Low-acid foods, such as vegetables (except tomatoes), meats, poultry, and fish must be processed in pressure canner to destroy the heat-resistant bacteria that could cause food poisoning. A higher temperature (240 degree F to 250 degree F) can only be reached in a pressure canner.
First, read the instructions packed with the pressure canner to become familiar with the canner's operation. Make sure all parts are clean and in working order. If your canner has a spring-dial gauge, have it checked for accuracy. Contact your County Extension Service for the nearest location.
When ready to start canning, set the canner with rack on the range and add 2 or 3 inches of boiling water or the amount specified by the canner manufacturer. Turn the heat to low.
Next, prepare enough vegetables or meat for one canner load. Fill each jar and place it in the canner. Jars should not touch. When the last jar is added, cover and lock the canner. Turn the heat up. When steam starts to come out of the open vent or petcock, reduce the heat so steam flows freely at a moderate rate. Let steam flow steadily for 10 minutes or more to exhaust air from inside the canner.
Close the vent and increase pressure. Refer to your canner instructions for specific details. Turn up and maintain the heat till you reach 10 to 15 pounds pressure, as the recipe directs. Adjust the heat to maintain constant pressure. Constant pressure is important because any fluctuations will draw liquid out of the jars.
Pounds of pressure in the recipes are for canning at less than 2,000 feet above sea level; make adjustments for altitude, if necessary. Processing times are for canners of 12-quart size or larger.
Remove the canner from heat and set out of drafts on a wire rack or wooden board. Allow the pressure to return to normal on its own. Do not run water over the canner or rush cooling. Follow the canner's instructions for opening the pressure canner. Be sure to lift the cover away from you to avoid a blast of hot steam. If food is still boiling vigorously in jars, wait a few minutes before removing from the canner. Cool jars 2 to 3 inches apart on towels or a wooden board in a draft-free area. Check for proper sealing on the jars after they are completely cooled.
Remember to boil the foods processed in the pressure canner for 10 to 20 minutes (20 minutes for corn or spinach) before tasting or using. Add water, if necessary. Do not taste these products cold from the jar. This includes all home-canned vegetables (excepts tomatoes), meats, poultry, and fish.
Sandy is a food lover who has been into food business for more than 20 years. She shares her experience in cooking tips and recipes as well as a healthy cooking way.