When I started this blog, I included a category entitled “My Favourite Things”. I haven’t added much to it but, lately, I have been thinking about my pressure canner and it occurred to me that it sure deserves a spot in that category.
I bought my Presto Pressure Canner from Redback Trading Company whilst I was still working. It was one of those items I dreamt I would need in retirement. It epitomised the life I wanted to lead. Well, I am living that life now, and my pressure canner is being put to use.
A pressure canner is, essentially, a large capacity pressure cooker, designed for home preserving low acid foods. You can preserve low acid vegetables, meat, chicken and seafood in it. These foods cannot be preserved in any other way. It can also be used as a large cooking pot, a pot for preserving high acid foods, for example, fruit and tomatoes (using the boiling water method), and as a huge pressure cooker.
The big advantage of a pressure canner is you can preserve food which would otherwise be taking up room in your freezer.
The pressure canner will take 18 x 500 mil jars – nine on the bottom row and then nine piggy backed on them, provided the jars are somewhat squat. The easiest way to do this is to put a trivet on the first layer and stack the second layer on the trivet. The jars I use are too tall to piggy back but I have found a layer of them on the bottom and a more squat layer on the top does work. There is no need to fill the canner.
To be honest, they are a bit scary at first. When I received mine, I used it like a big pot and made a batch of dog food in it. I then ventured onto using it like a huge pressure cooker, which in fact it is. I, again, made a batch of dog food.
The pressure canner is made of aluminium so you may not want to go this route. I can still remember all the hoo-ha about aluminium causing Alzheimer’s. I did a search to see if this was still the view and it appears not.
I found this quote on this site:
According to an account in Cook’s Illustrated (January 2012), lab tests run on tomato sauce cooked in aluminium for two hours, then stored in the same pot overnight, showed that the sauce contained only .0024 milligrams per cup. In contrast, a single antacid tablet may contain more than 200 milligrams.
I am not so concerned about cooking dog food twice in an aluminium pot.
To use the pressure canner, you put the supplied trivet in the bottom, pour in three quarts of boiling water (2.8 litres), add the filled jars of food, bring the canner to pressure and then maintain it for the allocated time.
As you can imagine, it is important to follow the instructions carefully regarding the pressure and how long it is maintained.
I was very nervous, at first, about putting glass jars in my pressure canner so decided to only use new jars and new lids. I followed the instructions and all went well.
Recently, I made another batch of chicken stock. This time, I used second hand jars – ones you acquire from the supermarket are just fine – with new lids that I bought from Silverlock. Again, all went well.
It was time to venture out. I decided to make pumpkin soup. I like the idea of having soup for lunch but if you make a big pot, you get sick of it before you have finished it. Otherwise, it ends up another lost item in the freezer, which I am trying to avoid.
I decided to follow a recipe I found on the web but you don’t need to. You can make any soup you want and then preserve it in jars for later use.
The critical thing with pressure canning soup is:
- Cut the vegetables into even cubes, about 1 centimetre
- Cook the soup as you usually would.
- Add the solids to 500 mil (1 pint) jars until they are about half full.
- Add the liquid leaving ½ inch head space
- Follow the instructions that came with the canner.
There are only two things to remember. You cannot blend the ingredients; nor can you thicken the soup, until you open the jar. This is because blended or thickened soup is too thick to reach the temperatures needed to kill all possible bugs. But this is no a big deal. When you open a jar, you can easily use a stick blender in the pot or bowl you are heating it up in. If a thickener is called for, you can add that at this stage, too.
I have other ideas for my canner: more of my favourites soups, pea and ham to start with. I also want to cook up lots of chickpeas and dried beans so I have them ready to add to recipes.
Again, because it was my first soup venture, I decided to follow a recipe. I found this recipe on Preserving Australia site. I made one and half times this recipe:
Pressure Canned Pumpkin Soup
- 2 tbs butter (for sautéing)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
- 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 6 cups cubed pumpkin
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter, add the onion and the spring onions and very gently sauté them until they are transparent. If need be, add a little water to stop the onions sticking. Do not brown.
- Add the cumin, nutmeg and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken stock and potatoes and bring to the boil.
- Add the pumpkin and simmer until potatoes and pumpkin are cooked – about 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Strain the vegetable from the stock. Using a slotted ladle, spoon the vegetables into sterilised 500 mil jars. About half fill the jars. Try to ensure there is a good combination of vegetables in each jar.
- Add the stock, leaving ½ inch headspace.
- Tap the jars a few times to ensure there are no air bubbles. Seal.
- Process in canner for 60 minutes at 11 lb pressure. If you live above 2,000 feet, check the instructions that came with the canner.