Pressure Canning for Beginners

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Pressure canning can be intimidating for beginners, but it’s not hard to do if you just follow these instructions!

So many people I have talked to say that the reason they don’t can their own food – specifically with a pressure canner – is that they’re intimidated or scared. My intention with this post is to encourage you to give it a try.

It needn’t be scary as long as you follow the instructions. Pressure canners are built to be safe vessels with which you can preserve various types of food. In fact, pressure canning will allow you to can more types of food than just water bath canning alone.

Learning to pressure can food will allow you more options over the food in your pantry. Therefore, you will have more options of what to eat should you ever have to rely strictly on that pantry.

Just Getting Started Canning? Check Here: How to Get Started Canning

What is Pressure Canning?

Since you’re reading this article, it goes without saying that you already know what canning is. Maybe you’ve even done some water bath canning. So let’s take things to the next level.

Definition of “Pressure Canning”

Pressure canned jars of chicken stock.As discussed in my post about water bath canning, canning is a means of preserving food by packed it into jars with lids and processing those jars so that the contents have long-term shelf stability.

Pressure canning processes those jars by pressurizing steam that creates the necessary 240°F or higher temperatures which will destroy any bacterial spores that may be present in these foods. Pressure canning is the only approved safe method for preserving low-acid foods including meats and vegetables.

How Does Pressure Canning Work?

Pressure canners work by trapping steam and building up pressure inside a pot. The steam is trapped because the lid is fitted with a rubber gasket, thereby forming an airtight seal when it is locked into place. As the contents of the pot heat up, steam gets trapped and pressure builds. At 10 pounds pressure, water boils at 240°F, which is about 30°F higher than in conventional pots. The high temperatures destroy microorganisms in the low-acid food inside the jars thereby making that food shelf-stable for long periods of time.

Like water bath canning, pressure canning will drive out any air that is in the food and the jar and create a vacuum to seal the lid.

Looking for Information on Water Bath Canning? Check Here: Water Bath Canning for Beginners

How Long Will My Pressure Canned Foods Last?

Pressure canned jars of chili and ground beef.Most things you see on the internet says you should use your home canned foods within one year. I have heard of people going two, three, five years with theirs. Your food should be safe so long as the jar remains intact, and the seal holds.

Use your best judgement here. This is honestly where individual experience will be your best guide.

How does the food look? How does it smell? If you taste it, does it taste like it should?

Just remember the “FIFO” method when you’re canning. The First food you put In the pantry should be the First Out. As you’re adding new jars of food to the pantry, put them in the back. This will allow you to eat the oldest foods first.

Items and Equipment Needed for Pressure Canning

Pressure canning equipment isn’t much different from water bath canning equipment.

Pressure Canner

You can’t pressure can foods without a pressure canner. Pressure cookers and Instant Pots are NOT recommended canning vessels.

We’ve got this Presto model, and it’s been working great. We bought it May 6, 2020 and have really put it through its paces. You’ll have to clean the rubber seal and make sure it doesn’t need to be replaced, but in two plus years, we’ve not had any issues at all.

Lots of people love the All American canner, and while it may be a higher-end canner, it doesn’t do anything special over the cheaper models. The main difference is the All American has a metal-to-metal seal, so there are no gaskets that will ever need to be replaced. Oh, and the All American price tag is double over the Presto.

Everything Else

Jars, lids, bands, and accessories can all be found accessories can be found at your local Walmart, Kroger and Tractor Supply stores. You can also find all of your canning supplies on Amazon.

Find More Canning Tools Here: The Most Essential List of Canning Tools

Why Should I Be Canning Food?

Pressure canned jar of nacho cheese sauce.I covered this in my article on Water Bath Canning, but it’s important enough to be repeated.

First, let’s talk about the issue with knowing where your food came from and what’s in it. Store-bought canned foods have levels of preservatives, chemicals and sodium that you may not want to feed your family. When you can your own food at home, you have total control over what you put into those jars.

Now imagine the food supply stops. Think for a moment of what could happen if we ever experience a major truck driver’s strike. Even worse, what could happen on a more global scale that may cause some sort of turmoil in the entire world’s food supply?

With the knowledge of how to can the food that you may be growing in your garden or barnyard, you’ll never have to worry about those “what ifs” again.

The Pressure Canning Process

Here is a basic set of general instructions that will get you started on your pressure canning journey. For the most part, these steps will help you start pressure canning all sorts of food without worry.

Please make sure you read each recipe you use thoroughly before you begin the canning process to ensure you are completing the proper procedure for safe pressure canning.

Step One: Gather Your Items

Gather up all the things you’ll need to can your food. Your pressure canner, rack, lid (with clean seal), jar lifter, lid lifter, funnel, oven mitts, towels, and any ingredients your recipe calls for should be ready to go before you turn on your stove.

Step Two: Clean and Heat Your Jars

Run your jars through the dishwasher or wash with warm soapy water. If you’re hot packing your food, you’ll need to heat your jars in either boiling water or in a 275°F (135°C) oven for about 15 minutes. (If you heat your jars in the oven, be sure you place them on a silicone baking mat so they don’t shatter on a metal pan or rack.)

If you’re cold packing your jars, you do not need to warm the jars.

Step Three: Prepare the Recipe

Prepare your food as directed on your recipe. If the recipe instructions tell you something specific to do with your jars, do that in this step, as well. Canning recipes (especially pressure canning recipes) are written a specific way because they’ve been tested and proven to work. Deviation from the recipe could lead to disaster, so proceed with caution if you change any of the ingredients or procedures.

Step Four: Debubble and Check Your Headspace

Using a wooden, plastic or silicone tool (a wooden chopstick works great), probe the jar multiple times, moving the food around to release any air bubbles that may be trapped inside. If you skip this part, you may end up with incorrect headspace, and your jars may not seal properly.

Every recipe should tell you how much space between the rim of the jar and the top of the food you’ll need. With each jar you pack, be sure to take note of the headspace using a headspace checker.

Common Headspace Problems

  • Not Enough Headspace – The food could bubble out between the jar and lid when air is being forced out during processing. This could leave a film on the rim of the jar and prevent the lid from sealing.
  • Too Much Headspace – The lid may not seal properly due to not being processed for enough time to force all of the air out of the jar.

Step Five: Clean the Rim of the Jar

Wiping the rim of a jar with white vinegar.This is a very important step in the canning process. Take a paper towel, dip it into a small bowl of vinegar, and wipe the rim of the jar clean. This is done for three reasons:

    1. The paper towel will remove any small chunks of food from the rim.
    2. The vinegar will clean any oily or greasy liquid from the rim of the jar.
    3. This process allows you to feel the rim of the jar to ensure there are no defects (chips, cracks, etc.).

Failing to do this step could cause your lids not to seal properly to their jars.

Step Six: Add Your Lids and Rings

When you have cleaned the rims of all the jars, put a flat and band on each jar and finger tighten only. Do not overtighten the bands! Overtightening may cause the lid not to seal properly.

Step Seven: Process the Jars

  • Pressure canning for beginnersPlace your jars into the pressure canner and add a few inches of water. Unlike water bath canning, you do not need to cover the jars with water.
  • Lock the lid into place (without the weight) and set the stove eye to high.
  • Steam will begin to escape through the vent (where the weight goes). When you see a steady stream of steam, set a timer for 10 minutes to allow all the air in the canner to be replaced with steam.
  • Place your weight on the vent.
  • Adjust the heat to make sure you attain the proper pressure consistently during the processing time.
  • Process your jars for the amount of time called for by the recipe you are using.

Step Eight: Allow the Canner to Depressurize

When the processing time has elapsed, turn the stove off. Leave the canner on the eye – do not attempt to move the hot, pressurized canner! Allow the canner to completely depressurize before removing the weight and opening the lid.

  • Removing the weight prematurely could cause the jar seals to fail.
  • Opening the canner before it is fully depressurized can cause major injury!

Step Nine: Remove the Jars

When the processing has finished, and the canner is completely depressurized, remove the lid. Take the jars out of the canner with the jar lifter and place them on a towel that is spread out on your counter.

Allow at least 12 hours for your jars to cool to room temperature. During this time, you may hear “pings” from your jars as the lids seal. After 12 hours has passed, check the seals by gently pushing on the center of the lid. Any little bit of give to a lid tells you it has not sealed, and the food inside should be refrigerated immediately and eaten within the week.

Step Ten: Clean Up Your Mess!

When your canning day is complete, be sure to clean up your mess. Wash the canner good, including the seal, lid, and weight. Make sure all of your canning tools have been washed and/or wiped down well and put away.

Naturally, you’ll want to wipe down your countertops, stove, and sink good, too. All in a good day’s canning, right?

Step Eleven: Remove the Rings

When your jars have completely cooled, you should remove the rings. Some people may say you can leave them on, but there’s a reason why I highly recommend you remove them.

If your jars seem to have sealed, and you remove the band, the lid should remain firmly sealed to the jar. This is a sign of a proper seal. However, if for some reason the jar wasn’t properly processed, the seal will eventually fail. If you still have a band on the jar, you could go months before you realize the lid isn’t sealed, and the food inside is contaminated.

Home canned jars of ground beef, chili and blueberries.

Step Twelve: Clean, Label, and Store Your Jars

Lastly, it’s time to clean the jars themselves. There may be food on the outside of the jar, or even just a bit of residue. Use a cloth with warm soapy water to clean them up.

When the jars and lids are dry, label all your jars with what is inside and the date using a Sharpie or some canning labels.

Place the jars on your pantry shelf – not the garage. If there are other canned goods of the same type, put the newer jars behind the older ones. The First In, First Out (FIFO) method will keep your stock rotated and ensure all the food stored on your shelves is good.

Remember: Do not double stack your jars as this may break the seals on the bottom ones.

Get Started Pressure Canning Today!

Pressure canning may seem a bit intimidating, but as long as you follow the instructions, it’s actually fairly simple. Very little can go wrong as long as you stick to the directions.

Getting ready to start pressure canning? Let me know what’s first on your pressure canning list in the comments below!

Have More Questions About Canning? Check Here: Frequently Asked Questions About Canning Answered!

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8 thoughts on “Pressure Canning for Beginners”

  1. Jessie and Patrick, I am so impressed with your preservation and sustainability blogs. Growing up I was always fascinated with how things are made and how foods are processed. It was a joy to visit different food companies and observe how they preserve foods.

    Your step-by-step process for pressure canning is easy to follow. I am surprised that a regular pressure cooker or an instapot cannot be used in place of this pressure cooking device. Keep up the great job guys.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, pressure cookers are not accurate enough and Instant Pots do not get hot enough for either of them to be viable canning pots. Thanks for the kind words, friend!

      Reply

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