Thursday, September 19, 2019

Summer Series 2019: Week 10

This week’s question has to do with a very important aspect of preserving food … 

Canning safety! I have a pressure canner that stares at me every time I go into my pantry room... help me stop the glare :)

As a very little girl, many, many years ago, I saw the top fly off a pressure canner that my mom was using; I can still see it in my mind!  I don’t have to tell you what that kind of experience does to a little girl; I was scared to death of that big pot for the longest time.  Over time though, as my mama kept using it and teaching me, I grew more comfortable with the process and overcame my fear.  By the time I was a teenager, I was operating that pressure canner like a pro.  Thankfully, now pressure canners have safety features built in that keeps the lid from flying off!!!

Let’s start with pressure canning safety …

Make sure your pressure canner is ready for operation.  Check the overpressure plug, is it in good condition?  Are there any cracks, tares or chips in it?   Is it brittle?  If so, replace it.

Check the regulator, is it cracked or broken?  If so, replace it.

Make sure the ‘steam hole’ in the center of the lid is free of any debris.  You should be able to see all the way through it when you hold it up to light.

Check the seal if your pressure canner uses one, is it brittle, does it have chips, cracks or tares in it?  If so, replace it.

Read your owner’s manual and then chose something easy to do for your first canning.  (Water is a good thing to start with, yes … can some water.  Everyone needs a few jars of sterilized water in their pantry for medicinal wound cleaning purposes, etc.)

Let’s move on to canning food …

I’m from the old school where I sterilize jars and warm the lids and rings.  More modern teaching is that neither is necessary because of the high temperatures reached when pressure canning.  You decide which way you want to take.  I sterilize my jars in the dishwasher, in the oven or sometimes in a big pot if I have room on the stove top.

Research which foods are okay to preserve by using the water bath method and which ones require pressure canning.  I can tell you that low acid foods require pressure canning and high acid foods are okay to water bath but, that still doesn’t tell you which specific foods need which.   The best and easiest way for a beginner to get this right is to follow the directions in a reliable canning book such as Ball.  All the information you need on which method to use is given with each canning recipe.  Don’t sweat this; just follow the directions and over time you will gain the knowledge on each item that you preserve.  Before long, you will learn which foods can be water bathed and which has to be pressure canned and you’ll come to understand why.

What about botulism?  That’s a big fear and one that is justified but, it doesn’t have to paralyze you into not using your pressure canner or preserving food by way of canning.

Here is a reliable source on botulism.  Note the following statement …

Before eating home-canned tomatoes, foods containing home-canned tomatoes, or any home-canned foods that are low in acid, boil in a saucepan, even if you detect no signs of spoilage. 

           At altitudes below 1,000 feet, boil foods for 10 minutes

          Add 1 minute for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation.

Can your foods properly, watch for obvious indications that something is not right with your canned food (loose lid, bulging lid, jar lost its seal, unpleasant or not normal odor, obvious spoilage) (when in doubt throw it out), follow the ‘boiling’ recommendation above when applicable and use your common sense.  

Learning to can is just like learning to do anything or maybe can even be compared to starting a new job.   You start out a little unsure of yourself, playing it safe, but then the more you do it (remember when you started your last ‘new’ job) the more confidence you gain.  Before long you are off and running!

Don’t let fear keep you from this excellent and economical way of building and maintaining your pantry.

Okay, it’s your turn, how would you reply to this question/comment?

She looketh well to the ways of her household … Proverbs 31:27 

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  1. Very good information. I still have a healthy respect for my pressure canner but get more comfortable each time I use it. A few months ago we were talking to a man looking for canning equipment in a thrift store and he told us that he does kitchen remodeling. He said he did a kitchen and found 15 regulators buried in the kitchen ceiling! I am still trying to figure how that could have happened over and over.

    1. Lana, I can't figure that one out either!!!

  2. Unlike Patsy, I had absolutely no previous experience with a pressure canner before I bought mine a couple years ago. I hadn't even seen one being operated. However, I did know if they were not used properly, they could explode like a bomb. So, I totally understand your hesitation to use your pressure canner...they are a bit scary!!!

    As I always tell my daughter and younger co-workers, the only way you learn to do something is by actually doing it. So, taking my own advice, I read all the instructions that came with my canner, then went to work trying to can some pre-soaked dry beans. I was thrilled to learn that I could start with cold jars, if contents you are canning is cold! This makes things so much easier!!! I just filled up the cold, empty jars with the cold pre-soaked beans, topped them with tap water, placed the cold lids on top and put them in the canner. My first time working the canner, I grabbed a chair, set it in front of the stove and watched closely the whole process through. I sat there for over an hour...well, it might have been over 2 hours. But I did learn a lot about what to expect and how it all worked. After a few times using it, I feel more comfortable doing other things in the kitchen, while still closely monitoring the process.

    I have not tried everything I want to can, yet. I'd still like to try canning meat, and soup. I was disappointed to learn that things with flour and milk cannot be pressure canned. I had hoped to can "ready to use" cream soups, or soup with pasta or rice in it. Oh well, now I need to try canning "quick soup starters" that can be made into cream soups or have pasta/rice added once opened. As I get more comfortable with operating it, I'm sure the list of things I can will grow. I already love being able to can my own beans from dry, and my homemade poultry stock. This year, I'm hoping to try canning a few jars of beets. Learning something new is always an interesting journey!

    1. Rhonda, love your comment. The more you can the more your comfort level will rise, sounds like you are doing great!


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