In the last two articles in this series(Part 1, Part 2) we have talked about choosing a pressure canner as well as many of the safety guidelines you should use when canning your produce. This article will take you through the steps of canning one at a time. In this example I am going to be canning potatoes. Potatoes are easy to can much like any other vegetable, and make a fast easy addition to soups and stews.
There are two different types of “packs” that you are likely to see when canning anything, a hot pack or a cold or raw pack. These are just two different methods, both are completely safe, and work just as well as the other although like in the case of potatoes the raw pack gives a better end product. You may have a personal preference when it comes to taste, but you can figure that over time. I prefer to do a raw pack whenever possible that is just my personal preference for ease and flavor, but there are going to be certain instances where you cannot use a raw pack or are better off doing a hot pack. Experiment and see which works better for you. Most books contain instructions for both if both are possible.
In this example we are going to use a raw pack and you do not need to cook your potatoes before canning.
Start by going through all of your canning equipment and making sure it is ready to go if you have not already. Get it all laid out where it is easy to access as you want to keep the process fairly quick once you get started canning. I also like to make sure I have plenty of clean dry towels.
This is also a good time to inspect the rubber seal to make sure it is in good condition, and always check vents every time you use your pressure canner, it could save you blowing a safety plug later and spoiling the food you were trying to process.
Scrub your potatoes and peel, then quarter potatoes, you can leave small potatoes whole. If you want the size smaller by all means do so, but do not cut them too small or they will over cook in the canner. You will need 2 to 3 pounds of potatoes for each quart jar you plan to can.
Potatoes do best as a raw pack, while you can do a hot pack on them they tend to overcook, making them too soft for use in soups or stews. While you do not need to sterilize jars like you would for a water bath canning session you do need to wash them and leave hot water in them until they are ready to use. I also put the rings and lids in a pan of boiled water and leave them until they are needed this keeps the rubber seals soft and ensures a good seal.
Pack potatoes in pint or quart jars, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart if desired, this is optional and I rarely do it. You will need boiling water to pour over your potatoes once your jar is packed, some people like to use chicken stock I prefer to use just water. Make sure that the potatoes are covered and that you have a 1 inch headspace or gap between the water in the jars and the top of the jars.
Use a canning spatula to slide down the sides of the jars; this will remove any trapped air from the jars.
Take a clean damp cloth and clean the rims of the jars to ensure a good seal, then take lids and rings from the hot water and place them on the jars. You want the rings to be snug but do not over tighten as this can affect the lids ability to seal your jars.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions about the amount of water to place in your canner, normally about 2 to 3 quarts. I like to get my canner on the burner and heating before I place the jars of food in it, to ensure that the jars do not have too much of a chance to cool off. The water is not usually boiling yet but it is hot when I put the jars in the canner.
Put the lid on your canner and seal, your heat should be on high. Do not put the steam vent or jiggler on your canner yet, the canner needs to come to a boil and vent for 10 minutes before you do.
Once the canner has vented steam at a full boil for 10 minutes it is time to put your vent on, at this point the canner will begin to build up pressure.
Be on the lookout for leaks from the seal, a bit of moisture escaping from the vents is normal but you should not have anything coming from the canning seal between the lid and the canner.
When your canner comes up to pressure according to your manufacturer’s instruction and the type of pressure regulator you have, it is time to start timing.
How your pressure regulator works depends on the canner you have, dials will give you the exact pounds whereas weighted pressure regulators also referred to as jigglers by some will jiggle or spin a certain number of times. Check your canners instruction booklet to get exact directions on how your canner and regulator work.
For pints I process my potatoes at 35 minutes and quarts take 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure at normal altitude and 15 for high altitudes.
These instructions are basic and can be applied to other foods, with adjustments in preparing the food and the processing time. I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book as it will serve as a reliable guide as you get started in the world of pressure canning and has times and prep instructions for most vegetables and meats.
I hope you have enjoyed my mini tutorials on pressure canning. Over the weeks I will try to add more recipes out of my collection that are tried and true for you to experiment with as well. Soon you will be building a pantry full of healthy foods to tide your family through the winter and high food prices.