pressure canners can be used as pressure cookers, but pressure cookers cannot be used as pressure canners.
After tightening the lid, wait for some pressure to build up before you start timing the venting stage. You can tell when pressure is building by the steady flow of steam and the gauge that pops up reading 1-2 psi. Once you’ve reached that, vent for 10 minutes before weighting and starting the cook time.
Different weights for the different brands.
When you are ready to remove your jars, make sure to open the lid away from you! Steam burns are horrible… yes, I know that from experience.
Our finished product. Although not canned with liquid, you can see it now has natural juices in the jar and it was still boiling, even after the cooling down period.
My favorite take-away from class #4 is that I now have complete confidence that I can pressure can without getting anyone sick! That’s huge! But here are a few others for you:
- If the pressure canner loses pressure for any reason, you must start all over.
- Pressure canning only needs a small amount of water: 2 inches of water, plus an additional inch for every hour of processing time.
- You can pressure can different things at once, just make sure to process for the recipe requiring the longest time.
- Don’t can in oil unless your recipe calls for it, like certain fishes.
We are heading into fermentation next week… maybe we can live on pickles alone! Previous Food Forward Can It Academy classes from our series can be found here: