Safely using a pressure canner
Pressure canners have been used for decades to preserve low acid foods such as meat and fresh vegetables. The device creates steam under pressure, and the temperature inside reaches a minimum of 240-degrees. The high heat is then held for a specific amount of time to kill any bacteria that would cause food poisoning.
Kathy Riggs is a Family and Consumer Sciences professor at Utah State University. She says the processing time will vary depending on the food. But with meat for example, pint jars will generally take 75-minutes, and quarts are 90-minutes. She says it’s very important to keep a close watch during processing to make sure the pressure is maintained at the minimum level.
"If that gauge goes down below, say, the 12-pounds of pressure that’s recommended, then if it’s been more than just a few seconds, the recommendation is to bring it back up to the regular pressure and start the processing time over again," says Riggs.
If you’re not paying attention, see the pressure has dropped, and raise the temperature back up to start the processing time again, you may run out of water inside the canner. Riggs says this creates a couple of problems.
"You may have a very difficult time getting the lid off, number one. The heat will be on the bottom of the pan and can warp the bottom of the canner," says Riggs. "So, you just have to take it off, let it completely cool down, remove the lid, and then it’s best at that point to just empty the jars, put them into containers that can be frozen, or to cool the jars down and put them in the refrigerator and use them up within the next few days."
Be sure to check the accuracy of your gauges every year before using the canner. Most county extension offices can do that for you.
Learn more about using pressure canners from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
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