Monday, July 27, 2009

Pressure Canner Virgin No More

It was just about a year ago that Matt's grandma Mary V. died very suddenly in a freak carbon monoxide accident (please get and/or check your CO detectors). Mary V. was THE canning queen, she would put up probably all-told a few hundred jars of tomato sauces, pickles, relishes, jams, preserves, and just about everything in between every year, then give most of it away. We hadn't purchased spagetti sauce in 7 years. We had been kicking around the idea of canning for a couple years, but last year we decided to just do it in part to carry on the tradition.


So, earlier this month I bought our pressure canner. It is a 23-quart Presto, I got it on Amazon at about $10 off their regular price. It is aluminum. It has all kinds of dials and vent-things in the lid. It is huge.
I mean, seriously. It is really big. And intimidating. I've been terrified to pressure can anything since we seriously decided to do it last year. And I was thinking about this: Why? Well, two reasons:
  1. I don't want the canner to blow up and kill us, and
  2. I don't want to kill us with bad or poisoned food.

I think those are pretty good reasons to be freaked out. But, really, the canner has so many automatic releases that it truely can't get to a high enough pressure to go boom. And the second, well, as a nice Youtube video about canning said, I have never known anyone to get sick or die from poorly home-canned food. But I have known people to get sick off stuff they got at the grocery store or restaurant, myself included. And we've all heard about people dying from E. coli and salmonella. So, that made me feel better, too.

(At this point I should say I have the Queen/David Bowie song Under Pressure stuck in my head).

So, I had a nice batch of green beans from the garden and I estimated I could get 4 quarts out of them. I snapped the stem end off (and fed them to the nextdoor neighbor's pheasants), then snapped the beans in 2-3 pieces to better fit in the jars.

The canner needs only a few inches of water in it. I prepped the canner, got some water boiling in a different pot, washed the jars, and started packing them. Some beans were purple, but unfortunately the color cooks out of them. I would have liked the color in the mix, but oh well.

After all four jars were packed and boiling water put in, I placed them in the canner, put the lid on the canner tight and waited for the air to vent out. When it was all steam coming out the vent, I put the weight on, and waited for the pressure to build up to 10 lbs. At this point my sous chef, Max, needed a belly rub:
Pressure is at 10lb!!!! OMG we're really pressure canning!! I was shocked, actually, that the manual for the canner said to keep the burner at 'a fairly high heat' to keep the pressure where it was supposed to be. I kept turning the heat down while the pressure kept going up. By the time it was all said and done, I'd had to vent off some steam to bring the pressure down from 13lb to 11, and the burner was on *2* which seemed incredibly low to me.

Since you kinda need to babysit the canner, I did the dishes:

And, 25 minutes (and an additional 30min cooling time) later, the pressure came down, the lid came off to find still-boiling jars:
And here they are, resting comfortably for the next 24 hours. I checked them this morning, the lids had sealed. When I get home I'll label them and off to the basement they'll go.
I am feeling much better about this now. I already have plans to do beets, Greek lemon potatoes, more beans, maybe orange glazed carrots. I added 2-3 canning links in the 'I Read Food Blogs' section, they all have really neat recipes. There is also a great Yahoo! group on home canning, and I have found the ladies (and gents?) on the list to be an invaluable resource for questions.

3 comments:

Angie said...

:: hoots ::

Me voici₪Here I am said...

::WOO!::

I can't wait to meet him/her in person and then potentially see him/her in action.

Max: le sous-chef! ::lol::

YD, sometimes with Samantha & June said...

Nice!