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Canning your own Sweet Potatoes is easy to do at home! The only trick is, you
You DO need a pressure canner! Every university food science department and the government will tell you that it just is not safe to use the water bath bath method; it takes the higher temperatures of the pressure canner to kill the botulism bacteria. BUT, with a pressure canner it's easy. And although a pressure canner costs $100 to $200 (see this page for pressure canners models, makes and prices), they last a lifetime, and your children and grandchildren may be using it. You can also find free information from the USDA in this PDF file (it will take a while to load!) about selecting and using canners here!
Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of about 12 months, and aside from storing in a cool, dark place, require no special attention.
The most important step! Look for firm, well-shaped sweet potatoes with clean, smooth skins. Avoid any with soft spots or bruises. Do not refrigerate, because cold temperatures are harmful to sweet potatoes. They should have been cured (gently left to air dry) for at least one week, after they have been dug and before you may can them.
You can grow your own, pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. It takes about an average of 13 pounds to make one full canner load of 9 pints. This works out to an average of 11/2 pounds per quart.
This is a good time to get the jars ready! The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. Otherwise put the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. I just put the lids in a small pot of almost boiling water for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" (available from target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) to pull them out.
We will use this water to pour over the sweet potatoes and fill each jar with liquid, after we've packed them full of sweet potatoes. I use the large sauce pan or 10 qt pot, so that there is plenty of clean, boiling water ready when I need it.
Rinse out your pressure canner (at right in the picture), put the rack plate in the bottom, and fill it to a depth of 4 inches with hot tap water. (of course, follow the instruction that came with the canner, if they are different). Put it on the stove over low heat, with the lid OFF of it, just to get it heating up for use later on.
I'm sure you can figure out how to rinse the sweet potatoes in plain cold or lukewarm water and a vegetable scrubber. Cut out any bruised and soft spots. Don't worry about surface discoloration.
Boil the sweet potatoes until they are partially soft (about 15 to 20 minutes, longer if they are very big).
Cool only enough to be able to handle them. The skins should slide off; just use a knife to cut both ends off to be able to get hold of the skin and pull it off.
Cut potatoes, if needed, so pieces are uniform in size and will pack better.. CAUTION: Do not mash or puree pieces. I usually cube them. Fill hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart jar, if desired.
Fill jars, leaving a full 1-inch of headspace. You may add 1 teaspoon of salt to each quart jar, if desired, for taste (it is not a preservative - it is only for taste. I omit it).
Fill jars loosely with sweet potatoes. Be sure to leave 1 inch of space at the TOP of the jar. That is called "headspace" and is needed for expansion during heating.
Fill the jars up to 1 inch from the top with your choice of fresh boiling water or syrup (use 1 cup sugar per quart of water for a light syrup).
Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with water from pot of boiling water. The sweet potatoes should be covered and there should still be 1 inch of airspace left in the top of each jar. Be careful not to burn yourself, (or anyone else - children should be kept back during this step!)
Put the lids on each jar and seal them by putting a ring on and screwing it down snugly (but not with all your might, just "snug").
Using the jar tongs, put the jars on the rack in the canner. By now the water level has probably boiled down to 3 inches. If it is lower than that, add more hot tap water to the canner. When all the jars that the canner will hold are in, out on the lid and twist it into place, but leave the weight off (or valve open, if you have that type of pressure canner).
Put the heat on high and let the steam escape through the vent for 10 minutes to purge the airspace inside the canner.
After 10 minutes of venting, put the weight on and close any openings to allow the pressure to build to 11 pounds.
If you have a dial-type pressure canner like I do, once the gauge hits 11 pounds, start your timer going - for 35 minutes. Adjust the heat, as needed, to maintain 11 pounds of pressure.
Note: the charts below will help you determine the right processing time and pressure, if you have a different type of canner, or are above sea level.
Recommended process time for Sweet Potatoes in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 2,000 ft||2,001 - 4,000 ft||4,001 - 6,000 ft||6,001 - 8,000 ft|
|Pints||65 min||11 lb||12 lb||13 lb||14 lb|
Recommended process time for Sweet Potatoes in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
|Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||Process Time||0 - 1,000 ft||Above 1,000 ft|
|Pints||65 min||10 lb||15 lb|
It is important to learn how to operate your pressure canner by reading the owner's manual that came with your particular canner. If you cannot find your owner's manual, you can obtain find one online: Here is where to find some common manufacturer's manuals:
or by contacting the company that made your canner. Give the model number to the manufacturer, and they will send you the right manual. Click here for more information about pressure canners and a variety of models you can order.
When the processing time from the chart above is up, turn off the heat, and allow the pressure canner to cool and the pressure to drop to zero before opening the canner. Let the jars cool without being jostled. After the pressure drops to zero (usually, you can tell but the "click" sound of the safety release vents opening, as well as but the gauge. Let the pressure in the canner drop to zero by itself. This may take 45 minutes in a 16-quart canner filled with jars and almost an hour in a 22-quart canner. If the vent is opened before the pressure drops to zero OR if the cooling is rushed by running cold water over the canner, liquid will be lost from the jars. Too rapid cooling causes loss of liquid in the jars!
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool on a wooden cutting board or a towel, without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok. You're done!
Yes, you can also freeze sweet potatoes. Wash sweet potatoes that have been cured for at least one week. Cook until almost tender in water, steam, a pressure cooker or the oven. Let stand at room temperature until cool. Peel sweet potatoes; cut in halves; slice or mash.
To prevent darkening, dip whole sweet potatoes or slices for 5 seconds in a solution of 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 quart water. To keep mashed sweet potatoes from darkening, mix 2 tablespoons orange or lemon juice with each quart of mashed sweet potatoes. Pack into containers, leaving 1/2 headspace. Seal and freeze.
Makes one 9-inch pie
Cook 2 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes (about 3 or 4 medium) by baking or
boiling. When cool enough to handle, peel the sweet potatoes, or scoop out the
flesh, and puree in a food processor with 2 tablespoons melted butter or
In a mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel. Add the sweet potato mixture and mix well. Beat in 3 eggs. Stir in 12 ounces skimmed, evaporated milk and mix until well-blended. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pastry shell. Bake in a preheated 400 °F. oven 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
See the canning supplies page if you need any of these.
From left to right:
If you want to can low-acid foods such as red meats, sea food, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables with the exception of most tomatoes, you will need a pressure canner. These foods fit into the low acid group since they have an acidity, or pH level, of 4.6 or greater. The temperature which must be reached and maintained (for a specified amount of time) to kill the bacteria is 240 F. Pressure canning is the only canning method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and fish. Ordinary water bath canners can only reach 212 F and cannot to kill the types of bacteria that will grow in low acid foods. This temperature can be reached only by creating steam under pressure as achieved in quality pressure canners.
There are several manufacturers of pressure canners. The two leading ones are Presto and All American (Wisconsin Aluminum). They are more expensive than water bath canners, but extremely well built - I bought mine in 1988 and it still looks and works like new!
Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner
This is usually one of the best-priced pressure canners. They are reliable and inexpensive. I've had mine for 40 years. There is also a 16 quart version for even less. Click on the links at left or above for more info and current pricing.
Shown at left is the Presto 23 quart pressure canner. Features below and
click here for more information or to purchase from Target.
See the seller's website for features, pricing and user reviews!
All American Pressure Canner and Cookers - In 3 sizes
See the seller's website for features, pricing and user reviews!