Pressure Canning Basics: Fearless Food Preservation

Whether pressure canning or using a water bath canner, home-canned food is a gift you give yourself. Learn how to use a pressure canner to preserve food safely and save money on groceries all year long.

  • Learn how to use a pressure canner safely, and you'll save money on groceries all year long.
    Photo By Tim Nauman
  • Have your gauges checked annually at your local extension office.
    Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • A 21.5-quart pressure canner will process 19 stacked pints.
    Photo By Tim Nauman
  • Become familiar with the components of your pressure canner.
    Illustration Courtesy Ball Corporation

Some of us were lucky to learn food preservation skills at home, on long, hot summer days that now exist as fond memories. Many of us weren’t so lucky. Pressure canning in particular is a source of anxiety for new food preservers. The equipment may seem foreign, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with food that’s unsafe to eat. Do respect food safety guidelines, but do not fear the useful technology that is pressure canning.

The Two Main Types of Canning

The easiest way to can foods — and the best place to start — is with simple water bath canning. With this method, jars are processed at the boiling point — 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level — which is hot enough to kill molds, yeasts and harmful bacteria, and to deactivate enzymes that lead to food spoilage. The boiling point is as high as you need to go to can foods that contain enough acid to prevent further microbial growth. These high-acid foods (pH 4.6 or lower) include most fruits, as well as some other foods to which acid has been added. Jams, jellies and vinegar pickles are good foods for beginners to can. Go to our canning resources page to learn more about water bath and pressure canning recipes.

7/13/2013 6:59:20 AM

I earned my degree in Foods and Nutrition from Oregon State University, located in the great botulism belt. NEVER use a weighted gauge pressure canner - always use a dial gauge. The weighted gauge pressure is harder to accurately determine, and errors in pressure can result in the survival of botulinum spores.

7/12/2013 2:26:36 PM

Oops! That would be a one piece pressure regulator and a dial gauge, basically the same as the canner in the back from the picture, but instead of a metal safety valve, it has a rubber gasket in the center with a metal pin that pops out when the cooker is pressurized, and it can eventually be expelled when the pressure is too much.

7/12/2013 2:17:49 PM

I have a big presto pressure cooker with a weight and a dial gauge, but they never were advertised as canners here in Mexico, are they the same as canners or there is something else that canners have that the pressure cooker has not?


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