"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trial and Error Under Pressure

The Creature
Putting away the canning equipment, including that puzzling, exasperating and inspiring pressure canner, until after Christmas.  Finished up the turkey project last night by canning stock for turkey soup.  It sure has been a wild ride learning how to use this creature. I was reading my Ball Complete Book of Canning, checking the National Center for Home Food Preservation web, and following the advice of my online friends.  After a while it felt like canning by committee, especially when the advice becomes contradictory.  So often folks seem to write about pressure canning as though it were no more difficult than tying your shoes.  Perhaps I should trade in my bootlaces for velcro, because I have found the process most challenging.  Following directions for prepping the food is easy enough, but actually using the canner is an uncertain venture.  Is it vented properly?  "The weight should slowly rock."  What does this mean?  Even getting the jars out is a puzzle.  The canner's manual says not to rush the cooling and not to lift the weight to hasten the reduction of pressure.  The Ball book has a very short and simple paragraph about letting the canner cool to zero pressure, and pulling out the jars. It's not really so simple.  Questions come up, like how long to wait?  How do I know when it is at zero pressure?  I took the earlier batch of chicken broth out too early, and the jars pinged multiple times while the broth boiled like crazy, threatening eruption.  The jars of sausage stayed in too long and were cool to touch when I removed them from the canner. I have been told that leaving jars in the canner that long can cause the food to spoil.

After much trial and error I've come to a rough timetable of waiting thirty or forty minutes and then checking the weight on the canner.  If it is relatively cool to the touch, I lift it partway and if the steam just goes "psst" and stops, I consider that as reduced to zero.  If the steam hisses out hard and fast when I move the weight, I leave it in place and try again later.  Once the pressure is zeroed, I remove the lid and then wait ten minutes before taking out the jars.  The most disconcerting thing is that I'm not hearing the jars "ping".  All these years of doing water-bath canning, my favorite part is always hearing the jar lids "ping" and seal as they cool.  I have checked the lids carefully and they seem to be sealed; I'm assuming that they're sealing in the canner as it cools and I can't hear the "pings".

Turkey Stock
Turkey Meat
Regardless, I now have canned meat for my pantry.  I got eight pints of meat and six quarts of stock from just the one turkey, and I'm looking forward to more pressure canning in the future!


  1. Likely the lids are pinging while they are still in the canner, and you just can't hear them.

    I'd say your method of waiting for zero pressure is right. I have a dial-guage canner, so mine tells me when I'm at zero. When I lift off the vent cover, (I'm not sure that's what's called though.) I often hear a second or two of pssst. But that's it. And without canning something to double-check, I'd say it takes a half-hour to 45 minutes.

  2. Thanks Melissa, I appreciate your input, and I feel better for knowing that my method mirrors yours. The book makes it sound so simple until ya actually try it.