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Before you begin pressure canning, I always recommend that you read or re-read your manual. It’s amazing how much we think we remember, but when we go back new things can be revealed. Some other key points to remember are:
Always work with clean hands, clean surfaces and equipment. Wash out your pressure canner, especially if it’s the first time in use ever, or it has been sitting for more than a week or so. That will get rid of the dust, and any leftover oils or food and keep it from contaminating your new harvest.
Your knives and cutting board should be sanitized with vinegar and water before you begin. This will minimize any cross contamination and introduction of nasty germs in the food. You don’t want to have those hanging around in your jarred food for 6 months before you eat them.
Knives should be very sharp to minimize slippage when cutting meats. Work with one kind of food at a time, and thoroughly clean all your equipment before beginning the next type.
Your jars should be clean, and should be sanitized in hot boiling water and held in boiling water until use. This will keep the jar from being “shocked” when you put it in the canner, and will help minimize bacteria from entering your food. A shocked jar is caused by a cold jar being filled with hot food and placed in hot water. This will lead to breakage.
You can wash them in the dishwasher, put the “dry” cycle on, and leave them in there while you work as well. Just make sure they stay hot. If they cool off before you can use them, the best thing is to run a rinse and dry cycle again.
Your lids should be washed, and held in simmering water. This will soften the seal and help prevent seal failures. Bands should be washed, and can be left on a clean towel until use. You can alternately keep them in the simmering water, if you wish but it’s generally not necessary.
Always use a non-metallic instrument, such as a rubber spatula, to remove all air bubbles from the food and jar.
Always let the pressure canner vent steam for a full 10 minutes. This will help increase the pressure faster.
Always let the canner cool on it’s own accord, and then remove jars. When the jars are cool, usually after 24 hours, test seals by gently pressing on them.
A properly sealed lid shouldn’t give at all, or “pop” when you press on it. Any that haven’t sealed in this time should be refrigerated and used within a week.
Jars that have sealed should be wiped off with hot, soapy water to remove any residue and stored in a cool dry place for up to a year.
When pressure canning, there are two types of techniques used, raw pack and hot pack. They are just what they sound like; raw pack is when you put the food in the jar raw and cover with boiling liquid, and hot pack is when you partially cook the food before you pack it in the jar and cover with boiling liquid.
The main advantage I have found with using the raw pack method is that it takes less time. You clean your food, cut into the right sized pieces, pack in, and cover with boiling liquid. Bring up to pressure, time, and you are done! Viola! Easy, peasy!
You will hear the term “headspace” quite often, and wonder what that is. That is the air space left between the food and the lid of the jar. The screw rings on the top of the jar are pretty good eyeing indicators. The bottom one is an inch from the top, the middle ½ inch, and the top ¼ inch.
For low acid veggies, pressure canning is the only safe method. This includes corn, green beans, peas, potatoes, okra, asparagus, dry beans, beets, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers.
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