To most, pressure canning seems like a dangerous and complicated task. Something like detonating a series of fireworks without getting singed. There are stories that feed the fear of pressure canning. My husband’s aunt suffered serious burns after a canner exploded in her face. My friend’s canner bulged out while under pressure and started rocking back and forth on the stove – eek!
For those interested in canning, water bath canning is a good place to start. But more experienced canners might meet their quota of fruit, pickles, jams, preserves, jellies etc. and start wondering about canning low acid foods. Canning foods low in acid, like vegetables (without acid i.e. pickling), meats, and seafood, must be done using a pressure canner. This is the only safe way to ensure that harmful bacteria, such as botulism spores, are completely and utterly destroyed. The National Center for Food Preservation has reliable instructions for pressure canning a variety of foods.
The first time I used my pressure canner was to can chicken stock. Walking carefully through the process of pressure canning demystifies the task. The key is to read the instructions and become familiar with your canner and the guidelines around canning food.
It’s also important to invest in a good canner. Something reliable and well made. I invested in a 21 Quart All American Pressure Canner. It can pressure can 7 quarts or 19 pints at a time. A friend of mine purchased a pressure canner with other family members. This is a great way to split the cost as long as you get along with your family.
Pressure canning creates many new opportunities to can food. Unfortunately, the cost of getting a decent pressure canner isn’t cheap. It’s an investment. A particularly handy investment for the “end-of-the-world” scenario. Not I’m a doomsayer… but consider a pressure canner a personal, portable bunker… for your head. Until that day our pressure canner will mostly be used for canning homemade soup, stew, stock, and tomatoes. Note: Tomatoes can also be water bath canned provided a little lemon juice is added to each jar to ensure the tomatoes are acidic enough.