Pressure Canning: Beginner's Guide and Recipes (2024)

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Welcome to our Pressure Canning Guide for Beginners! When you preserve your harvest or farmers’ market haul through canning, you maintain the flavor of garden-fresh food at its peak—to store and savorall-year long.Here is our step-by-step guide on how to use apressure canner safely—and which foods can and cannot be pressure canned. Let’s getstarted!

What is PressureCanning?

Pressure canning (not to be confused with pressure cooking!) uses special equipment to process food at a higher temperature to prevent spoilage. It is necessary to use pressure canning to preserve“low acid” vegetables and foods.(“High acid” foods such a pickling cucumbersand tomatoes and berries and fruit can simply be preserved with water-bath canning.) We’ll talk more about this in amoment.

You do need to invest in a canner (many are about $100), but you can use the same pot for water-bath preserving, too. While it may seem intimidating, it’s like most things. Once you’ve done it a couple times, it’s no more difficult than regular canning. That said, if you’ve never tried canning, we usually recommend to first trywater-bath canningto make jam or pickles or tomatosauce.


  • Water-Bath Canning: Beginner’s Guide

  • Canning for Beginners: How to Can Food at Home

  • How to Can Tomato Sauce: Recipe and Tips

Pressure canning is definitely a “project” but worthwhile for those who have an abundance of fruit and vegetables from the garden or farmers’ market. Why trycanning?

  • Maybe you’ve inherited your mother’s pressure canner and three shelves of glass canning jars? Or, you inherited some canning equipment or bought it at a garagesale?
  • Perhaps you doubled the size of your vegetable garden this year? Or, you increased your community-supported agriculture (CSA) share to includebulkpurchases?
  • Or, you’re ready tomove beyond quick refrigerator jams and pickles to preserve the bounty for a fullyear!
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Which Food Needs to Be PressureCanned

The acidity (pH) of foods determines how they must be processed for canning. We don’t expect you to know your food’s pH! But the amount of acid is all it comes down to. Acid foods such as berries and pickles with a pH of 4.6 or lower may be canned in a water bath canner. Low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats with a pH above 4.6 must be processed in a pressurecanner.

Why? Pressure canning is the only safe way to preserve“low-acid” foods to eliminate the harmful bacteria Clostridium botulinum—the cause of a deadlyillness, botulism. Foods include low-acid vegetables, chicken, meats, seafood, soups, stock, and stews—all easy to preserve.Specifically:

  • Vegetables that are low-acid include:Artichokes, asparagus, green beans, lima beans, carrots, corn, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas,potatoes, pumpkin and wintersquash.
  • Fruits that are low-acid include: Cantaloupe and watermelon. (All other fruit is high-acid, includingberries and cherries, grapes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, andplums.)
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But grandma did it this way…

Many of our grandmas (including our own) only used awater-bath canner in which jars sat covered with boiling water. This method is still fine for “high-acid” foods, including most tomato products, jams, jellies, and vinegar pickles, because the acids in these products prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in sealed jars. See how to water-bath can.

However, many of our great-grandmas also canned low-acid products like corn, beans, and chicken the water bath way, letting the kettle boil away for 2 or 3 hours. But by the late 1920s, scientists had identified strains of the C. botulinum bacteria whose spores could survive hours of boiling. This is why low-acid foods are best when canned in a pressure cooker, where trapped steam increases the pressure inside the cooker and raises the temperature to 240°F (116°C) for an established processing time, well above the boiling temperature of 212°F(100°C).

For more, take a look at the fascinating history of USDA home canning recommendations.

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What to Love About PressureCanning

  • You can preserve a wide variety of homegrown or locally produced vegetables, poultry, meats, and evenseafood.
  • You can take advantage of good buys on bulk produce, meats, orchicken.
  • You can stock your shelves with home-canned convenience foods: beans, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, chilis, soups, broths, and squash or pumpkin forpies.
  • Your canned products will not spoil during extended power outages or a freezermalfunction.
  • Modern glass canning jars will last many years if properly cared for, so by saving your jars for reuse, you will lighten your trashload.
  • Bragging rights. There’s nothing quite like showing off those pantry shelves groaning with dozens, maybe hundreds, of jars of home-cannedgoodies.

Pressure CanningSupplies

What supplies do you need to get started? Here are the tools of thetrade:

  • You need a pressure canner (NOT a pressure cooker). A pressure canner may cost $100 to $500, depending on size andquality.
  • Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using caution whencanning in electric pressure cookers or regular pressure cookers, and does not recommend canning in small pressure cookers or using cooking times that are meant for pressurecanners.

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  • You need canning jars, bands, and lids: Quart-size jars cost around $1 each, and single-use lids are about $3 to $4 a dozen. While you can reuse canning jars and bands, you must not reuse lids; pick up a newpack.

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  • It helps to have somecanning accessories: ladle, wide-mouth canning funnel, jar lifter, lots of clean kitchen towels, and potholders. Also helpful: a digital timer and a magneticlid-lifter.
  • You need a traditional stove with coil heating units or a gas stove. A smooth-top stove may not be safe or practical. Check with your stove manufacturer whether your model will support boiling water bath canning or pressurecanning.
  • You need time. Preparation, processing, and cooling down a single canner full of jars (4 to 20 quarts) may take 3 to 4 hours or more. When you have a bounty of fresh vegetables, meat, or poultry that’s ready to process, you will need to preserve it immediately for maximum flavor and nutritionalvalue.
  • You need countertops and cutting boards for preparing the food, setting up your clean, empty jars, and allowing your jars of finished products to coolovernight.
  • You need shelf space for storing your cannedfood.

A Canner’sCaveat

I’ve canned for decades, enjoy it, and recommend it. It brings great pleasure, but it’s a knowledge-based practice. You can’t really learn on the fly; it’s not like making a batch of blackberry jam or freezing a big bag of green beans. Ideally, you should do your research and collect your supplies in the year before you actuallybegin.

The bottom line: You probably don’t want to invest in the equipment and time involved with low-acid canning unless you plan to process a lot of food eachyear.

9 Tips For Preparing Delicious CannedFoods

  1. Familiarize yourself with all the instructions that came with your pressure canner. If you do not have them, find the manufacturer’s instructions for that model online or contact the manufacturer forhelp.
  2. If your canner has a dial gauge, have it checked every year to ensure its accuracy. To find out where to get it tested, check your state or county’s Cooperative Extension website or call your local Extension office. Or contact your canner manufacturerdirectly.
  3. Plan to use new or relatively new Mason-style jars in sizes appropriate for your product. Save old-fashioned jars with wire bails and glass lids, ornamental glass storage jars, or recycled pickle and peanut butter jars for otherthings.
  4. Wash your jars in the dishwasher but process your canned goods only on a stovetop. It is absolutely not safe to can anything in a dishwasher, oven, ormicrowave.
  5. Do not alter the proportions of ingredients and do not add thickeners or other ingredients not specified in the tested recipe that you areusing.
  6. Follow the instructions for filling the jars; leave just the right amount of headspace and resist the temptation to overfill to get that last little bit into the jar. The specified head space allows room for the food inside to expand while heated and not interfere with the lid’s seal, creating a strong vacuum as the jar coolsdown.
  7. Abide by the recommended times for venting and cooling the canner. Waiting the full time is essential to ensure both the safety of your finished product and your physical safety (e.g., from steamburns).
  8. For best flavor and nutritional value, eat what you’ve preserved within a year orso.
  9. Can only the foods that you know you and your family will eat and enjoy—and you will enjoy the experience from beginning to lastbite!

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Pressure Canning: Step-by-StepGuide

Before you get started,prepare your low-acid preserving recipe. Here are safe pressure canning recipes!

  1. Gather materials. Ensure all canning jars are clean by washing in hot, soapy water and rinsing well and air drying. Make sure all jars, lids, and bands fit properly. There shouldn’t be any nicks or cracks on the jar’srim.
  2. Pre-heat jars. Place jars in a large pot with enough hot water to cover the jars with water. Add lid. Bring water to a simmer (180°F) for 10minutes.
  3. Set-up your pressure canner with the rack and 2-3 inches of water brought to a simmer and kept simmering until ready to fill withjars.
  4. The lids sold today do not need to be placed in simmering hot water to activate the sealing compound before placing on the jars.
  5. Follow one of our low-acid, pressure-canning recipes when preparing your produce. Fill each jar with the prepared food and liquid needed, using a ladle andfunnel.
  6. Release any trapped air bubbles using a rubber spatula or a plastic canning wand between the jar and food to release trapped air. Leave appropriate headspace (1/4”, ½”, or 1” per recipedirections).
  7. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp cloth and remove any foodresidue.
  8. Put the lid on each jar, apply the screw band and tightened only finger tight. Using the jar lifter, put the jars on the rack in the pressure canner with 2 – 3 inches of simmering water. Don’t allow the jars to touch eachother.
  9. Process the jars: Lock the canner lid in place, leaving vent pipe open. Adjust heat to medium-high to get steam flowing through the vent pipe. Allow steam to escape through vent pipe for 10 minutes or until steam forms a constant flow to ensure there is no air (only steam) left in the canner. Close vent using weight or method described for your canner. Monitor and adjust heat to achieve the recommendedpressure.
  10. Maintain the recommended pressure for the time indicated in the recipe, adjusting for altitude (see altitude chart). Turn off heat. Let canner stand undisturbed (do not remove the weighted gauge) until pressure returns to zero. Wait 10 minutes, remove weight and unlock the lid, tilting away from yourself. Allow jars to cool for an additional 10minutes.
  11. Remove jars from the pressure canner using a jar lifter and set upright on a towel. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24hours.
  12. Remove the screw bands and inspect lids for seals. There should be no flex when you gently press the center of each lid. If the lid flexes, gently try lifting the lid at the rim with your nail. Properly sealed lids will remain attached. If a lid fails to seal within 24 hours, immediately refrigerate theproduct.

Want to try other types of preserving? See the easier method, water-bath canning, for canning tomatoes andjams.

More CanningInformation

Safe, successful canning requires comprehensive, easy-to-follow recipes, informed by the latest scientific research and updated as new research becomes available. Consider these your trusted resources and follow their recommendations and tested recipes to theletter:

  • Start with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Home Canning Guides. Read Guide 1: Principles of Home Canning thoroughly. See the useful glossary beginning on page 33. Guide4 and Guide 5 contain information and recipes for preserving low-acid vegetables, poultry, meats,andseafoods.
  • The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers everything you need to know about canning low-acid foods. Each link expands to reveal a wealthofinformation.
  • Cooperative Extension Service offices in each state offer home-canning information in a variety of formats: guidebooks and fact sheets, telephone hotlines, how-to videos, and in-person classes. Check your closest Extension office to find what they offer near you. Some state Extension programs offer Master Food Preserver training for personal mastery of safe home preservation skills and training as volunteers for judging at county fairs, state fairs, providing information on how to safely preserve at health fairs, and communitygardens.
  • The Ball Corporation website has a wonderful section on low-acid pressure canning, including a useful troubleshooting (problem-solving)chart.
  • Booklets that you can order and then put on a kitchen shelf to consult while working include the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (37th edition), andthe University of Georgia’s So Easy to Preserve (this one also comes in a video version).
  • For high-altitude canners, please reference this chart.

What’s your favorite food to can? Let us know in the commentsbelow!

The Almanac Canning Guide was updated and fact-checked as of July 2020, by Christina Ferroli, PhD, RDN, FAND. If interested in nutrition counseling and education practice to make healthier choices—or, simply stay up-to-date on the latest food, nutrition, and health topics—visit Christina’s Facebook page here.

Pressure Canning: Beginner's Guide and Recipes (2024)
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