Want to know some simple steps in using pressure canners? While most people know how to use water bath canners for jellies, fruits, and other delights, there’s a real bonus to understanding pressure canners.
And that is because all meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables must only be canned in pressure canners.
Following the Instructions Carefully
The process is simple to follow and, in this article, I hope to take you through a common pressure canning sequence.
There are a couple of very important points I need to make regarding the steps in using pressure canners. They are important to understand, as ignoring them could result in food that isn’t properly processed. Improperly processed foods contain harmful bacteria that grows in suitable conditions, turning your food toxic. This could result in severe food poisoning.
The first important point to understand is where you use the pressure canner. If your home sits at a significant altitude compared to sea level, the pressure canner will need adjusting, operated at a higher pressure to ensure the food reaches the appropriate temperature.
The second important point to make is that trapped air inside the pressure canner will result in lower temperatures at each of the designated pressure points.
Always vent a pressure canner, if possible, at least 10 minutes before being pressurized. One other issue to check for is a gauge with faulty readings. Check these for accuracy each year to make sure they display correct readings.
Step #1: Ensure pressure canner is working
Ensure your pressure canner is fully functioning and clean gaskets and other parts if necessary. Vent pipes may display a build up of mineral deposits and you should clean them before starting. Center your canner over the burner.
Make sure the burner doesn’t put out too much heat for your type of pressure canner, or else you might damage it. Always check with your canner’s handbook for the maximum amount of heat.
The amount of water you will need will depend on what type of food you intend to can. Please make sure you use enough, at a minimum at least 2 to 3 inches. While hot packed foods need a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), raw-packed foods only need the water to be 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Heat the water ahead of time, but take care not to boil it, or else the water level might drop too much.
Step #2: Placing fitted ring bands
Once you have filled the jars, place them with fitted lids and ring bands with a jar lifter onto the rack inside the canner. Take care not to tilt the jars, otherwise, food could end up in the seal, preventing the jar from properly sealing.
Step #3: Check the lids properly
Take care to fasten the lid to your canner securely. Either open the petcock, or leave the weight off the vent pipe.
Step #4: Heat up
Now turn the heat up to its highest possible setting. Heat the canner until the water boils and you see steam billowing from the open vent pipe in a funnel shape. Let this steam fully exhaust for a full 10 minutes.
Step #5: Close the petcock
Once you’ve vented the steam for a full 10 minutes, close the petcock, or place the counterweight on the vent pipe. It will take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes to fully pressurize the canner.
Step #6: Proper pressure
Only once the pressure canner reaches the required pressure do you start the timer. For some, this will be a setting on the dial gauge, while for others it will be the weighted gauge jiggling. Refer to your individual canner’s handbook to clarify this.
Step #7: Regulate heat
Make sure you regulate the heat under the canner to make sure the pressure remains constant. With weighted measures, one type will gently rock to and from, while another might jiggle a certain number of times per minute.
If you find that the canner loses its pressure, you must restart the process from scratch. If food isn’t sufficiently heat treated, it will allow bacteria to form inside the jars, multiply over time and turn the food inedible. Severe food poisoning occurs when food isn’t properly treated.
Step #8: Cooling down naturally
Turn the heat off once the timer reaches zero and remove the canner if needed. If you can, leave the canner where it is to avoid tipping the jars inside, or tilting them. It is important to let the canner cool down naturally at this stage.
While the canner is cooling down, it is also slowly depressurizing and it is imperative that you don’t try and speed this process up.
Force-cooling the canner at this stage will have dire consequences for not only your jars, but also the canner itself. Forced-cooling includes running cold water over it, or opening the vent pipe too early. You could end up with seal failures, loss of liquid from the jars themselves or even a warped canner lid.
Protect yourself from steam burns by tilting the canner slightly before removing the weight from the vent pipe. Depending on which model you have, there may also be handle locks on the lids.
Be aware that even after a gauge reads zero, there may still be sufficient pressure inside.
There’s a vast difference between newer model canners and older models. Be aware of the instructions needed to operate the model safely to make sure you receive the highest quality food possible.
Step #9: Depressurize and Lid removal
After you are positive that the canner has completely depressurized, either open the petcock, or remove the weight from the vent pipe. Only remove the lid carefully after waiting a full 10 minutes. Be sure to lift the lid with the underside facing away from you to prevent any steam burns.
Step #10: Using the canning jar lifter
Use a canning jar lifter to remove all the jars one at a time to prevent damage. Again, make sure to avoid tilting the jars. Place them on either a towel or a cake cooling rack. Never place the jars directly onto a cool surface and avoid cool drafts as well.
Step #11: Leave the jars
Do not touch the jars for at least 12 to 24 hours to give them sufficient time to cool. You must not tighten the ring bands nor push down on the middle of the metal lids either. You might be tempted to, but don’t. Out of all the steps in using pressure canners, this is probably the one messed up the most.
Step #12: Remove the ring bands
Once the jars have thoroughly cooled for the required time, remove the ring bands from your sealed jars. These are reusable, so wash and dry them, then store them away for next time. If you find any unsealed jars, place them in your fridge and use them before the stored jars.
Step #13: Remove residues
Make sure to wash all jars and lids to remove any residue.
Step #14: Labeling
Fill out appropriate labels and attach them to your jars.
Step #15: Drying
Take your canner and thoroughly dry it and the lid and gasket. Remove the petcock and safety valves and then wash and thoroughly dry them. Check your manual for the appropriate maintenance instructions as well as the proper storage requirements.
Final Thoughts on the Steps in Using Pressure Canners
Congratulations on completing your pressure canning. You will now have perfectly sealed canned food that will remain safe to eat for far longer than if simply left in the fridge. Following these steps in using pressure canners is a great way to prolong the life of your food.