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  • Writer's pictureKris Riley

Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Pressure Canning.

I'm always intrigued by how I can make different types of food myself. I'll go to a restaurant, thoroughly enjoy a dish and attempt to recreate it in my own kitchen. I want to know how that salad dressing was just right, or what makes a smash burger so amazing. How can I make that dish myself at home with my own equipment and tools?

While out at the lake this summer, my freezer, which kept my precious stash of locally farm raised chicken and beef, was inadvertently left open. My husband came home to an awful mess. It was heartbreaking throwing out all of the contents. While we weren't hit by a power outage and it was just a mistake, it got me thinking. How else can I preserve or store food at home? I have a dehydrator, but not everything is best dehydrated. I even thought about freeze drying. So what about canning? I had canned salsas, pickles, jams and relish before, but I wanted to know how does one preserve things without pickling?

I fell down the online rabbit hole of watching videos. Here people were stocking their pantries with canned soups, vegetables, meats and whole meals in jars. The idea of that seemed to solve the lifelong question of "What the hell am I making for dinner tonight?" So it was here that I was introduced to a thing called rebel canning. Rebel canning, where people can with jars they reused from store bought sauces, pickles and salsas. They successfully reused lids. They also canned milk, cream and soups that contained dairy. Shocking. Needless to say I was intrigued, and my latest obsession was born.

As it turns out, outside of North America, most people use water bath methods to can meat, poultry and dairy. Pressure canners are hard to find, as is canning equipment in general so those interested use what they can find. This includes jars that were purchased at grocery stores containing pasta sauce, pickles and other food items.

I started looking at purchasing a pressure canner, and kept an eye out on Kijiji and Facebook marketplace for one. It was just my luck that I found one, in like new condition. So I made the drive to East Selkirk and picked it up. My canner is a Presto 23 quart Pressure Canner that's induction friendly.

I've been experimenting and canning everything in sight. My pantry is becoming the pantry of my dreams (I kid you not, it makes me so happy). There are a few things however that I wish I had known before I started pressure canning.

  1. Adding a splash of white vinegar to the water in your canner helps to keep the jars clean and free of water spots.

  2. Know what weight comes with your canner. My Presto comes with a 15 lb weight, which means I've become my canner's babysitter. At my elevation, it's recommended to can at 11 pounds of pressure. With a 15 pound weight, you need to watch your gauge, and adjust the temperature of your stove top when necessary. Fluctuations in temperature tend to cause something called syphoning. That's when liquid escapes the jar during the canning process. Take a look on Amazon for a neat little gadget that will help you keep your pressure where you need it to be. Click here to see. All American Canners have a different weight that's adjustable.

  3. Hot contents, hot jars, hot canner. Cool contents, cool jars, cool canner. Thermal shock is real and when you don't follow the rules, you'll be out jars and the food that was in them.

  4. Keep it simple. Stick with small batches and simple recipes until you get the hang of it. It's easy to get overwhelmed with jars, lids, recipes and a new way of doing things. I started my pressure canning by canning chicken stock. Easyd and rewarding.

  5. You can mix jar sizes in your canner. Just make sure to process for the size of the largest jar. For example, I made chicken stock in quart jars, but I didn't have enough stock to fill the last quart jar. I used a pint jar for the remaining stock. I processed that batch following the procedure for the quart jars.

  6. Stacking pint jars in the canner is fine. In my manual for the Presto canner, it states that it is completely fine to stack jars on top of jars without a rack in between. I've done it numerous times without a problem. Don't like the thought of it? Amazon has spare trivets to fit your canner you can purchase.

  7. If you have a batch that doesn't quite fill your canner, for example 5 quarts instead of 7, you can place canning jars filled with water alongside them to keep them upright.

  8. Wipe the rims of your jar with vinegar, unless you're rebel canning dairy, then use water. Vinegar = curdling

  9. Wash your jars after the resting period, and once you've checked for seals, remove the rings. Why remove the rings? My reason for removing them is rust. Keeping the rings on over time tends to build up rust and sometimes makes the rings impossible to remove. Also, removing the ring can help you tell whether or not a jar is sealed. Once you store your canning, sometimes things happen and a seal is broken. If the ring has been removed, it is easy to tell if the seal is broken because typically the lid is off the jar. If the rings are on, the jar may reseal and you wouldn't know.

  10. Keep clean jars of varying sizes on hand when canning. Not every recipe makes the perfect 7 quarts. I always keep extra lids, rings and various jar sizes sterilized and on hand, ready to be filled when processing a recipe.

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