The first step in pressure canning is to clean, inspect
and assemble the pressure canner. Before each canning
season, check the dial gauge for accuracy. The dial gauge
is a delicate instrument which must be handled with care. Do
not submerse cover or let gauge come in contact with any
liquid. You should have the gauge inspected if the cover has
been submerged in water or dropped, gauge glass is broken or
has fallen out, parts are rusty, pointer is not in the "0"
block, or if you believe the gauge may not be accurate. The
gauge can usually be checked at your local county extension
office. See this page:
http://www.pickyourown.org/countyextensionagentoffices.htm to find your
local county agent. If you are unable to have your dial
gauge checked locally, carefully remove the gauge and call
your canner's Consumer Service Department for directions.
Also check the sealing ring, overpressure plug, and the
rubber gasket of the air vent/cover lock. Replace these
parts when they become hard, deformed, cracked, worn,
pitted, or unusually soft.
Check the jars for nicks, cracks, and sharp edges.
Check the rings (screw bands) for dents or rust. Use only jars,
lids, and bands in perfect condition so an airtight seal may
be obtained. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and bands. Pour hot
water into jars and set aside until needed. The jars and
lids don't need to be sterile, just clean and warm (to
prevent breakage from thermal shock). The canner will
sanitize both the contents and the jars!
The amount of water to put
in the canner depends upon the canner, so always refer to the directions
that came with your canner.
The 23 quart Presto directions call for "3 quarts of boiling water,
canning rack, and jars in canner. To prevent water stains on jars, add 2
tablespoons white vinegar to water in canner. Always use the canning rack
that came with the canner. Jars may break if set directly on
bottom of canner.
In general, 3 inches of
hot water into the canner. Too much water is unlikely to cause harm, but
too little could boil dry and that would be a major problem. To prevent water stains on jars,
add 2 tablespoons white vinegar to water in canner. Always
use canning rack. Jars may break if set directly on bottom
Start the canner heating up by turning the burner on to
a low setting to warm the water. Take care not to set
it too high and boil off the water or reduce the level,
while you are filling the jars.
Filling the jars and canner
Select fresh firm food. Sort food according to size. Clean
food thoroughly. Prepare according to recipe. Fill hot canning
jars promptly with food and liquid to recommended level. Allow
1/2-inch headspace for fruits. ALL vegetables and meats require
1-inch headspace due to expansion during processing. Work out
air bubbles with a clean nonmetallic spatula. Wipe sealing
edge clean with a damp cloth. Adjust bands according to
closure manufacturer's directions.
Look through the vent pipe to be certain it is open
before placing cover on canner. To clean the vent pipe,
draw a pipe cleaner or small brush through the opening.
Put the cover on the canner. For Presto brand
canners, align the V mark on the cover with the V mark on
the body handle and lock securely by turning in the
direction indicated to close (clockwise). Cover handles must
be centered over body handles. Do not force beyond this
Venting / Exhausting air from the canner
Vent (exhaust) air from the canner and jars by adjusting
the burner's heat
to a relatively high setting to create a steady flow of
steam from the vent pipe. Consult the instruction book
which accompanied your range for recommended heat setting.
Reduce heat to maintain a moderate steam flow. Allow steam
to flow for 10 minutes to fill the canner with steam and remove
Sealing the canner and processing
Place the pressure regulator [the regulator weight] on the vent pipe. Set
the burner at a
relatively high heat setting, on most range burners, and
heat the canner until the pressure dial gauge registers desired
The processing time begins when pressure gauge
reaches the correct pressure. Adjust heat to maintain
correct pressure on the dial gauge. That may take a few tweaks! For canners
without dial gauges, start timing when the weighted gauge begins to
jiggle or rock. One type of weighted gauge should jiggle 2 or 3 times
per minute, while another type should rock slowly throughout
the process - check the manufacturer's directions.
Loss of pressure at any time can result in under processing, or
Quick and large pressure variations during processing may cause
unnecessary liquid losses from jars.
At the end of the processing time
At end of processing time, turn burner to "OFF" and
remove canner from heat source. Lift pressure canner to
remove it from burner. Sliding cookware can leave scratches
Let pressure drop of its own accord, do not quick-cool.
Do not run water over the canner!
Pressure is completely reduced when the air vent/cover lock
and overpressure plug have dropped and no steam escapes when
the pressure regulator is tilted. Do not use the pressure
dial gauge as an indicator for when pressure is
completely reduced. Attempting to speed the cooling of the
canner may cause jar breakage. Standard size heavy-walled
canners require about 30 minutes when loaded with pints and
45 minutes when loaded with quarts. Newer thin-walled
canners, like the Presto models, cool more rapidly and are
equipped with vent locks that are designed to open when the
pressure is gone. These canners are depressurized when the
piston in the vent lock drops to a normal position. Often
you can hear a click when it drops.
When the pressure has been completely reduced, remove
pressure regulator from vent pipe and let canner cool for 10
minutes. Do not remove the pressure regulator until pressure
is completely reduced and the air vent/cover lock has
dropped. Always remove pressure regulator before opening the
Open the canner. Note: take care when
opening a hot canner! Lift the canner cover toward you to keep steam away from
you when opening. For Presto canners, to remove the cover, turn counterclockwise until cover
hits stop. Cover handles will be beyond the body handles.
If cover seems to stick or is hard to turn, do not force
it open. Sticking may indicate that there is still
pressure inside the canner. If in doubt about pressure
being completely reduced, let the canner stand until cool
before removing the cover.
Remove jars from canner with a jar lifter, trying to
keep them upright without tilting. Set jars apart on board or
cloth away from draft to cool. A towel or cake cooling rack
makes a good surface. Leave at least one inch of space
between the jars during cooling. Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool,
normally 8 to 12 hours.
Do not tighten the ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the
flat metal lid while the jars are cooling.
Once the jars are cooled, remove ring bands from sealed jars
(otherwise the bands may rust in place and be hard to open). If
necessary, wash jars and lids to remove all residues Put any unsealed jars in the
refrigerator and use those first.
When jars are cold, test
seal, remove bands, wipe jars, label, date, and store in a
cool, dry place. Most canner foods will taste good for about a
year. Technically, they are safe for years past this,
as long as they remained sealed, stored properly and show no
signs of spoilage. But after a year or two the quality
and taste will appreciably decline.
Problems and solutions
Altitudes above sea level - Recipes normally
include directions for the proper pressure and processing time if you
are more than 1,000 ft above sea level.
Failure to vent trapped air - When you seal the
canner, it has water, jars and air (O2, N2, CO2, etc.) in it. The
in a pressure canner has different thermodynamic properties than steam
(H2O) and lowers the temperature, which results in under processing.
For this reason, we vent pressure
canners for 10 minutes before the weights are put on and they are pressurized.
Dial gauge malfunctions - Dial gauges should be checked for
accuracy each year before use. If the gauge reads high or low by more
than one pound at 5, 10 or 15 pounds pressure, replace it. Weighted
gauges are always accurate. If your canner has both gauge and weight,
also go by the weight using the gauge as a guide only.
Canning jars, lids and rings - While there are many styles and
shapes of glass jars on the market, only canning jars are
recommended for home canning. canning jars are available in 1/2
pint, pint, and quart capacities with threads on which a cap may
be screwed. See the chart below for the jar capacity of your
canner. Additional information may be obtained from the
manufacturers of canning jars. CLOSURES FOR canning jars: The
two-piece vacuum cap consists of a flat metal lid held in place with a
screw band. A rubber compound on the underside of the lid forms a seal
during processing. Follow the closure manufacturer's directions for
using the two-piece cap and for testing for a proper seal. If the
closure has not sealed, completely reprocess or use the food
immediately. Refer to the closure manufacturer's directions for
For more information, and NO obligation to buy, just click on
the links in the Amazon boxes on the left!
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 canners. 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
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 about $79.
(which is a GREAT price for a pressure canner). There is also a 16
quart version for about $69. Click on the links
at left or above for more info and current pricing.
17 by 15-1/2 inches; 12-year warranty
Heavy-duty 23-quart aluminum pressure canner and
Comfortably ergonomic, stay-cool black plastic
Strong-lock lid with pressure regulator, dial
gauge, and overpressure plug
Comes with canning rack to protect jars during
All American Pressure Canner and Cooker #921
Exclusive "metal-to-metal" sealing system
Automatic overpressure release and easy-to-read
geared steam guage
Professional quality, extra heavy duty cast
The smallest size holds 19 pint jars and 7 quart jars; the largest holds 32 pint jars or 19 quart jars
5-Piece Canning Accessories Kit
Five-piece set: funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, jar
wrench, and tongs
Vinyl coating improves grip and prevents heat transfer
Extra-wide funnel mouth
Ideal for home canning
Hand washable only
Availability: Usually ships within
Canning all sorts of fruit and vegetables, even meat 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!