Showing posts sorted by relevance for query canning 101. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query canning 101. Sort by date Show all posts

Jun 22, 2017

Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?

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 Q: Can I use my Instant Pot or other pressure cooker for canning?

A: I see this question so often! The answer is absolutely, positively no. Oh yes, I do know there are pressure cooker manufacturers who claim otherwise, but they are putting your life at risk.

First, let's talk about the Instant Pot, which is a popular electric pressure cooker (I love mine! You can learn more about it here.). The manufacture has this to say about canning in the Instant Pot, emphasis mine:
"Instant Pot can be used for boiling-water canning. However, Instant Pot has not been tested for food safety in pressure canning by USDA. Due to the fact that programs in Instant Pot IP-CSG, IP-LUX and IP-DUO series are regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer, the elevation of your location may affect the actual cooking temperature. For now, we wouldn’t recommend using Instant Pot for pressure canning purpose. Please note this correction to our early inaccurate information."
They kind of talk around themselves, don't they? But basically they are saying you should not use the Instant Pot for canning because the temperature may not be high enough to kill dangerous bacteria in the food. I would add that with water bath canning the jars must be well under water and cannot touch the bottom of the pan. That means there simply isn't enough space in the Instant Pot for safely canning anything.

What about other types of pressure cookers? Quite simply, they are not designed for canning, and they cannot safely can food and make it shelf stable. The National Center for Home Food Preservation makes it clear that pressure cookers cannot hold enough water to safely bring the contents of canning jars to a temperature that kills harmful and deadly bacteria.

In addition to holding too little water, pressure cookers have less metal, which means the time it takes them to come to pressure is shorter than that of a pressure canner. The time it takes them to cool down is also shorter. That might seem like a good thing, but it actually means the food in the jars is heated for less time - and that means bacteria won't be fully killed during processing. "The food," The NCHFP says, "may end up underprocessed. Underprocessed..foods are unsafe and can result in foodborne illness, including botulism poisoning, if consumed."

My personal recommendations:

I love my Instant Pot (here's the model I have) for making dinner when I need my hands and focus free for other things. I also use it to hard boil eggs, cook dried beans, and so much more.

But I use my Presto pressure canner (here's the model I use and recommend) for pressure canning; I also use it as a water bath canner by simply not locking down the lid. (Learn more about that here.) I have also used it as a pressure cooker, but I don't anymore, for two main reasons: 1. It's really big, and therefore difficult to clean in the sink. This isn't an issue when it comes to canning, because the canner stays clean. But when I cook in it, I usually have to scrub it out. 2. Unlike an electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, I have to monitor the Presto as it cooks food. That means it simply uses up more of my time.

For more information, see:

* What You Need to Know About Home Canning and Botulism
* Pressure Canning vs. Pressure Cookers
* Canning 101: Using a Boiling Water Bath Canner
* Canning 101: Using a Pressure Canner

Jun 29, 2010

Canning 101: Using a Pressure Canner (Canning Beets)

This weekend, I did my first canning of the season. My "Bull's Blood" beets were ready to harvest, and since we mostly use them in borscht, I canned them right away. As I typed in my earlier post on canning supplies, beets and most other vegetables require a pressure canner. Unlike a boiling water bath canner (sometimes called a boiling bath canner), a pressure canner can be used for all types of home canning.

Whether you've never canned before, or you've only used a boiling bath canner - never a pressure canner - this step-by-step canning tutorial will take you through the entire process.

What You Need:
A pressure canner
Canning jars
Canning lids and screw bands (lids can't be reused, but screw bands can)
Jar lifter
Large pot
Cutting board
Plastic or wooden handled utensil
Cooling rack or bath towel
Food to can (in this case, beets)

How to Do It:

1. Wash the canning jars, lids, and screw bands.

2. Clean an electric coil or gas stove top thoroughly. Any grease or grime on the stove may turn into a difficult-to-remove stain due to the heat of canning. (Glass stove tops are not recommended for canning.) Also make sure the canner is clean, being sure to scrub down the bottom and sides.

3. Fill the pressure canner with water, according to the manufacturer's directions. There's usually a line on the side of the canner to show how high the water should reach.

4. Place the jars in the canner. Place the canner on a large burner, over medium high heat.

5. Prepare food according to a trusted recipe. Two respected sources for canning recipes are the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and the USDA website. Canning recipes require careful testing, or the food could spoil because the recipe's chemistry is incorrect for home canning.

To can beets, first place warm water in a large pot and set it on the stove to boil. Then select beets that are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter. Cut off all but 2 inches of the stems. (Reserve the leaves to add to salads, soups, or stews - or saute the leaves, substituting beet leaves for collards in this recipe.) Clean the beets well and add them to the boiling water in the pot. (The water should cover the beets entirely.) Begin timing when the water returns to a boil, and cook the beets for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the skins easily slip off the vegetable. Remove the beets and pour off the hot liquid in the pot. Add fresh, hot tap water to the pot and place the it back on the hot burner. Rinse the beets in cool water. Cut off the remaining stem and roots, then slip the skin off. Slice the beets.
6. Using a jar lifter, remove one empty jar from the canner. Fill it with food. The recipe will tell you how much "head space" (i.e. space between the top of the food and the top of the jar) is necessary. In this case, I kept 1 inch between the top of the beets and the top of the jar. Then I "hot packed" the food by ladling hot water from the large pot over the beets - always being careful to ensure the head space remained at 1 inch.

7. Using a wooden or plastic handle (from a spoon, spatula, or some other utensil), remove any bubbles from the jar. Use an up and down (not round and round motion).

8. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp towel.

9. Put a lid on top of the jar.

10. Place one screw band on top of the jar. Screw the screw band in place until you just begin to feel resistance. Then screw just a tad more, until the band is "fingertip tight." Don't screw down hard.

11. Using a jar lifter, place the jar in the canner.

12. Repeat steps 7 through 12 with another jar, until all the food is in jars.

13. Place the lid on the canner and lock it in place according to the manufacturer's directions. It may take a few minutes for the water to boil, but you'll know it's boiling again when steam begins coming out of the vent at the top of the canner. Allow the steam to vent steadily for 10 minutes.

14. Place the canner's weight on the vent. (The weight comes with the pressure canner and is a sort of lid for the vent hole.)

15. Most pressure canners have what's called a "weighted-gauge" on their lid. In most cases, wait until the gauge reads 10 before timing your recipe - but always read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them on this point. Set a timer, according to the "processing time" given in the recipe; in this case, 30 minutes for pint jars and 35 minutes for quart jars.

16. Regulate the heat by watching the gauge and keeping it at the recommended pressure level (usually, 10 or slightly higher). If necessary, turn the burner heat slightly up to increase the pressure level, or turn the heat slightly down to decrease the pressure level.

17. When the specified time is up, turn off the burner and let the canner cool. Do NOT remove the lid. Do NOT remove the vent weight.

18. When the canner gauge reads zero, let the canner sit 5 additional minutes. Then remove the vent weight. Unlock and remove the canner lid, letting the steam in the canner escape in the opposite direction from your face and body. (HINT: The lid should come off easily; if it doesn't, give the canner more time to sit, then try again.) Allow the jars to sit in the open canner for 10 minutes.

19. Remove the jars, one at a time, using a jar lifter. Place them on a strong cooling rack or on a towel placed atop the counter. Make sure that as you move the jars, you keep them upright. Don't try to wipe off the jars or lids because this may prevent the lids from sealing properly.

20. Allow the jars to cool, untouched and undisturbed, for 24 hours.

21. After 24 hours, check to see if the lids have sealed: Press down on the center of each lid; a properly sealed jar lid will not move.

22. Be sure to write the contents and the date on each can's lid. The government recommends consuming home canned food within a year.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.


Aug 23, 2010

Canning 101: Using a Boiling Water Bath Canner (Canning Peaches)

I think it's smart for most people to begin their canning adventure using a boiling water bath canner (sometimes called a boiling bath canner). Most people find it less intimidating - because it is, after, just a big pot, like you might use for cooking. Boiling water canners are suitable for home canning fruit (including tomatoes), pickles, jams, jellies, preserves, marmalade, and fruit butters. (To can other vegetables, seafood, meat, or meat stocks, a pressure canner is necessary. Learn about pressure canning here.)

This weekend, I pulled out my boiling water canner for the first time this year. I'd just made a trip to a local grower, buying two flats (about 36 lbs.) of peaches, two flats of apples, about 23 lbs. of tomatoes (to supplement what we grow in our garden), and a few apricots. Since peaches go bad pretty quickly, I started with those - and they offer a good basic lesson in using a boiling water canner.

This step-by-step canning tutorial will take you through the entire process
of learning to can with a boiling water canner.

What You Need:
Boiling bath canner
Canning jars
Canning lids and screw bands (lids can't be reused, but screw bands can)
Jar lifter
Large pot
1/4 cup lemon juice (optional)
Plastic or wooden handled utensil
Cooling rack or bath towel
Food to can (in this case, fresh peaches)

How to Do It:

(Before you begin, I recommend cleaning an electric coil or gas stove top thoroughly. Any grease or grime on the stove may turn into a difficult-to-remove stain due to the heat of canning. Glass stove tops are not recommended for canning. Also make sure the canner is clean, being sure to scrub down the bottom and sides.)

1. Clean all the jars, lids, and screw bands. You may do this in the sink with soapy, hot water, or you can run everything through the dishwasher. (See *NOTE at the bottom of this post.) Keep the jars hot. You may do this by filling a sanitized sink with hot water, being sure the water stays quite hot while the jars sit in it, or you may keep the jars in the dishwasher with the heat cycle on, or you may put the jars in the canner. (More on that last option in step 2.)

2. Place the rack in the bottom of the canner and fill the canner with hot tap water. Turn the burner to medium heat. (If you'll be keeping the canning jars hot in the canner, now is the time to place them there. If the water in the canner is cold, the jars should be, too. If the water in the canner is warm, the jars should be warm before going into the water. And if the water in the canner is hot, the jars should be hot being being placed in the canner. Being careful about this will prevent canning jars from breaking.)

3. Lay a towel on the counter, or set out a large cooling rack or wooden cutting board. This will protect your counter from hot jars.

4. Prepare the recipe.

To Can Peaches, begin by making a syrup, which preserves the color and flavor of the fruit. I like to make the lightest syrup possible, using 5 cups of water for every 1/2 cup of sugar. Other options include: 5 1/2 cups water to 1 1/4 cups sugar, 5 1/2 cups water to 2 1/4 cups sugar, 5 cups water to 3 1/4 cups sugar, or 4 1/4 cups water to 4 1/4 cups sugar. Place the sugar water mixture in a saucepan and simmer it on the stove. If desired, fill a large bowl with the lemon juice and 4 cups of water. Keeping the peeled peaches in this mixture will prevent the fruit from browning, but it isn't necessary for a tasty or safe finished product. Fill a sink or large tub with ice and cold tap water. Once the water in the canner is boiling, place a quantity of peaches inside the canner itself, using a jar lifter to gently drop them in the water. After 30 seconds, remove the peaches (using the jar lifter) and place in the sink of ice water. The skins will now come off easily if you rub your fingers over the fruit. If the skins resist coming off, the peaches aren't fully ripe. After peeling each peach, drop it in the bowl of lemon water, if using. Using a knife, carefully cut around the circumference of the peach twice, cutting it into quarters. Throw away the pits.

5. Remove a single jar from the sink of hot water and fill it with peach slices, keeping the concave part of the fruit (where the pit was) down. Make sure there is 1/2 inch of headspace (the amount of space between the top of the food in the jar and the top of the jar itself).

6. Ladle the simmering sugar water over the peach slices, being sure to maintain 1/2 inch of headspace. Use a funnel to make the job neater.

7. Work a non-metallic spoon or spatula handle up and down in the filled jar. This helps remove air bubbles that can cause food spoilage. (It's okay to see some air bubbles in the jar once it's through processing.)

8. Wipe the edge of the jar with a clean, damp towel, removing any food or syrup that may have dripped onto it. Any debris on the jar rim will prevent the jar from properly sealing.

9. Place a lid on top of the jar. Don’t worry about centering it perfectly.

10. Screw a band around the jar until it is just tight. Do not over tighten or screw down hard, or the jar may not seal properly.

11. Place the jar inside the canner, using a jar lifter.

12. Repeat steps 6 through 13 until all the jars are filled and are inside the canner.

13. Make sure there is at least 2 inches of water over every jar in the canner. Add water, if necessary.

14. Put the lid on the canner and bring the water inside it to a boil.

15. Once the water is boiling rapidly, "cook" or process the jars for the amount of time specified in the recipe. In this case, that's 30 minutes for quart jars or 25 for pint jars.** Do not start timing the processing until the water reaches a full, rolling boil.

16. Once the processing is done, remove the canner lid and turn off the heat. Allow the jars to sit in the canner for 5 minutes.

17. Remove the jars, one at a time, using a jar lifter to set them on a towel, wooden cutting board, or strong cooling rack. Do not dry the jars or try to remove water that might sit on top of them, since this could prevent the jars from sealing properly. Simply allow the cans to sit, undisturbed in a non-drafty location, for 24 hours.

18. When the jars have cooled for 24 hours, make sure each one is sealed properly: Press down on the center of each lid with your fingers. Sealed lids will not move when you press on them.

29. Write the contents and the date on each can's lid, using a Sharpie pen. The U.S. government recommends consuming home canned food within a year.

* NOTE: Any food processed or "cooked" in a canner for under 10 minutes requires sterile canning jars. To sterilize jars, fill them with warm water and place them in the canner (which is already filled with water that reaches at least an inch above the jars). Boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars one at a time, fill with food, and place back in the canner for processing.

** NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.


May 18, 2017

Realistic First Year Homesteading Expectations

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I know so many people who've been waiting and hoping and praying to homestead for years. And when they finally get the opportunity to live on some land, they want to do everything all at once. They want chickens, goats, pigs, a milk cow, a huge vegetable garden, an orchard, an herb garden...RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, they're setting themselves up for disappointment and discouragement because what they want is impossible. So let's talk about what is realistic when you first start homesteading - whether that's in the suburbs or in the sticks.

Hard Truths About Homesteading

Hard Truth #1: Money is probably the number one thing that prevents most people from homesteading on the scale they wish they could. Unless you're quite wealthy, it's just not feasible to buy land, build a house, obtain animals, house animals, and so on in a year's time.

This is not to say that you shouldn't do as much as you can with as little as you have. In fact, making do is really at the heart of homesteading. But you simply can't fudge on, say, animal housing. You can build it from scraps, yes. But chances are, you'll have to buy at least some materials in order to make the housing truly safe for your animals. (If it weren't for the cost of animal housing, our homestead would already be a menagerie!)

Hard Truth #2: It takes time to acquire the skills you need to run a homestead. Unless you grew up on a farm, you probably don't have all the skills and knowledge you need to run a full fledged homestead. That's okay! Give yourself time to learn. Want chickens? Read multiple books on the topic - not just one! This will save time, money, and heartache. Then give yourself time to implement the skills you've read about (because reading about it and doing it are very different things) before you move on to another skill.

Hard Truth #3: It takes time to run a homestead. We all wish we could quit our jobs and homestead full time. Very few people are blessed to achieve this. So, for now at least, assume you'll have to continue working away from home. That means you'll have limited homesteading hours. Don't over-estimate what you can accomplish during those hours.

Realistic First Year Goals

So what is a realistic view of what you can accomplish your first year homesteading? Honestly, that's hard to say because it depends upon your financial resources and how many hours you work at your job. But assuming you work ordinary hours, and you have a middle class income - as well as a strong desire to set up your homestead -  I think the following goals are completely achievable:

1. Start Composting. This is a homesteading basic that reduces your garbage considerably and benefits your garden and orchard...and you can do this virtually anywhere - even if you live in the city! Composting can be as simple as burying organic matter in the soil, or as expensive as buying several enclosed, rotating compost bins. More Info: Learn how to compost.
Composting is an important first step when homesteading.
2. Start a vegetable garden. It doesn't have to be huge - in fact, it probably shouldn't be. As your skills grow, so can your garden. And don't get hung up on pretty. Yes, raised beds made of rock are beautiful, but you can grow just as much food in berms that cost next to nothing. The important thing is to start growing food! More Info: Learn how to start a garden.
My very first productive garden beds.
3. Plant some fruit trees. Plant them soon, because they take a few years to begin producing fruit. However, it's better to plant trees in the take spring and summer to look for sunny locations and the least boggy land for your trees. Learn more: Fruit trees for small spaces.

Our first fruit trees were these columnar apples in pots.
4. Start learning to cook from scratch. I don't recommend trying to making everything from scratch when you're first starting out; that can be really overwhelming! Instead, start by making your own spice blends and baking mixes, then learn to make bread. And so on. More info: See more from scratch recipes.
Homemade bread isn't as hard as you think!
5. Get chickens. If you eat eggs, chickens are a homesteading essential, and - once you're set up with a hen house and run - are not expensive to maintain. More info: Learn the basics of chicken keeping in my Chickens 101 posts.
A portion of our first flock of chickens.
6. Plant a few herbs. You don't have to create a large herb garden right away. Instead, just choose 3 - 6 herbs you'll use for cooking and medicine and put them in pots. There! Done. More info: Learning to grow kitchen herbs.
Herbs in pots are easy.
7. Learn to dehydrate. Drying fruits, vegetables, and herbs is one of the easiest ways to preserve. You don't have to spend much on a dehydrator (I love my Nesco American Harvest dehydrator better than the expensive Excalibur some friends have. You can add as many trays to the Nesco as you want.) Learn more: See my dehydrating posts.
Dehydrators preserve fruit and veggies you grow, forage, or buy.
8. Learn to water bath can. This type of canning is less intimidating than pressure canning, and allows you to put up jam and jellies, pickles, and fruit. It's the perfect way to start building up your food supply. More info: Learn how to use a water bath canner.
Canning makes self-sufficiency easier.
Related Posts: 
* Homesteading Skills to Learn NOW - before you head to the farm
* How to Save Up for Your Very Own Homestead
* Prioritizing Your Homestead: Where to Start & Where to Go From There
* How Do I Quit My Job & Start a Homestead

Dec 17, 2015

The Hands-On Home - a review

In recent years, a handful of home keeping books have been published, and most of them were well received. None, however, have done much for me. Generally, these books start by telling readers how homemaking can be for feminists, too (sigh), and then proceed to give homemaking 101 skills. So when I first saw The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, I admit I wasn't particularly interested. Then I had a chance to see the book in person.

First, I was struck by the beauty of this 388 page volume. Throughout, absolutely gorgeous photographs by Charity Burggraaf are featured. They are all printed on matte paper, but somehow the photos are still crisp and clean and vivid and feature all the beauty of food and cooking. The fat hardcover also includes a bookmarking ribbon - and the sections of the book are tabbed in different colors, making using the book easier. Clearly, the publisher put a lot of thought into this volume.

And that's good, because author Erica Strauss has, too.

In fact, I think she's produced the best home keeping book of my generation. 

Strauss' premise is simple, but uniquely modern. She understands that many of us are striving to get away from the rush-rush of being away from home and instead want invest in our homes and families. She knows many of us are trying to eat healthy whole foods and stay away from expensive and potentially unhealthy store bought cleaners. She knows some of us are even looking critically at the chemicals we lather on ourselves in the form of shampoo, soap, moisturizer, and other beauty products.

Best of all, Strauss understands that modern home keeping isn't about keeping things Martha Stewart perfect. She knows that giving us a cleaning schedule to strictly follow isn't useful, and that customizing our home keeping for our own families is really where it's at.

Strauss starts her book by covering some basics. To my delight, she begins with cooking. Strauss used to cook in professional kitchens, and she actually taught me (a decent home cook) some things I didn't know. She emphasizes avoiding food waste ("The average American family of four throws out more than two thousand dollars of food every year. Pretty expensive trash or compost - that's money not available for college savings, retirement accounts, charitable giving, or travel."). She teaches that recipes aren't really necessary, if you understand a few basic techniques: braising, pureeing soups, roasting, sauteing, searing, and yes, good seasoning. ("...Heavily salt cooking water for anything starchy like pasta or potatoes, or for green vegetables you want to blanch. When the food cooks, that salt will be pulled into the food along with moisture, helping to create an evenly seasoned product.") Because when you drop processed food from your diet, you really don't have to limit salt, after all.

Strauss also covers fermenting and canning, giving excellent instructions and advice on how to do each. (Although she does perpetuate the myth that canning jars should be sterilized before filling and processing in the canner, this isn't dangerous advice; it only adds an unnecessary step. You can learn more about this topic by clicking here.)

My favorite section of The Hands-On Home, however, is the section on home care. Here, I found information I've never seen anywhere else. For example, Strauss explains the types of dirt (properly called "soil") one might find in a house: organic, inorganic, petroleum-based, and combination soil. Then she explains which cleaners (alkaline, acid, solvents, or abrasives) work best for each. ("Many commercial cleaning products are 'all-in-one' combo cleaners. Because they are trying to be all things to all soils, they take a brute-force approach, using chemical cleaners that are often far stronger and more caustic than are necessary." And, she says, because these commercial cleaners are combining alkaline and acid cleaners together, they are actually less effective.) She also gives a useful list of each type of cleaner; for example, in the "common alkaline" cleaners section, she offers details about how to use (and, if necessary, what precautions to be aware of) baking soda, liquid Castile soap, borax, powdered oxygen bleach, washing soda, ammonia, household chlorine bleach, and lye. (Strauss wisely counsels to start with the least caustic cleaners.)

Then Strauss goes on to offer advice on how to come up with a cleaning routine that works for your family. Here she discusses the importance of routines, what chores we should consider doing daily, regularly (perhaps weekly or monthly), and seasonally. What I love most about this section is that the author makes no demanding claims about what YOU should be doing. Instead, she tells us a wee bit about her journey from messy to reasonably tidy home keeper and gives us the tools to follow her path. Namely, she suggests we envision what a comfortable home looks like to us, personally. ("What state would your home have to be in for you to be able to grab a cup of tea and a favorite book and relax on your couch, or play with your kids, or spend an entire evening with your partner, without the nagging feeling that you maybe should, should, SHOULD be doing something else?") Then she encourages readers to turn that into a list, from which they can create a truly workable cleaning schedule.

The remainder (and majority) of the book is divided up into seasons, covering cooking, preserving, home keeping, and personal care chores the author thinks you may want to tackle during Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Here, you'll find lots of inspiration. There are from scratch recipes for bread and tortillas, ricotta cheese, mayo and salad dressing, yogurt, vinegar, and all manner of fresh vegetables, fruits, and some meats; there are instructions for making canned barbecue sauce, pickled asparagus and fermented dilly beans, mustard, salted preserved lemons, frozen caramelized onions, and jams made without pectin; there are lots of recipes for cleaning items like glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, carpet freshener, grout cleaner, toilet cleaner, and oven cleaner; and you'll find recipes for tooth powder, soap, hair wash, deodorant, moisturizer, lip balm, bath bombs, and gardener's hand scrub. There's even advice on line drying laundry and giving mattresses and old fashioned airing.

In short, I am a big fan of this book.  

I'd even go so far as to say every home keeper should read it.