Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The pressure's off

A few years ago my husband bought me a pressure canner . . . a top of the line pressure canner.  I put up produce all the time but I use the water bath method and I've been avoiding the presser canner.  Why?  Because it's scary . . . yes, I admit I was afraid of using it.  The obvious reason is because when that thing is cranking it's full of steam . . . pressurized steam.    Then there's the weighted gauge rattling around reminding me that there's all that pressure in there . . . that thing could explode at any minute!  Except for the fact that the pot is made from heavy cast aluminum and the lid clamps down with wingnuts and is vented.  

Anyhoo . . . I had no real need to use it until someone gave me a big pile of carrots from their garden.  Carrots are easy to can; however, they need to be pressure canned. So the time had come . . . do or hopefully not die.  It turns out pressure canning isn't all that complicated or scary.  It did it and I survived!

Like other canning methods, the jars have to be washed and the lids have to be sterilized.  This prevents mold, fungus and other bacteria from feasting on your veggies. 

When preparing the pressure canner you should follow the directions included with your canner.  But a good rule of thumb is fill it with four inches of hot tap water and put it on the stove over low heat, with the lid OFF, to get it heating up for later on.  It’s going to evaporate some, but that’s okay.

Wash, peel and trim the carrots and then cut them in slices or sticks. 

The carrots have to be hot packed so they must be cooked for 5 minutes before packing them in the jars.  Simply bring the carrots to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Next fill the jars, leaving 1-inch of headspace. Pack them fairly tightly, but be sure to leave 1 inch of space at the TOP of the jar to allow for expansion during heating.  Use a ladle or pyrex measuring cup to carefully fill each packed jar with water from pot of boiling water that they were cooked in. The carrots should be covered and there should still be 1 inch of airspace left in the top of each jar.

Put the lids on each jar and seal them by putting a ring on and screwing it down snugly  . . . but not over tighten.

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, put 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.

Once the gauge hits 10 pounds, start your timer going - for 25 minutes.  Adjust the heat, as needed, to maintain 10 pounds of pressure.  This is for sea-level, the processing time will vary depending on your elevation.

After 25 minutes at 10 pounds, turn off the heat and let the canner cool down. 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.  Wait 3 more minutes, then open the vent or remove the weight and allow the steam to escape.

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). You can then remove the rings if you like. 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, but 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.

That’s it.  Easy peasy.

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