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Monday, September 1, 2014

Your Friend, Mr. Pressure Canner

I have an addiction.

I mean a really bad addiction.

A canning addiction. I know, ::hanging my head down in shame::... it's a problem, but... I can quit anytime I want to ....

I swear this time of year you could put anything down in front of me and I'll figure out a way of putting it in a jar and on the pantry shelf for the winter. By the end of October I'll swear that, "I'm not going to do as much canning next year"... then August rolls around and the cycle begins anew. My husband laughs at me when I say it. After almost 20 years together he knows the drill and knows I'll back at it again next year.

Many of us are used to water bath canning. It's the method that our mothers and grandmothers may have used to do all their canning. It's a good method and one that I employ when I only have enough produce to do a few cans.

But if  you do serious canning, like I do, a water bath canner takes too long and too much of your time. Consider investing in a pressure canner.

**My canner is from Mirro.

Oh... no... come back... don't run away.

I know you have family stories about pressure cookers exploding potatoes all over the ceiling at the family's holiday meal. We do too. But pressure canners aren't scary I guarantee it. I've canned for approximately 16 years with my pressure canner and not once even popped the pressure gauge. It's like anything, use it and you'll gain a familiarity with it.

Why pressure can? Well for the first part,  you can actually can up to **22 pints in a pressure canner... at ONE TIME! It saves a lot of time to fill that canner and walk away for 20-30 mins and have everything done. It's also one of the only deemed "safe" home canning methods the USDA recommends*. (It's also a bit scary some of the other methods I had never heard of before, steam sealing your cans in  the dishwasher???)

And while it is big and bulky, it's actually not that hard.

A good seal is paramount to building pressure in your
canner. Always make sure your gasket is in good shape.

First, make sure your canner is clean and the gasket  is not cracked but nice an pliable. This is my canner, it's over sixteen years old and the gasket is as good as the day I bought it. The gasket is what helps to build the pressure in the pressure cooker by creating a good seal to prevent air leakage. Ultimately, this pressure transfers to your  jars to make sure they seal safe and sound.

Secondly and most important, make sure that the vent in the top of your pressure canner is clear and free of any blockages or obstructions. I typically accomplish this by blowing through the vent to make sure everything is clear.

Make sure this is clear to relieve pressure.

This vent comes with a little gauge called a "petcock". You are supposed to use it to gauge how much pressure is in the canner, 5lbs, 10lbs, 15lbs, etc. You put it on and then time the number of times it "jiggles" in a minute to gauge the pressure in your canner.

I don't ever use it. I know that for my pressure canner, once I get it hot (on high) for the entire water inside to be hot, I turn it to med-high and it's good to go for any of my canning. Until you get the feel of using the pressure canner use it, it's a good precaution, but I boil mine long enough that I rarely have a problem with them sealing.

If the pressure ever did get too much, this little warning plug will pop up.
It's kind of like the little temperature gauge that is in your holiday turkey,
although you don't want this one to pop out. It's your safety gauge.
Fill about 3/4 of the way up.


To fill this behemoth, I take it to the bathroom and fill it with the shower spray nozzle. It's the fastest way outside of a hose and I can set it to hot to start speeding up the process.

Fill your canner about 3/4 of the way up. You need some air space at the top to build pressure so you'd never want to fill it completely up.

After  you fill it with the water, you must add about 1/4 cup of vinegar. Apparently this is to prevent mineral deposites on your canning lids and inside the canner. I always thought it helped cut down on the bacteria that may be in the water as we know we can clean with vinegar but apparently it's to protect the canner.

Once it's filled, place in your "shelf" or "tray". This shelf creates an airspace underneath your jars so that your jars aren't directly on the bottom of the canner where they could get the direct heat. If they were in direct contact with the heat source, they could possibly explode. That would be bad. 
Here is where you are going to learn from my experience.
Buy a buffet range. Just some little one or two burner affair. It'll cost you about $30-$35 or so (at least mine did eons ago). Pressure canners get EXTREMELY hot. (So if you have little ones, the kitchen should be a no kid zone during this process.) I've done my canning at night only to wake up in the morning and the canner is STILL WARM!
When I first started canning in my home, I did it on the enamel stove that came with the house. After the first year, we replaced the stove. The pressure canner got so hot, it flaked off the enamel on the stove. (The stove was old and crummy anyway so no big loss but still!) A small buffet burner will prevent any such issues. I've had mine for many, many years (about 15) and its still going strong. It's more acceptable to cause damage to something that you haul out of the closet one a year then damage your expensive stove.
After this point, you just place your canner on the burner, put the lid on tight and wait for the canner to get hot. I usually start processing my produce at this point. Once I'm ready to can, the canner is up to temperature. If it appears too hot, I put it down to medium high but that is about as low as I get. Most recipes I process at 20-30 minutes just to be safe. In general, most if not all of my cans get sealed. It's actually extremely rare one doesn't.
The pressure canner gives you a piece of mind that your finished product will be safe for your family to consume because it's a more reliable method for getting the majority if not all of your cans to seal. It's not that hard to use and it is a good investment for your canning dollars as it lasts for years to come.


  1. I think I have your same addiction! :) I started using my pressure canner last year and have been in love ever since! Lots of canned beef broth, chicken broth, beans... Just beautiful :) Thank you for sharing this information on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

  2. I love my Pressure Canner and have used it for years. We can about 300 jars a year and I don't know what I would do without it. Great post! Hope you are having a great day and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  3. I really appreciate this post! It never occurred to me to get a buffet burner just for my canner, in order to save my glass-top range. I just hopped over to look at them on Amazon, and they really are reasonably priced. Also I hadn't thought to add vinegar to the canner water. Thanks for the great ideas!

  4. Yeah Jackie, it never occurred to me until I burned all the enamel off the first stove. You figure if you can at night and it's still hot during the day, it's got to be hot enough to cause damage. Better safe than sorry!