When you decide to become a homesteader and transform your home into a unit of production, you make more of your food from scratch and preserve fresh, local, and homegrown food for wintertime eating. But you also catch a disease that forces you to start collecting various cookware and kitchen gadgets that assist in making stuff in bulk and/or saving you time.
Appliances that do more than one thing are really appealing, since storage space can fill up quickly in most kitchens. Looking around my kitchen I see a blender that does lots of cool stuff, a 7-cup food processor, 7-quart crock pot, 6-quart salad spinner, 20-quart stock pot, and the star of today’s show… the 23-quart pressure canner, to name my favorites. One might be tempted, then, to exclaim that homesteaders are also consumers in disguise! This is true, but I prefer to purchase items that are going to be useful and get a lot of use. I use all of the aforementioned appliances at least once a week. They would be a waste of my money and the earth’s resources if they were going to just sit on a shelf. My advice is not to buy these things until you really start getting going with your kitchen homesteading. Experience a couple of times of making a recipe that you love, and feeling frustrated because you didn’t have the right equipment. Make absolutely sure that nothing else you already have will do the trick before shelling out hard-earned cash. And perhaps even more importantly, put your money towards debt and pick a different recipe!
That said, more and more people are becoming interested in canning. The term is a little confusing since we’re not actually using cans, but jars! This is why nowadays some are referring to it as ‘jarring’. Whatever you call it, many people are afraid of canning because of the notorious botulism. In fact, I was too scared to try it alone when I first got my canner, and made Vince try it with me. Having a buddy makes it way more fun, but isn’t essential.
Truth is that canning is just the simple act of following a recipe. If you follow recipes frequently from start to finish successfully, then you can practice canning! Botulism is a serious illness caused by improperly canned foods. It is rare, and usually shows up because someone decided to practice canning without following a recipe. Don’t make recipes up, and you’ll be just fine!
Without further ado, let’s talk about why – if you’re interested in canning – you need to purchase the versatile kitchen appliance known as a pressure canner.
- Can anything. Water bath canners are restricted to canning only high-acid foods such as salsas and pickles. Pressure canners are used for canning low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and soups. Fruits and tomatoes can be processed using either method. But since a pressure canner can double as a water bath canner, you get all the benefits with one appliance.
Processing time is shorter. Tomatoes are a good example. In a water bath canner, processing time is 40 minutes, while in the pressure canner, processing time is 15 minutes. It is also said that because the processing time at high heat is shorter, more vitamins are retained in the final product. I can’t support or deny this claim, but it sounds good!
- Processing temperatures are more accurate. For the beginner who is worried about following the procedure correctly for safety, there is no guesswork with the pressure canner. The external pressure gauge guarantees the internal pressure, and thereby, the temperature. The pressure canner processes at much higher temperatures (240 degrees F compared to the 212 degrees F of the water bath canner), which ensures destruction of harmful bacteria.
- Pressure Cooking reduces cooking time by a minimum of two thirds. This versatile appliance can be used as a pressure cooker, in addition to being a pressure canner! Make beef back ribs, braised kale and carrots, or a big pot of beans in lickety-split time. Cooking black beans the regular way in a pot on the stove will take around 2 hours (8 hours in the slow cooker). Or you can pressure cook them in just 2 minutes!
- Save Energy. Shorter processing and cooking times mean less fossil fuel energy used, which means cost savings for you and less carbon emissions for the planet.
It’s so easy. I admit that I was drawn into canning because of the delicious jams and tomato sauce. What I realized is that processing fruits and tomatoes is really high-maintenance. Preparing them for processing is a multi-step, messy process. Basic tomato sauce starts out by coring, chopping, crushing, and boiling tomatoes; working them through a food mill to remove skins and seeds, and then returning to a boil prior to canning. In a boiling water bath canner, tomatoes process for 40 minutes. Compare that to pressure canning green beans: fill jars with 2-inch long green bean pieces, cover with boiling water, and pressure can-process for 20 minutes. Voila!
What say you? Do you have a pressure canner? Have you used it as a pressure cooker?