Rational Preparedness

Under Pressure – Why Every Prepper Needs a Pressure Canner

There are a few items that every prepper needs…a generator, a water purifier, a camp stove and a pressure canner (Amazon links to popular models).  Pressure canning is the best way to create shelf stable wet food.  Don’t get me wrong, dehydrated food is fantastic as the mainstay within your SHTF pantry.  Sometimes though, you want tomatoes, or berries, or some hearty and life sustaining meat.  I was quite pleased with the results of my canned pork.  Man was not made to live on rice and beans alone (okay for vegetarians, maybe it is fine). For me and mine, I like to make sure we are stocked up with a variety of foods stored in at least a few different ways.

Just Show Me The Canners!

We are going to be reviewing our picks for top 4 pressure canners in the coming weeks.  If you can’t wait that long, you can check them out on Amazon now.  Here they are:

 

 

 

*The Buffalo is marketed as a cooker and lacks a canning rack, as far as can be told.  This is something to be investigated before a full recommendation is to be made.   It may get removed from the list but it’s a beautiful stainless steel, so it caught my attention.

 

Why Can Your Own Food

Health

Canning yourself allows you to choose what ingredients are in your food.  Do you ever go to the grocery store and read the labels?  Manufacturers put sugar in almost everything, even when it’s a food you don’t think needs sugar.  You’ll find it in foods you least expect it to have, like 3 bean salad.

If it’s not sugar it’s unhealthy oils like vegetable oil, which is usually just code for soybean oil, or cottonseed oil.  Oils are usually chosen by the food industry based on price and not on health.  Soy is a food that basically should not be eaten unless it is fermented into sauce.  Finally store bought canned foods often come with a ton of ingredients we cannot pronounce.

All of this is true, no matter what a food says on the front of the can.  Take a look at this chicken soup with the word “Healthy” in the name–and an exclamation point.  The ingredients start out pretty good, with things you’d expect in chicken soup; like chicken broth, carrots and noodles.  Whoa, look at those ingredients of the noodles!  What is that stuff?

Why are there more carrots than chicken?  To save money of course.  Why is there turkey meat in chicken soup?  If I wanted turkey soup, I’d get turkey soup but this is chicken soup.  It doesn’t say Chicken and Turkey on the front! Of course it also has Cottonseed Oil, and Soy protein–because those are “healthy?”

The soup has turmeric, as it’s last ingredient.  Turmeric is actually a healthy ingredient but I’d guess they did not put it in here for health reasons.  They mostly likely put it in here to give the soup a chicken yellow color.  This allows them to avoid having to put “yellow number 5” in the ingredients.  Chicken fat is yellow but because they used breast meat, and augmented with turkey fat and cottonseed oil, the soup is not yellow.  So they must make it yellow somehow.

Taste

Have you ever had a can of store bought beef stew?  I once bought a number 10 can of it.  It was not good.  It was mostly potatoes and corn starch gravy.  If you needed to eat out of your pantry for a month or more, would you want to deal with that?  I know I wouldn’t.  I know I can make beef stew, using separate ingredients, out of my pantry, if I want to.  It will have much more beef in it and it will taste far better.

If you look back at my series of month without a refrigerator articles, you can see that I made much better food than comes out of a ready to eat can.  The series starts with this post announcing I’m about to live the month.  All of the articles have links in the bottom to the others in the series.

Harvest Season and Saving Money

Canning is perfect for prepping, of course, because it allows you to store a lot of food with a long shelf life.  It’s nice to be able to get benefits from your preps, other than being prepared.  The great thing about pressure canning is that it truly pays for itself quickly.   Of course this means you have to actually use it- and you will.  Canning is a thrifty means of storing all of the bounty that your garden(or the farmer’s market) supplies.  Home canned foods make for inexpensive gifts for the holidays. Turn some surplus berries into a jam and bring along to your next event.  People love homemade goodies! Just be sure to keep some for yourself in your pantry.

One thing I did, was purchase large cuts of meat, that are cheaper by the pound than you can get canned meats at the store.  You can also take advantage of sales, buying in bulk from local markers, and case prices at wholesale warehouses.  For fresh produce, you can buy it when it is in season, where you live, at farmer’s markets.  Food is so much cheaper during local harvest season.  Of course, you can also grow it yourself.

Store Food You Hunted, Gathered, or Farmed During SHTF

Full Grown Asparagus

If you are ever living off grid or in a real SHTF scenario for an extended period of time, having a pressure canner on hand will allow you to preserve any wild finds, crops, or meat that you are able to harvest.  This will be a life saver if you are in a climate that has harsh summers or winters.

Imagine this scenario: You’ve shot a deer and you have 80 pounds of meat and no refrigerator.  What is the fastest way to store all that meat?  A pressure canner, of course.  Imagine this, you are going for a walk and you come across a field full of wild growing asparagus.  Asparagus only lasts for about 2-4 weeks, in the spring.  After that, it’s gone.  With a pressure canner, you can store it all year.  If you think this seems unrealistic, I can tell you that there are about 60 miles of asparagus growing along I-94 in Western Michigan.  The time to spot asparagus, is in the summer, when it’s 3 feet tall.  Then you go back in the spring and catch it when it’s shoots you can’t really see from the car.

Your Pressure Canner Doubles As a Water Bath Canner

Above, we said that some foods are water bath canned.  That is the jars are boiled without putting them under pressure.  You can do this in your pressure canner without having to buy a separate water bath canner.  Imagine in the scenario in the section above, that instead of running into a patch of asparagus, you run into an fruit tree, or a patch of blueberries, or strawberries.

If you have a canner, jars, lids, and rings, you can get to work making apple butter, or strawberry jam, or canned peaches. In 2015, I discovered an apple tree growing in the freeway entrance property.  It was overhanging the parking lot where I work.  That year we had apple pie, and we dehydrated apples.  I just finished eating them during my month with no fridge, this year. I could have made apple butter.

Get Double Use Out of Your Jars

Once you own a bunch of canning jars, you can get use out of them for dry canning.  If you own a dehydrator if if you buy dehydrated foods, you can can them in your canning jars.  I found this FoodSaver canning jar sealing kit on Amazon.  It works with their vacuum sealers .  It allows you to seal a canning jar with dry foods inside.

Get Triple Use Out of Your Canner as a Cooker and Stock Pot

Preparing Bean and Ham SoupOnce you have your own pressure canner, you also have a very large pressure cooker.  There are tons of things you can do with a giant pressure cooker that are time saving and delicious.  I recently made a massive quantity of bean and ham soup, with my pressure canner, using it as a cooker.  I froze most of the soup.  Actually, it was cooking that got me to buy one.  I owned the canner for 9 years before I ever canned anything in it.  I’ve tenderized ribs in it, cooked all sorts of beans in it, melted meat off of ham bones, and made quick chicken soup broth in it.   I’ve also just used it as a massive stock pot for making simmer soups and chili.

 

 

How Canning Works

Canning Jars Lids and Rings

Canning works by creating a sterile environment, for food, so it cannot rot.  To achieve this, you need a sealed environment and a way to sterilize it.  In stores, you can see food stored in Mylar bags, mettle cans, bottles, plastic containers etc.  At home, this usually means using a glass jar with a metal lid — A canning jar.  Canning jars create a shelf stable sealed environment that can withstand the process of sterilization.

To sterilized the food and jars, you need to heat them.  This is done inside a canner.  A canner is basically just a large pot. You put the jars in, add water and boil them.  Then you pull the jars out and let them sit.  As they cool, air pressure decreases inside and a seal is formed.  The lids come with a flat part and a ring to hold it down.  Once air pressure is holding the lid down, the ring can be removed.  A well sealed jar of food can be shelf stable for a year or even several years.

 

 

Why You Need a Pressure Canner

Doesn’t Boiling Food Sterilize it? You Can Make Safe Drinking Water That Way.

Water bath canning is basic method of canning that you can use at home.  For water bath canning you are merely using a large stock pot and fully submerging filled, sealed and prepared jars of food in boiling water. Be sure to have at least 1-2 inches of water on top of the jar. Foods prepared in this method must be acidic by nature in order to prev50s Canning Instructions ent bacterial growth. Bacteria cannot live and thrive in an acidic environment which makes this method of canning perfect for pickles, salsas, fruit, and jams. Every summer as a kid I would pick strawberries with my aunt and grandma and make jam using the hot water bath canning method.  Just remember that water bath canning is great method for preserving fruit and pickles as they are acidic, but if you try to do your green beans that way, you have a sure fire recipe for botulism.

Pressure Canners Do more

All American Pressure CannerPressure canners save lives. It is true. For shelf safe storage meat has to be processed with a pressure canner as do most vegetables.

Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum spores which are very common in water and soil and can thrive in non- acidic foods.  If you are planning to immediately eat food that you prepare, you only need to bring the temperature of the food up to 185 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 5 minutes. If you are planning to can low acidic food such as meat or most vegetables for storage, you must  go a step further and kill the bacteria that makes the botulism toxin.

Raising and holding food at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit, will do the trick.  Water boils at 212 degrees at sea level and it’s impossible to raise food above the boiling point of water.  Putting the water under pressure, in a pressure canner, raises the boiling point.  With 10 pound of pressure, at sea level to a little above, you can achieve that 240 degree temperature that is needed.  That’s what the pressure canner does.

How a Pressure Canner Works

A pressure canner works by creating a sealed environment to trap steam from boiling water.  Steam takes up a lot more space than the liquid water it comes from does.  If it is trapped, it will put pressure on the container that traps it.  When you look at a pressure canner, notice how the lid locks down.  This is so it can hold in all that steam.  This pressure is then controlled by means of a vent pipe, that lets the steam out in a controlled way.  Once the pressure reaches the desired level, the steam escapes, holding pressure constant.   The vent pipe is opened and closed by a pressurized weight(or spring clamp).  This creates the environment that raises the boiling point of water from 212 degrees to 240 degrees.

Your pressure canner will have either a twisting lid lock, locking knobs or fasteners. It will either have a weighted gauge or a variable gauge which shows the pressure you have reached.  Some of them have variable weights. It will also have a safety release that will vent the canner if the pressure exceeds a safe limit.

An interesting thing happens with water pressure and boiling point.   As the jars cool, a vacuum forms in them and they will boil inside, for quite a while, as they cool.  The jars will be cool enough to touch with your hands but the liquid inside will be boiling.

Your pressure canner will come with a manual.  Read this and keep it!  If you no longer have it,  the manufacturer most likely has one posted online. Ball, the leading manufacturer of canning jars in the US has some handy links on home canning instruction.

 

What Pressure Canner Should I Buy, You Ask?

Now you know that you have to have one of these miracle workers.  The trouble is, there are a lot of different types on the market and a ton of different brands.  Fearless reader, I have got you covered.  I have painstakingly done the research for you(and of course for my own rational preparedness reasons). Over the coming weeks I will be delving into different makers and models of pressure canners and giving you my reviews.  For now, I have laid out a few of the basic things you will need to consider prior to making an investment in pressure canning.

Pressure canners come in stove top models and in electric models.  Don’t get me wrong electric is great for the current day and age and I can refer you to a real dandy, but lets be honest, we wouldn’t be preppers if we thought the electrical grid and everything along with it will be here forever.  I hope it is, but if not, I will have my non-electric pressure canner at the ready.  The electric models, I found, were much smaller than the stove top models, as well.  Maybe they would be handy to have around for doing a few one off, spur of the moment canning projects.  For serious food storage, a stove top model is the way to go.

My current pressure canner is the Presto 23 quart. It is reasonably priced, has everything I expect from a pressure canner, and has a roomy interior allowing me to fit a good amount of cans inside for each batch of processing.   A big step up from this, is the All American line of canners.  These canners are built with more precision and do not require a rubber seal.  As a prepper, I kind of wish I had the All American.  It does cost more but you get more.

We will be taking some more time to look closer at the canners on the market, soon.

What size pressure canner do I need?

When selecting your pressure canner, size matters. It is important to take into account how much canning you intend to do and factor in the amount of time it will take to process each batch.  For every batch of canning, you will need to be use your canner for approximately 2 hours as you must include the cooling/depressurization period.  

Home pressure canners on the market today generally run in size generally from 10 quart to 41.5 quarts.  Each manufacturer will include a description of how many of each of the standard size canning jars it will hold per batch.  Most contain an internal rack that will allow for 1-3 levels of jars within the unit. My current canner, the Presto 23 quart, allows for the use of 18 regular mouth pint jars or 7 regular mouth quart jars, or 4 half gallon jars.  Count on having less pint jars if using a wide mouths as their shape takes up more space on the rack.

Rocket Stove Canning?

Canning With A Rocket StoveMake sure your pressure canner will fit atop your stove and that your stove can support the weight of the pressure canner once filled with your goods.  My top two rocket stoves are the EcoZoom Versa and the Stove Tec Big Foot. I plan to review rocket stoves later this year. If you are in a hurry,  check these out on Amazon.  There are so many stoves there.  Again, just make sure you get one that is big and heavy enough to support your canner.  The two selected above are big enough for most canners.  Although you may want to provide falling protection somehow as they are not as big around as the canners are.

Check out this YouTube video of someone pressure canning with a rocket stove.   Here is another video.   Each of the videos offer a slightly different perspective.  I’m a bit surprised to see the girl using a 15 pound weight in the 2nd video.

 

 

 

What canning supplies do you need?

Canning Supplies

 

 

Once you have your pressure canner and stove, the next order of business is to gather the other essential items. Here is an Amazon shopping list:

Once you have all of your items gathered and your food prepped for canning, you can start the process!

 

 

Basic Pressure Canning Directions

These directions are for informational purposes only.  Please follow the steps in your canning book or pressure canner manual, carefully, to ensure a safe and delicious canning experience.

  1. Read the Instructions Read directions for your canner as well as guidelines and instructions or recipe for the proper canning of the food you are canning.  Use a reputable published work and not your grandma for key instructions.  There is a lot of science that goes into canning safely and it’s important that instructions are followed.
  2. Inspect your jars, rings and lids. All jars should be free of cracks with no uneven edges. Rings should fit the jars you have selected. I prefer to use new lids for each canning session, but if you are reusing- please be sure there are no dents or scratches in the lids and that the sealing compound is in a complete circle on the underside of the lid.  Wash everything in hot soapy water and be certain to dry the bands thoroughly.
  3. Heat the glass jars until ready to use. You can do this by placing jars(with some water in them) in a large pot(not your canner) filled halfway with water placed over medium heat.  This step keeps the glass from cracking when hot food is added.
  4. Pour about 2 inches of water into your canner.  Bring to a simmer.
  5. Remove jar from the pot, using your tongs. Pour the water out of the jar. Fill each jar with prepared food using a funnel if needed.  Leave the amount of room or headspace at the top of the jar as noted in the recipe you are following.  Gently move the headspace tool or spatula around within the jar to release any air pockets.
  6. Wipe off any food remnants from the top of the jar and around the threading with a clean cloth.  Carefully place the lid on the center of each jar and twist the ring until it is fingertip tight. Check that water level is at least two inches in height or to the level indicated in the owner’s manual.
  7. Secure the pressure canner lid in place and lock it, just leaving the vent pipe open. Let the steam escape for at least ten minutes before closing the vent pipe. Close vent as applicable for your canner. Adjust heat to reach the correct pressure.
  8. Wait for the canning jars to process at the correct pressure and for the amount of time as described in your recipe. Adjust the weight for altitude if needed in your location( see altitude chart). Once completed, carefully remove the canner from the heat. Do not unseal the canner in any way. Leave the pressure canner alone until the pressure returns to zero and things have cooled down. Seriously, be patient. You risk losing your food if you open it up too soon. Remove the weight and unlock and open the lid. Allow to cool for a few more minutes.
  9. Carefully remove jars from pressure canner. Resist the temptation to tighten the rings- do not do that!
  10. Check the jars for cracks as well as the lids for seals. Lids should have no bounce to them.  They should be flat or nearly concave with no air bubble when the center is pressed.

 

Cover Photo

Full line of All American Pressure canners.  Photo courtesy of All American.

 

 

Check back soon for my latest pressure canner reviews and recipes!

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