The Pressure Canner: My Favorite Preservation Tool

| 7/8/2013 10:21:00 AM

Tags: food preservation, country living skills, Victoria Redhed Miller,

chicken in a potI was so happy that Mother Earth News published an article on pressure canning recently! I've seen lots of articles about canning over the years, in several different magazines, but these articles have been almost exclusively about water-bath canning.

I have been canning since I was 15 years old. At the time, 9th-grade girls at the high school I attended in north Seattle were required to take Home Economics. I hated the sewing part. The cooking subjects were mainly boring to me; I already knew how to boil pasta and make apple pie. It's still a mystery to me why Mrs. Jones thought it useful to teach us how to make a Baked Alaska, something I've never done since then. Still, I did learn the basics of canning in that class, for which I am grateful to this day. It was the beginning of my continuing love for all kinds of food preservation.

For many years, I did only water-bath canning. We made pickles, all kinds of jams and jellies, canned pears and peaches and homegrown tomatoes. I remember once or twice watching my Mom use a pressure canner to can green beans. My memory is that it seemed complicated and stressful. It wasn't until many years later that I bought my first pressure canner; actually I think I was in my early 40s by then. Once I got used to using it, I quickly realized the advantages of being able to can low-acid foods as well as high-acid foods.

A brief word of explanation: High-acid foods can be safely canned in a boiling-water bath. Examples of high acid foods are pickles, jams, and fruits. Tomatoes are generally considered high-acid foods, as well as tomato-based preserves such as salsa. Low-acid foods must be canned in a pressure canner. At 10 pounds pressure, the temperature inside the pressure canner is 240F, much higher than 212F, the boiling point of water at sea level. This higher temperature kills potentially dangerous bacteria that can survive boiling-water temperatures.

Even when we still lived in the city, I found I was using my pressure canner year-round. Having come from a large family, I was accustomed to cooking in large quantities. When I had a lot of tomatoes, I made big batches of marinara sauce and canned it. David does the grocery shopping and is an excellent bargain hunter; when he came home with ten pounds of green beans, out came the pressure canner.

Once we moved to the farm, my food preservation skills took on an added importance. We have a very small (8 cu.ft.) propane refrigerator/freezer. The freezer is just big enough to hold a couple of ice cube trays and a few small packages of meat. Obviously I wasn't going to be freezing containers of homemade chicken stock! I made the necessary mental adjustments, and before long I was canning big batches of chili, smoked tuna, homemade corned beef, minestrone, garden vegetables, and a lot more. And of course, once we started raising poultry, eventually I was canning homegrown chicken meat and stock.

7/9/2013 8:34:05 PM

Yes, I love my pressure canner too. I've canned my own sauces, chili, soups, beans, hot sauce, and brouths. I'll have to try canning chicken next. We have been freezing it. And it is a pain to thaw for dinner. Thanks for the ideas. Have a great canning season :-)

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