Adventures in pressure canning

1303 pressure canning - 1

I feel a little bit guilty about this. I am a committed Vacola preserver, like my mother before me, and her mother before her. We don’t can, we preserve. What is this pressure canning thing anyway?

Autumn is about preserving the harvest. Autumn contains many large and bubbling vacola units, and results in beautiful preserved fruit and food. But now we seem to have gone over to the dark side of the force. And I think I’m glad we did. 

1303 pressure canning - 3

Ok so pressure canning is really not a very different technique from vacola-ing which I’m pretty sure is actually called ‘the water bath method of preserving’. We call it vacola-ing because of that fine Australian company who makes the awesome preserving gear we’ve used forever – Fowlers Vacola.

Vacola jars are the best for preserving anything you have. They look cool, they’re easy to work with, they’re nice and heavy and they can be used for generations to come.

Also, the only part of the vacola system you need to replace year to year is the rubber seals – so they’ve got a super high re-use rate. Serious cred.

My vacola jar supply consists of jars my mum, my great aunt and various other relatives gave me, as well as batches of jars I’ve sourced from grannies in the wider Mudgee region. You can also buy them new if you’re just beginning the legacy.

So the jars are great. But the bubbling them (in the vacola unit) on a stove for an hour after bringing them to simmer is not so great, in my book. That’s a lot of heat energy used for 9 jars of goodness.

Enter the pressure canner – an All American 921 pressure canner, to be exact. It does the same job as a water bath unit, only faster, because it uses pressure. And you can still use your favourite jars inside it to do your preserving.

The All American 921 Pressure canner. Resplendent in both it's warnings, and its capabilities

The All American 921 Pressure canner. Resplendent in both it’s warnings, and its capabilities

We actually bought this pressure cooking unit for the purposes of easily sterilising substrate for mushroom propogation. But as a bonus, it’s a pressure canner. Whacko.

This week is the end of nashi pear season in Mudgee. Rose is in the midst of catering for 35+ peeps for the Forest Garden Design Intensive (which is amazing, by the way), so her enthusiasm for fruit preserving is drastically limited.

This leaves me, and the tinyhouse and the pressure canner, to deal with 120 kg of nashi pears. Let’s go.

I’m still experimenting at this point. Since we’re nearing the end of preserving season, we’re almost out of vacola jars – they’re all full of lovely things for supping on through Winter and Spring.

My solution this year has been to separate our home supply of preserves (in vacola jars) from our barter supply of preserves. This means jar-ing up a gazillion batches of nashi pears that are designed for swapping and giving away in ‘normal jars’.

The pressure canner has been great for this task. Jar up, stick 8 x 750ml jars in the canner, bring to pressure, maintain 5 psi for 15 minutes, and then… that’s it.

5 minutes after finishing I can open the unit and swap the hot jars out for another batch, and off we go again. It’s super time and energy efficient, and I am loving it.

I’m using honey instead of sugar for the nashi pears, and it seems to be all good so far.

One big dollop of Tim’s honey per jar of nashis with 1 star anise and a couple of cloves, top up with cold water, lid on and into the canning unit. Pronto preserves.

So I’m pretty happy with this discovery – best jars in the universe (or just normal ones) meets energy efficient preserving. Huzzah.

The stash is growing by the day

The stash is growing by the day

Secretly what I’m really excited about next in this pressure canning business is experimenting with pressure canning meat.

I am very thankful that we’re raising so much of our own meat these days, but relying on constant electricity to store it frozen really niggles me. The whole freezer solution to meat storage is a bit of a poor option, in my mind.

So. Canning meat we shall. That way the pigs, the chickens, the ducks (and maybe even the sheep) can rest in peace (in pieces, shredded and/or in sausages) on the shelf until their appointed winter casseroles.

Anyone got any pressure canning tips? Successful adventures? Great canned meat recipes?  Thanks in advance x

>> More posts on preserving here…

1303 pressure canning - 1

52 Comments

  1. andrea
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    Having moved to Australia 5 years ago with 3 suitcases, one regret I had was leaving my pressure canner behind. I have relied on it to get me and my family through some very tough times and I have always kept a few years of food on my canning shelves.Just recently I found a supplier here in Australia for a pressure canner and Ball jars( my favorite) and the day It arrived was the best chrissy like day I’ve had !! there is nothing like having a full cupboard of preserves beaming security out from the hall closet. Tip.. always use the suggested time and pressure for foods they are all different and required to kill the botulism for that particular food. Especially for meat and other non acidic foods strict control and sterilization is paramount. And even though other jars will seal,be careful of breakage in 2nd generation jars like mayo etc that is not as thick a glass. Nothing worse than opening up a canner and having bits of food floating and covering everything from a broken jar. Having said that ,enjoy your pressure canner and it will reward you for years and years.

  2. Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awww.. I have not dared to think of investing on the pressure cooker just for the shrooms.. But now that there’s all these other things that one could do… :) Especially since all means of storing are so essential in our cold climate.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    Here in the states we pressure meat for 100 minutes. Since I am high altitude here in Idaho (6000 ft el.) it is at 13 lbs of pressure. Have you ever tried drying your vegetables? We did last year and was happy with the results. I am just starting our garden

  4. jodie thomson
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hey thanks for the review of the pressure canner thing – it sounds really good. We are all sold up Vacola users in my family but it is always good to know what other people are using. I remember watching some episode of that tv show with the chef guy who moves to Tassie and bottles tuna on the beach. Weird and gross but kind of interesting.

    • Michelle
      Posted March 29, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink | Reply

      I have to say I saw him do the tuna on the beach also… and felt that it didn’t actually meet the food health safety standards…..from my reading of pressure canning meats I would highly recommend NOT doing it that way!

  5. Luke
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    For canning recipes you can not go past Ball book, amazing. Although recipes are great, I believe it is better to have plain minced meat or cubes in jars, this is my philosophy when bottling passata, base ingredients only. Congrats on having the balls to pressure can. It can be a difficult step for people to take.

  6. Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you! I’m also a dedicated Vacola-er, but was given a pressure cooker and a pile of ball-mason jars this years. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but you’ve inspired me. I’m keen to have a go at milk, meat and dried beans. Imagine having jars of bolognaise sauce or something similar??? Cool..,,

  7. Posted March 28, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have a vacola and a pressure canner (Presto canner) and love them both. I still use my vacola for water bathing as the pressure canner holds less jars but I’m really experimenting with canning now. I’ve just done coconut milk (had to make that one up myself as there were no blogs or instructions so hope they’re safe – should be) and I’ve got chicken stock, chicken stock with some chicken, all perfect for risotto in a hurry, corn kernals (some frozen some canned), pumpkin soup (need to leave the pumpkin cubed and not pureed but it’s easy to cook and puree) and chick peas. I’m planning baked beans and kidney beans and anything else I would normally buy in a can. :) Just one thing to be aware of, Ball mason jars contain BPA in their lids so I would stick to the FV jars. :)

  8. celia
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    Would it work to put the preserving jars (fowler or vacola) in a pressure cooker if they are put in with the clips on? Although a fowler disciple of 30 years I really like the idea of the faster process using less energy. Thanks everyone for tips!

    • Posted March 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yep that’s worked for us celia… 15 mins at 5 psi for 36′ jars… For nashis, this is :)

    • Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I use FV jars in my canner with no problems. The clips don’t take up much extra room.

      • celia
        Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        Thanks very much. It is so good to be able to share our successes and not to have to make all the mistakes ourselves isn’t it!

      • Posted March 29, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        Sure is! :D Although I have to admit it wasn’t me who discovered I could can with FV jars. My best friend told me. :)

  9. Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    you girls remind me that I am an outsider the pressure cooker you refer to I have not seen in the states. I have two old Presto pressure cookers that I can use on a gas stove if need be. I can turkey broth at Thanksgiving which I use to make Spanish rice or make Turkey noodle soup with homemade noodles. It is fascinating seeing what everyone does in different parts of the world. Thank you for the enlightment

    • andrea
      Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The one I bought is a Presto, and it is very enlightening to begin canning in a new environment and culture. I would give anything to have good turkey broth the can, but the lamb is awesome and the tropical fruits magnificent. Because I grow pretty much year round it is only excess that I can and eat fresh otherwise.

  10. Posted March 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Here is a link to a gal on YouTube who does loads of canning meat.. I started following her a couple years ago & now can all sorts of meats and other foods. I have the same All American Canner you have too. I love canned meat.. One of the best things it does is make the meat super tender and tasty since you pack it raw & it makes its own juices.. its the best!! Hope this helps.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/imstillworkin/videos?query=canning+beef

  11. Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for this post! I got all my Mum’s recently, added to the ones I got at a clearing sale years ago, so I have more than I can count. I have an old Vacola stove-top unit, even Mum’s new electric one, but I’ve not been game to try either. The time it takes to make just a few jars of preserves seems crazy. Been eyeing off the pressure canners for a little while, but wondered about being able to use all my jars.. but you’ve answered that question!! I read your post out loud to Marty who is pretty convinced now too. Thanks again! :)

  12. Posted March 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    How fabulous! I’ve no particular tips for you, but I bet duck confit would can perfectly! It wouldn’t be quick like your nashi pears, but what’s not to loveabout duck confit on demand!

  13. Jenny
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 1:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    I prepared a batch of chili and cooked it all day (like I normally would for chili), then pressure canned it. It tasted overcooked and I didn’t care for the texture. Should I cook meat just long enough not to be raw and then pressure can?

  14. David
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 2:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you MK for all the great info you write for our help. We appreciate it all.

    I was wondering about this unit for cookking food in. Do you think that the Aluminium will transfer into the food during the cooking process. I was told to dump all our Al. pots as it transfers into our food. So we did. I guess if you use it only for preserving and steralising then it’s a superb unit.

    I ask not to being negative, but as I am interested to hear your opinion.

    We are getting ready to go off grid in the next two to three years. So, permaculture + preserving etc is really high in our learning curve right now.

    Thanks again. See you at a PDC next year, not sure which one yet but it’s on the goal list for 2014 already… :)

    • Posted March 29, 2013 at 6:10 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hey David, good question! We did some research on this prior to using the unit and it appears the main probs with cooking in aluminium is when the food itself touches the aluminium, especially if the food doesn’t have a neutral pH. In this scenario, the food in the jars obviously isn’t coming into contact with the aluminium at any point… not even the steam in the unit comes into direct contact with the food. So seems pretty super safe to us?

      See you soon! :)

      • Posted March 29, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        I haven’t researched it like you have but I thought about it before using my canner and figured the aluminium won’t be able to get inside the jars as it’s about the pressure building in the jars and pushing out air etc so nothing is going to get in. However, I would never use my pressure canner to pressure COOK foods. In fact our pressure cooker is going out too.

  15. Posted March 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have a canning question that I hope you can help with. I use regular canning jars, Ball and Kerr and the traditional flat lids that seal and the twist on cap. Whenever I pressure can soup or broth, etc, they lose A LOT of liquid. I notice that your’s are full and everything is covered in liquid. Do you know what’s going on with mine?

  16. Posted March 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I just found your site- it’s great! Neat post on pressure canning. I’m looking forward to reading up on all you have to share!

  17. Posted March 30, 2013 at 3:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    When we had our large garden in Illinois USA I used a water bath caner for fruit and tomatoes. Once I made so many batches that the steam condensed on the ceiling and dripped down like rain! If you want to preserve anything low acid like green beans, or meat sauces you must use a pressure caner they are wonderful!
    Back 30 years ago we reused glass jars for caning and they did fine even in a pressure caner, but now the glass is thinner because they use a different process for comercial products. Buying or yard sale or receiving gift jars is the best way just make sure they aren’t cracked or chipped at the rim. Also if anything looks cloudy or murky disgard it and boil the jar!
    I love rows of canned food on the shelves it is beautiful!

  18. Posted April 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I finally did stocktake of my jars today. 130 in all! Can you tell me if the huge No. 36 jars (about 10″ tall) would fit in a pressure canner your size? I imagine the lid and clip would make them taller than that again. Most of mine are No. 27 and 31 though. Thanks for your help!

  19. Cheryl
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Just started using mine and for one of my batches the Ball jars had dinted lids when I took them out anyone know why please as just learning.

    • Luke
      Posted April 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      G’day Cheryl do you have any more info ie. did you double deck the jars, are you referring to the lid only or the band as well? Im not an expert but I do my fair share of presssure canning using both Ball and Fowlers jars.

      • Cheryl
        Posted April 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        No single layer with 750ml jars and it was only the lid not the band

      • Luke
        Posted April 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        If you didn’t dent them and no manufacturing fault… I’m at a loss,to explain,,beyond my experience.. My first port of call would the manufacturer along with photos and a written commentary, get it from the horses mouth. There is too much at stake with pressure canning. Hey they may even send you a pack or two of complimentary lids! And then get on the net and let others know, share the wealth that i our collective knowledge.

  20. Belinda Mort
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Fowlers used to have recipes for preserving meats in their really old books but started advising against it in the 50s due to bochelism and salmonella dangers. Bearing this in mind we went a different path. We also home kill and have 2 large commercial freezers, a small chest freezer and freezer compartments in 2 fridges, Lots of electricity! So we bought timers for all the freezers. We run them between 8am and 6pm, and turn them off overnight. We have solar power (feed into the grid), so our costs are basically nothing for the electricity during the day. The food keeps perfectly well in this way as nothing has a chance to thaw, as long as you don’t keep opening the doors and letting the cool out. It just takes a bit of discipline to pack your freezers so a little bit of everything is readily accessible, or to get out a week’s worth of stuff from the big freezer and keep it in the ones attached to a fridge, which run 24/7. The other option is to dehydrate some of the meat and use is reconstituted in soups, stews etc. I have just put 20 kilos of dried tomatoes into a large peanut butter jar. Meat reduces by up to 90% and can be stored on the shelf as long as you make sure it is totally dry, and even cryovac it.

  21. ozzibeth
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great to see a site here in Australia that has oodles of people doing pressure canning. I thought for a while that I have been alone out there. I have the big All American canner that can do 19 pints or 14 quarts and it has been the most wonderful thing that I have ever owned. We do, soups, casseroles, curried sausages, beef bolognaise sauce, raw packed Chicken,lamb and beef , home made baked beans, corn,beans,potatoes,carrots as well as water bathing (as I still also have my trusty old Fowlers vacola) tons of tomatoes, fruit, pickled chillies, beets,onions, and various chutneys,relishes and pickles. Also piles of apples, and rhubarb. I just don’t know what I did before canning. Can’t recommend it enough.I also was very happy to realise recently that my old favourite fowlers bottles could be used in the PC.
    We will soon be living full time on our small 25 acre block out near Binnaway (which we have been setting up for the last 10 years)It is fully off grid but we enjoy all the mod cons except aircon.We have our own sheep which we butcher and have recently started to make out own sausages as well,…We are loving it all. Both my husband and I are from the bush, so really we are just coming home to roost.
    Great to follow your life Kirsten,and all the best to all the other crazy canners out there,

    • Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink | Reply

      awesome! exactly what jars and seals are you using for your pressure canning?

      • ozzibeth
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Hi Kirsten,
        I have been using the ball mason jars and lids which i order through Ozfarmer at Kempsey for all the pressure canning but am constantly on the lookout for a cheaper source as they are quite expensive. I recently was given a name and website for a place in the US where you can order by the pallet load and have shipped over. I had seriously considered trying to get in touch with some other canners and pooling together to purchase a pallet.Now that I know I can pressure can with my fowlers jars, the need for more jars isn’t quite so desperate.

      • Posted May 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Just a caveat on the vacolas, we’ve only done fruit in them in the pressure canner thus far, and vacola actually stopped recommending the canning of meat in their jars about 10 years back. Don’t know the details on that tho… So maybe stick with ball jars for them? I’m very keen to try em.

        Can you pass on the link for the ball jars by the pallet loads?

      • KimH
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Are you folks familiar with Tattler Reusable Canning Lids? http://www.reusablecanninglids.com/
        I’ve been using them for 2 years and like them very much. I dont plan on having to buy canning lids for a long long time.. maybe never again except for items that I plan to give away..

      • ozzibeth
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        I have put a couple of photos up.the album is called “The farm”

      • Posted May 31, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

        great. where?

      • ozzibeth
        Posted May 31, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Sorry Kirsten,
        I forgot I was on your blog and not on “Aussies living Simply ” forum. That’s where I have posted my photos in the community photos section.
        Have a great day,
        Regards
        Ozzibeth

  22. ozzibeth
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi ,
    Have talked to the Fowlers people and a woman in WA who teaches pressure canning classes who gave me a recent update…They say that you can do meat in Fowlers jars, just not in the old way (waterbath in Fowlers Preservers) if you do meat and such in the fowlers jars it MUST be pressure canned, and the result is the same as mason jars.I personally haven’t tried it yet in anything except the masons, but I know a couple of people who have..
    Also Kim, no I haven’t tried the tattlers lids but have heard many good reports on them..maybe in the future I will look into it,they sound a better option than the single use lids…
    As for the bulk jars site…can’t put my hands on it right now, (Think I may have left it up the bush) but as soon as I find it will put up here.
    Cheers

  23. andrea
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    TO answer the question about over cooked foods, It is best to just undercook your beans, sauces etc and allow for the extra time it is cooked in the pressure cooker. We always bottled our meat and game raw and all of our salmon, clams and just make sure it comes to the boil gently when you open and use it. Meat is better if cubed into equal sizes and it goes without saying off the bone.

  24. Rachel
    Posted September 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey just found your sight. Love it. Can you please tell me where in Aus you bought your pressure canner? Im looking for an all american 41 quart. Redback trading never seem to have any in stock. The USA wont ship them out. Ive enquired about it.
    Thankyou

  25. Rachel
    Posted October 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hello. I just recieved my all american 921. Its gorgeous! I was wondering is it possible to pressure can more than one product at a time? Like different jars of stuff? Thanks Rachel

    • Posted October 3, 2013 at 12:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yes you can can more than one type item in your canner at the same time as long as you are canning it for roughly the same time and process for the longest process time.
      . I had 2 different items I was doing a week or two ago.. one was to be canned at 70 minutes & the other at 75 minutes. I canned both at 75 minutes. Sometimes I’ll can pints & quarts in the same batch as well.. just go with the longer time. It hurts nothing.

    • Gypsy
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Rachel, can you please tell me where you bought your pressure canner from? I live in rural WA & no one seems to know about them here
      Tks
      Gypsy

  26. Gypsy
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you! I’ve tried other sites but like someone else said, they don’t want to ship to Oz – fair enough I guess
    Best go sit on Santa’s knee now & see how I go
    Have a good one

  27. Rachel
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Gypsy. Sorry about takingbso long to get back to you. I bought my pressure canner from Ozfarmer.
    They are based in Kempsey NSW. I ordered mine on their site. Good luck.

  28. nancy
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I got mine from Oz Farmer also and they have specials on a regular basis so subscribe to their newsletter. I cheated and brought 5 doz pints back from Canada with me last month as the price of that many jars in Canada was a fraction of what I paid in Australia, covered the extra cost of an extra checked bag, which I was bringing anyway. However the response from the customs people was priceless when they discovered that all the 1 doz in my carry on contained under things ..” Bottled underwear” was one comment,|seen every thing now.”
    But when I told her the difference in price she said i hope you brought more than a dozen!

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