Canning is a great way to make your own sustainable food, to save money, and to be environmentally friendly. Not only that, by canning and eating food that you grow yourself, you can be aware of what is in every bite of food that you eat. By growing and canning your own food, you can be sure that you are not getting added chemicals or sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup, in your food.
Using the water bath method is a great way to learn to can at home. It’s simple and doesn’t require any special equipment. However, the water bath method can only be safely used for a few food items such as pickles and jams and jellies. Canning your own vegetables from your garden or local farmers market requires more advanced methods such as a pressure canner. This is because most vegetables, with the exception of peppers and cucumbers simply do not have enough acid contained within them to fight off the bacteria and micro-organisms that can grow in them. Those who wish to can meat and seafood also need to use a pressure canner.
A pressure canner is a great investment for those who want to put up large quantities of their garden produce. A pressure canner is simply a pressure cooker that is larger in size. They are generally light-weight, as opposed to the heavy pressure canners of the past. Although there are many pressure canners and cookers on the market, the majority of them are built in the same manner. All come with a lid that has a gasket and is then twisted on to secure it to the canner. Inside, there is a rack, which can be removed, and there are dials and gauges, which let you know how much pressure is in the canner. Pressure canners can generally hold either two layers of pint jars, or one layer of quart jars.
Unlike a water bath, a pressure canner does not have to be filled with water. Usually only one or two cups of water are added. This is because a pressure canner uses heat and steam to sterilize the jars of food. Manufacturers directions will have to be followed to ensure that you reach the proper temperatures and pressure to safely can the food.
In addition to using your pressure canner to preserve vegetables and meats, you can also remove the racks and use the canner as a typical pressure cooker. Using a pressure cooker to cook food is very similar to using a crock pot in that the food becomes very tender and stays juicy. However, using a pressure cooker or canner to prepare food only takes half the time of cooking using a conventional oven. Baked potatoes, for example, which usually take at least an hour in an oven only take 20 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Tips for Using a Pressure Canner:
- Always cook with the required amount of liquid. Using too much can cause the canner to boil over; using too little can cause an excess build-up of steam.
- If cooking foods, ensure that they are the same size. Cook potatoes that are the same size, and if cooking a roast or chicken, or other foods, cut them into uniform sized pieces.
- For extra flavor, brown foods prior to placing in the canner or cooker.
When you are done using your canner, whether you are canning foods or cooking foods, make sure it is cleaned and dried well. The gasket, which is made of rubber, needs to be cleaned and dried carefully to ensure that no mold develops. The top of the canner should always be stored separately from the bottom so that no moisture becomes entrapped. As always, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions. You will find that a pressure canner is a very useful and versatile piece of kitchen equipment.