For years I have been a water bath canner. This method works for foods that are either high in acid or sugar or both. I never, ever thought I would be interested in a pressure canner. The low acid stuff (green beans and corn), I just put in the freezer. Then someone over on the Canny Crafers group said "dried beans". !?! How did I miss that beans could be canned? We eat a lot of beans in our house, and we use a regular pressure cooker a couple of times a week just for beans. Still, there are times when I do not get the pressure cooker going soon enough, and times when Youngest Daughter shows up with a bunch of hungry friends, and times when I need a bit of black beans, and those times call for canned beans. What if I never had to buy canned beans again? What if I could turn to my own trusty shelves when those sorts of events popped up? Enter the pressure canner.
It seems silly to purchase a large, expensive piece of equipment just for beans, totally would not pencil. So I put out a call to my Facebook friends and within hours I had a pressure canner sitting in my kitchen. This particular canner was borrowed from my friend Teresa. Teresa is a fellow food writer with a great book. She was lucky enough to pick up this gently used canner from a garage sale! She had been nervous to use it and hoped I would blog step by step instructions. Happy to oblige.
If you have used a pressure cooker, this is not going to be too scary. If you have not used a pressure cooker, I think it is safe to assume that you have images of exploded food clinging to the ceiling. Put that thought right out of your head. Today's pressure cookers/canners have so many safety features that even The Hulk could not thwart them.
So, I am going to do this step by step using dried beans. If you are using fresh produce, or soup, or meat, the steps will be the same, the only difference will be what is inside your jars.
Pressure Gauge Canner. There are also Weighted Pressure Canners. They work in the same way, with a locking lid and a vent.
The lid needs a gasket in order to seal correctly. The gasket is rubber and fits snuggly around the underside of the lid.
This little guy is going to help you know when there is pressure inside the pot. Be certain it is clean and can easily move up and down.
A canning rack goes into the bottom of the canner.
Empty jars are placed in the canner and 3 quarts of boiling water are poured in and around the jars. 3 quarts is what this particular canner calls for, your canner may call for a different amount. The reason the jars are placed in the canner while empty is to prevent them from breaking. Hot food is going to go into the jars and those jars will be going into a hot canner. Starting with cold jars is asking for trouble.
The burner is turned on under the canner to keep everything hot, but not boiling. Using tongs, lift a jar from the canner and pour the water back into the pot.
Place the jar on a towel and fill according to your recipe, leaving one inch headspace. Get rid of any air bubbles by running a chopstick between the jar and its contents. Wipe the rim and cover with a lid and screw ring. Screw the ring to fingertip tight. By fingertip tight I mean, take two fingers of your non-dominate hand and place them on the lid, then use your other hand to tighten the ring. You do not want it super tight, that will warp the lid and your jar will not seal.
Place the jar and its contents back into the canner. Repeat. Once all the jars have been filled, lock the lid in place.
Line up the arrows on the lid and the handle and twist to lock. Leave the weight off the vent pipe. Turn your burner to high and get that water boiling. Keep it boiling until steam is coming out of the vent for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of continuous steam, place the weight over the vent pipe and wait for pressure to come up inside the pot. Putting the weight over the steam feels a little scary. Be quick about it and point the weight away from you, so that any steam will not be heading your direction. You will know you are up to pressure when the dial gauge reads the number called for in your recipe (pressure gauge) or when the weight begins to rock (weighted gauge).
Once the gauge reads the appropriate amount or the weight is rocking, start your timer. If your are using a weighted gague canner, your weight will gently rock, a dial gauge will show the actual pressure measurement. Now is not a good time to head out to pull weeds. Instead, grab your knitting and hang out close by to monitor the situation. It is vital that the pressure not drop below the required amount. If your pressure does drop, raise your heat until the pressure is correct and then begin your timer again. Even if you were just 10 minutes away from being done, if your pressure drops, you must start your timer at the beginning. Don't let your pressure drop.
It may be helpful for you to write down the time you expect the jars to be done. More than once I forgot and had to start timing again.
Once the cooking has finished, turn off the heat, but do not try to open the pot. I am telling you, The Hulk could not open the pot at this point. Let the pressure drop naturally.
When there is pressure in the pot the valves will be up.
Once the pot is safe to open the pressure gauge will read 0 and the safety valves will once again be flush with the pot. Remove the weight from the vent pipe and wait five more minutes, just for make sure.
Remove the lid, lift the jars (don't tilt), and move them to a spot where the cold wind will not blow on them and the kids/dogs/next door neighbor will not disturb them. Do not tighten any rings that have loosened. Let the jars cool completely and then check the seal. If the lid has a concave center and nothing happens when you press on the center, the seal is good. If a jar is not sealed, pop it in the fridge and use it right away, or put it in the freezer for later.
Label your jars of loveliness with the contents and the date and store them on the shelf. I know it is suppose to be a dark shelf, but I love the way my jars look above the still under constrcution pantry. Also, having things close at hand means the family will use them.
Not so scary after all. Are y'all ready to give it a try?