So, that leaves us with the fun part– let’s get down to the actual canning!
First off, I won’t be covering the basic techniques of safely putting the food into the jars in this post. Check out my In-Depth Canning Tutorial for all that info.
Also, you may want to read my Six Tips for No-Stress Canning. I still follow these tips every single time I begin the canning process.
(This tutorial will cover how to use a weighted gauge All-American Pressure Canner. However, most other canners will follow a similiar technique.)
How to Can with a Pressure Canner
1. Make sure your canning jars are clean and hot. This can be accomplished by placing them in a pot of hot water, allowing them to sit in a sinkful of hot water, or by running them through a quick cycle in the dishwasher. One of the neat parts of pressure canning is that you don’t have to sterilize the jars like you do with a water bath canner. The high heat of the pressure canning process takes care of that. However, you do want to heat them up to prevent breaking and cracking when you place the hot food inside.
2. Fill the canner with 2-3 inches of water and set it on your burner. Use your ruler to measure the amount of water if you have to, but it is very important that you do NOT run out of water during the canning process, as it can seriously damage the canner. Unlike the water bath canning method, you do not have to completely cover the jars with water.
3. Place the rack that came with your canner rim side down in the bottom. Then, place your filled and sealed canning jars on top of that. If you are using pint jars, you can stack them in your canner with the second rack in between the two layers. Depending on what you are canning and the recipe, you’ll probably have hot jars with hot contents, so use your handy-dandy jar tongs if you have them.
4. Place the lid on the canner. As I mentioned in Part Two of this series, my All-American has six wing nuts that I must tighten in order to create a proper seal. Always tighten two opposite wing nuts at the same time.
5. Turn your burner on and allow the canner to start heating up. (I usually turn it on high to get started, then reduce the heat later.) Make sure that your weighted gauge is NOT on the lid of the canner at this point.
6. Once the pressure vent starts releasing steam, set your timer for 10 minutes. Allow it to “exhaust” for this length of time before you do anything else. You’ll know when the steam starts to escape, because it will begin to sputter and hiss and usually some water droplets will appear on the outside. This venting period is a good time to take a deep breath, clean up the kitchen a bit, or say a little prayer if you’re nervous…
7. Check your canning recipe for two numbers:
- First, you need to look for how many pounds of pressure that the particular food needs to be processed at. Usually, the recipe will specify between 5, 10, and 15 pounds. (These are the three settings on your weighted gauge.) If you are at a high altitude like me, (over 6,000 feet…) you will need to adjust accordingly. My All-American manual recommends that, regardless of what the recipe says, always use 15 pounds of pressure when processing foods at 2,000+ feet above sea level.
- Secondly, look for how long you need to process that particular food. My beets took 30 minutes, while things like meat or stew will usually require over an hour of processing time.
8. Once the exhausting/venting period is finished, place the weighted gauge at the proper setting over the top of the pressure vent. Use a oven mitt to do this– that steam is hot!
9. Now, wait for the pressure to build in the canner. This is where the dial gauge comes in handy– you can watch the pressure slowly build and know when you’re getting close.
10. Once the canner reaches the proper pressure (15 pounds in this case), the weighted gauge will begin to jiggle and rattle. This is when you set your timer for the actual food processing time.
11. Now comes the part of the process that takes a little practice, but it’s not difficult. You want to hear a jiggle from the weighted gauge around 1-4 times per minute. This tells you that the pressure is staying at the correct level. You DO NOT want the gauge to constantly jiggle through-out the timed period– this would indicate that the pressure in the canner is too high.
I usually end up standing by the stove for a while and counting. Too many jiggles? Reduce the heat. Not enough jiggles? Increase the heat.
I’ve found that if I keep my burner at low, it’s just about perfect. (I have a gas stove that burns pretty hot…)
Once you get your jiggles regulated, you don’t have to stand there and stare at the canner the entire time. Feel free to clean up the kitchen or check your email, or whatever. Just try not to leave the canner completely unattended. (i.e. don’t go outside to the barn and forget that you are canning!)
12. When the processing time is complete, turn off the burner. Do not move the canner– just allow it to cool down on it’s own. (This will take a while.) Now it’s safe to run outside to do barn chores or whatever else you may need to do.
13. Once the dial gauge reads zero, it’s safe to slowly remove the weighted gauge. Use your oven mitt again, as it’s still usually pretty hot.
14. As long as the pressure in the canner is at zero and the weighted gauge is removed, you are safe to remove the lid. Just make sure to crack it away from your face so you don’t end up with a nasty steam burn.
15. Remove the jars of food and allow to cool completely. Just like water bath canning, you’ll usually hear the “pop!” of the sealing lids fairly quickly.
16. After the canner cools completely, give it a gentle wash and dry thoroughly. If you haven’t oiled it in a while, apply a thin film of olive oil to the metal-to-metal seal.
That’s it! Can you believe it? You just completed your first pressure canning adventure! It wasn’t as scary as you thought, huh?
Have questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
I am not affiliate with All-American pressure canners in any way.