By Terri Rozema
I was afraid of canning. There, I said it.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one terrified that some gadget on a pressure canner would skyrocket into the ceiling or that I might make a mistake and cause a loved one to become ill. Often, when I share with others that I’m a food preservation addict, their first comment is something like, “Canning scares me.” Hopefully this alleviates some fear.
There are two methods of canning: Water Bath (WB) and Pressure Cooker (PC). The former applies to high-acid fruits and vegetables; the later to lower acid foods and proteins.
With WB, the filled jars are placed on a rack and boiled for a specified amount of time. The canner I use is granite wear 21.5 Q Canner with rack. PC works by providing certain pounds of pressure to the jars for a specified amount of time.
The horror stories of old
Most of us have heard of someone whose pressure canner “exploded.” Well, that really isn’t the case. Older models and newer ones like mine, Mirro 22 Q, have a regulator that measures the PSI. The “exploding” we have heard about happens when the pressure inside the canner becomes so great that it shoots the regulator out of the top (almost exclusively with older models). That was because some models didn’t have proper safety mechanisms; newer models do.
What isn’t explained about the “explosion” is, for the pressure to become so great as to expel the regulator, neglect needs to occur (i.e., leaving the stove on high and not monitoring the regulator’s behavior). This is easily avoided. Once pressure has been met, the regulator will jiggle. Upon jiggling, adjust the temperature so that it happens about three times a minute. Continue to monitor throughout processing.
Another fear is botulism or improper canning leading to someone becoming ill. If steps and recipes are followed thoroughly, this shouldn’t be a concern. I have been preserving food for over five years and never had an issue.
Before we begin on this journey together, I suggest purchasing some supplies: canners, tools and jars (if you don’t already own them). Uncertain of whether you want to invest? Ask a friend or family member if you may borrow theirs. That’s how I got started.
I mentioned the WB canner I use; another option is this stainless steel water bath canner.
The gold standard of PC is the All American Canner. If I was to purchase one, this is the brand I would choose. If you are on a budget, check on Amazon; they are likely to offer many different options at a variety of price-points.
You will also need:
And, of course, Ball Canning Jars. I suggest 8 ounce (for jams), Pint (for salsas, corn relish, B & B pickles) and Quart jars, both wide and regular mouth (for pickles, apple pie, fruit, soups, broths and meat).
Times have changed and food preservation methods have improved. Spring is among us and gardening is just beginning. Soon, we may be picking berries, climbing cherry trees, crunching on cucumbers and canning, canning, canning. Won’t you join me?
There is really no need for apprehension. The benefits far outweigh the risks, as there are few things more reassuring than knowing exactly what we are consuming. When we eat the foods we, or local organic farms grow, we become healthier, because we are what we eat.
Becoming healthier together,