This is going to be a three-part series on food preservation. Part one will be about canning, part two dehydrating and freeze-drying, part three will be freezing and fermenting.
I could probably spend an entire post talking about the benefits of canning your own foods, but I will try to keep this short.
- Being able to buy in bulk and store in more manageable portions.
- Knowing exactly what is in your food.
- Customizing your food to your individual taste.
- Preserving the food your grow yourself.
- Being a little more self-sustained.
- It’s fun and easy.
- Making a stockpile in the event of an emergency, like a natural disaster.
The benefits are pretty endless.
Pressure canning vs water bath canning
Pressure canning is the only way to fresh preserve at 240°F. (Boiling water canners heat to only 212°F which is the temperature of boiling water.) Because Clostridium botulinum spores do not grow in the presence of acid, high-acid foods can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner.
Vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood have to be canned in a pressure cooker since they are less acidic.
We’ve always sterilized our jars before we start the canning process. After a little bit of research, it looks like you don’t have to do that if “Jars do not need to be sterilized before canning if they will be filled with food and processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more or if they will be processed in a pressure canner.” – source. Really, though, it’s up to you and it’s not going to hurt if you go ahead and sterilize before you start. It’s whatever you’re more comfortable doing.
steps to pressure canning….
- Make sure canner is clean and working properly.
- Place rack in and add water to the correct amount of water according to the manufacturer’s instructions on your brand of canner.
- Turn on heat if putting in hot jars, if you’re using cold jars DO NOT TURN ON HEAT YET. This can cause the jars to crack.
- Put your filled jars into the canner.
- Place filled jars in the canner and turn on the heat.
- Close pressure canner and vent steam for 10 minutes.
- Raise pressure to the correct amount and process the jars of food.
- Depressurize canner before opening.
- “When the timed processing is done, turn off the heat and let the canner cool down until 5 minutes after the pressure gauge reads zero. The canner is not only cooling down during this time, it is also depressurizing.
- Remove the weight from the vent or open the petcock slowly. If there is any hissing sound when you start to do this, then the canner is not fully depressurized. Leave it weighted or closed in that case and give it an additional 5 minutes of cool down/depressurizing time.”-source
- Open canner and remove jars.
- Place jars on a heat resistant surface, let them cool down completely. Remove ring from around lid and make sure they are sealed completely. To do this simple pick up jar holding the lid. If it does not come off the seal is good.
- You do not have to precook the food before putting into the pressure cooker. With the exception of ground meat, you want to cook this before putting into the cans. If not you’ll end up with meat log (the meat will be cooked into one big chunk)
There are several different brands/styles/sizes of pressure canners. They can range anywhere from around $60-$70 for a smaller one all the way to several hundred or more for a more industrial one. It all depends on your need and how much you’re willing to spend. If you do a little research you’ll be able to determine what is going to work best for you.
(Left) Dial gauge pressure canner (Right) Weighted-gauge pressure canner
Both pressure canners do the same thing. The dial gauge pressure canner is just easier (in my opinion) to use since you know exactly how much psi (pounds per square inch) you’re using to can. It’s really a personal preference.
Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep saucepot with a lid, and a rack (when preserving high-acid foods such as soft spreads like jams and jellies, fruit juice, and other fruit spreads, salsas, tomatoes with added acid, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars and condiments.source
- Put jars into the canner.
- Add hot water to cover jars.
- As soon as it comes to rolling boil, start the processing time.
Botulism is food poisoning caused by a bacterium (botulinum) growing on improperly sterilized canned meats and other preserved foods.
Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.
DO NOT EAT CANNED FOODS IF:
The container is….
- Leaking, bulging or swollen
- Look damaged, cracked or abnormal
- Spurts liquid or foam when opening
- Is discolored, moldy or smells bed
If you suspect food might be contaminated with botulism and any food spills out wipe up the spill using a recommended bleach solution (1/4 cup unscented bleach for each 2 cups of water).
Never taste food to determine if it is unsafe.
When you open a can always inspect the food thoroughly. Do not taste or eat foods that are discolored, moldy, or smell bad. Do not eat food from a can that spurted liquid or foamed when it was opened.
Although canning can seem intimidating and difficult, once you know the basics it’s really easy and rewarding.