Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pressure Canning

As you know if you have been reading this blog for a while, I have been canning and preserving food for over three-quarters of my life.  But until this year, I have not been brave enough to try pressure canning.

I have certainly heard all of the horror stories of home canners who wound up with beans coating the ceiling because their pressure canner exploded.  And, of course, I am aware that working with pressurized steam is a whole new safety challenge that must be respected.

Still, there is a place for pressure canning.  For one thing, it allows you to can the low-acid foods, like vegetables and stock, that otherwise could not be safely canned.  For another, I am painfully aware both of the capacity of my little half-size freezer and the fact that we have been having more and more frequent power outages around here, both arguments for not trying to stuff every bit of low-acid food I want to preserve in the freezer.

So, I took the plunge, and I purchased this pressure canner from Lehman's.   With six different latches holding the lid, it is certainly more secure than old fashioned pressure canners and cookers.  It also features both a dial and a weight to measure the pressure (I believe most of them do these days), and it will also serve as a water bath canner if I need another, a pressure cooker, and even an autoclave if the SHTF and we are seriously on our own for some reason. 

I put up four pints of corn as a test batch.  Although it took a little more time than other types of preservation (55 minutes of processing time alone), I am so pleased with the pretty jars of corn and the knowledge that they are safely preserved and sitting in my pantry. 

The Analysis

Fast:  A big "no" on this one -- it is much faster to freeze something like corn than it is to can it and then process it for nearly an hour.  To maximize my efforts, next time I plan to do 8 or 9 pints, which is the canner capacity.

Cheap:  A slight win on this count.  Although a pressure canner isn't cheap, it should last my entire life.  The beauty of the finished product is that it requires no further input of energy to stay safe, unlike frozen food, which requires the continual electric input of a freezer.  I sometimes think of my freezer as life support for my food, and this method of preservation cuts that cord.  With as many power outages as we've had around here the past couple of years, I'm glad to have some food put up that I don't have worry about.

Good:  Would I recommend this to a novice food preserver?  No, not really.  But once you are comfortable with water bath canning, this is not a terribly hard step to take, and it is a good skill to have.
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