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Pressure canning terrifies me- Change my mind!

 
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I have experience water bath canning to make fruit sauces, jams, and jellies. My sole experience with pressure canning was helping my dad can a tuna he had caught after going in a special fishing trip. It made me nervous at first but after we safely ate the delicious time one or two times, I was fine with it and we are it for two years. Had a hard time buying tuna from the store after that.

That tuna was a one time event. Really what I have a lot of is garden produce. But thinking of canning garden produce scares me because of botulism. Also it would be wonderful to be able to save my veggies by canning because, although I have huge freezer, I also have a huge amount of kids and a full freezer is emptied after a couple of weeks. But again I'm totally terrified of messing up all that food after all that work.

So change my mind please. Why should I LOVE pressure canning and learn to do it? And how can I get over my fears?
 
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I grew up using a pressure cooker so pressure canning is a little more difficult to grasp though it is just following steps.

The reason we pressure can is that it might be safer than water bath canning.

I have never been concerned about botulism.  I have never known anyone that had it. Here is what the CDC says:

Follow these steps to protect yourself and others from botulism:

   Always use proper canning techniques and the right equipment for the kind of foods you’re canning.
   If you have any doubt about whether a home-canned food was canned properly, throw it out!
   Also throw out home-canned and store-bought food that has signs of contamination. Never taste food to see if it’s safe!



https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/home-canning-and-botulism.html
 
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When I first starting pressure canning I read a lot of blog posts on people recounting problems they've had. All of them failed to follow the instructions. As long as you do all the necessary steps and don't try to shortcut anything you should be fine. I love my pressure canner. Although I have to say I usually use it for meat based things. I do can green beans but other than that it's spaghetti sauce, chicken stock etc.
 
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I love pressure canning but I also remember being terrified the first time I did it. I think that's only natural and of course, people love to tell you "how dangerous it is" which just increases the anxiety.

I can guarantee you that as long as you follow the instructions that came with your pressure canner for operating the canner and follow current safety guidelines for canning food, there is zero risk of botulism or the canner blowing up.

Be sure to read the guide that come with the canner and follow the directions for filling it with water, venting it, maintaining the correct pressure. The USDA has a great website, National Center for Home Food Preservation, with current recommended preparation and times for foods that can be pressure canned.

I would recommend that you double check anything you find online against that site - there are plenty of recommendations for tweaking lab tested recipes and even canning your own recipes - you just need to make sure that the recipes you find
online follow those guidelines.

One of the reasons I love pressure canning is that it's the best way to keep shelf stable "real" food for my family. I can only serve so many jams, jellies, and pickles (water bath canned) but with a pressure canner I can have vegetables, meats, soups and meals in a jar. For me it's much more than just preserving the harvest, it's also about emergency prep and saving money (not just big emergencies like storms but also small emergencies like illness or just having a really tough day and I'm tempted to get take-out). I can also take a meal to someone in need with very little advanced notice. So, if those things are important to you, then I think you will love pressure canning.
 
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I grew up with pursuer canning. That said, if you are very uncomfortable with pressure canning, why do it?
 
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John F Dean wrote:I grew up with pursuer canning. That said, if you are very uncomfortable with pressure canning, why do it?

Because like any other skill, it takes time, education and practice to get efficient and comfortable with a new "sport". Why learn something new? Because if you're starting with home-grown, quality ingredients, the results are miles better than what's available in the store!

Jenny, do you have access to a pressure canner? One approach might be to find someone local who is comfortable with doing it and team up to do some together? If there's something you tend to get a bumper crop of (home canned apple pie filling anyone?), you might be able to use word of mouth or a free-cycle ad to get someone to come and help in return for taking some home for personal use or Birthday gifts!
 
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The easiest answer is it's been done for decades and granted, there will always be a few newsworthy fails, the great majority have used this method to preserve food safely and efficiently. Finding someone locally that can walk you through it would be best, YouTube and books would follow. Botulism truly isn't something to play around with but if you as mentioned previously, read the instructions, get experienced assistance, you can join the crowd and maybe even someday help someone else who's hesitant. Best of success!
 
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Hi Jenny.  We eat between 1 and 2 quarts of home canned food a day here.  Both my wife and I were raised canning almost everything.  We can beef, venison, carrots, beets, green beans, apple sauce, grape juice and tomatoes.  We freeze thing like pees and asparagus.  One thing we were taught to never can is potatoes. The PH in potatoes is too high and makes them more susceptible to botulism. We keep potatoes, garlic and onions in milk crates in the root cellar.  We only water bath, peppers, relishes, and rhubarb.

We have found an abundance of canning equipment at yard sales for reasonable costs.  We use a canning book that was my mother-in-laws.  I have seen many high quality canning books for a couple bucks at yard sales.  

Maple syrup and sorghum molasses is brought to a temperature that is high enough to remove most of the water so botulism can not grow.  With hanging hams the water is removed by salt and then smoked.

I hope you start canning.  It is our favorite way for long term storage.
 
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You should love it because it's not dependent on electricity for its long term well being. I had a full freezer on 2 different occasions when someone unplugged it to use the outlet ... and didn't plug it back in. Everything ruined! I've gone to canning and dehydrating for essentially everything. BTW - I have a nice big pressure canner if you want to try it out next year.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Christopher Shepherd - I have never heard not to can potatoes. It's in the Ball book of canning as okay. I have regularly canned tiny red or gold potatoes without any trouble. I like to can them so they are ready for hash. Apple sauce and tomatoes can be water bath canned if you check acidity.
 
Jenny Wright
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Carmen Rose wrote:You should love it because it's not dependent on electricity for its long term well being. I had a full freezer on 2 different occasions when someone unplugged it to use the outlet ... and didn't plug it back in. Everything ruined! I've gone to canning and dehydrating for essentially everything. BTW - I have a nice big pressure canner if you want to try it out next year.


Hi Carmen ☺️ Thanks, that would be nice to try out. My dad had one but I think he got rid of it a couple of years ago when they moved.

I am always afraid we will lose our freezer stuff with a long power outage but luckily we've never had one last longer than 4 hours. Sometimes I feel like we are just tempting fate!
 
Jenny Wright
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:Hi Jenny.  We eat between 1 and 2 quarts of home canned food a day here.  Both my wife and I were raised canning almost everything.  We can beef, venison, carrots, beets, green beans, apple sauce, grape juice and tomatoes.  We freeze thing like pees and asparagus.  One thing we were taught to never can is potatoes. The PH in potatoes is too high and makes them more susceptible to botulism. We keep potatoes, garlic and onions in milk crates in the root cellar.  We only water bath, peppers, relishes, and rhubarb.

We have found an abundance of canning equipment at yard sales for reasonable costs.  We use a canning book that was my mother-in-laws.  I have seen many high quality canning books for a couple bucks at yard sales.  

Maple syrup and sorghum molasses is brought to a temperature that is high enough to remove most of the water so botulism can not grow.  With hanging hams the water is removed by salt and then smoked.

I hope you start canning.  It is our favorite way for long term storage.



Hello Christopher! I will keep an eye out at garage sales. So canning syrup is a thing? I just assumed the sugar content keeps it safe but I just opened some elderberry syrup I was keeping in the fridge and found it was moldy. 😭 Maybe I'll have tremendous luck and have some sorghum syrup to need to preserve next fall. 🤞
 
Jenny Wright
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Rick Deckard wrote:The easiest answer is it's been done for decades and granted, there will always be a few newsworthy fails, the great majority have used this method to preserve food safely and efficiently. Finding someone locally that can walk you through it would be best, YouTube and books would follow. Botulism truly isn't something to play around with but if you as mentioned previously, read the instructions, get experienced assistance, you can join the crowd and maybe even someday help someone else who's hesitant. Best of success!


Your comment about finding someone locally brought to my remembrance that there is a local group that gets together and cans massive amounts of surplus foods to donate to charities. I had forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder. They would be the perfect people to learn from.
 
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I feel the same way. But reaching that 250 degree temperature (from what I understand) will kill botulism and botulism spores. Also if you're worried you can always add vinegar or some acidic liquid to deter botulism spores from hatching. Salt also deters botulism. And if you're still afraid of pressure canning, apparently no one has ever died or been ill from fermenting according to the USDA. Only one time when someone left clam chowder in a pot for two days or something that wasn't actually fermenting. The lactobacillus and other good bacteria compete with botulism and win due to their love of salt and acid.
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Christopher Shepherd - I have never heard not to can potatoes. It's in the Ball book of canning as okay. I have regularly canned tiny red or gold potatoes without any trouble. I like to can them so they are ready for hash. Apple sauce and tomatoes can be water bath canned if you check acidity.



It probably is just our family tradition.  Grandma said " don't can potatoes".  I wish she was still here to ask why.  She grew up in the depression and had certain things she passed on.  I always assumed it was from a bad experience. I agree with you and see no problem with canned potatoes as long as they are not just water bathed.

Jenny, sorry to confuse you.  I listed all the ways we keep our food, not just canning. We use clean jars for syrups. Maple syrup is boiled to 219 and then checked with a brix meter. Sorghum molasses is boiled to 229.  We just poor them in the jars hot and it seals the lid as it cools.  There is no way for botulism to grow, because the isn't enough water left in it.  
 
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:

It probably is just our family tradition.  Grandma said " don't can potatoes".  I wish she was still here to ask why.  She grew up in the depression and had certain things she passed on.  I always assumed it was from a bad experience. I agree with you and see no problem with canned potatoes as long as they are not just water bathed.


Makes me wonder if she just didn't like them that way and felt it spoiled a perfectly good potato. ;) Like the story about the family that for generations always cut each end off the ham only to find out that it was because it was too big for grandma's pan that she always cooked it in.

I am in the camp of pressure cooking scares me. I water bath can every year and know I need /want to get over it. Especially after reading this thread about everything you can can and knowing it's shelf stable. So much more reliable in a disaster than relying on electricity. But my mom taught me to water bath and she was scared of pressure canning because of mishaps with exploding canners (she wouldn't try an IP for the same reason) and it feels scary to learn it alone.  Maybe this book will help me get over that too!
 
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I wonder if my misgivings with canning anything and deviating from the USDA recipes are because I am confusing "following the correct canning procedure" with "following their recipes"?

I have grown some oka for instance which it would be nice to can, but is perhaps too unusual to be included in USDA recipes but can I still can it following their advice?
 
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jason holdstock wrote:I wonder if my misgivings with canning anything and deviating from the USDA recipes are because I am confusing "following the correct canning procedure" with "following their recipes"?

I have grown some oka for instance which it would be nice to can, but is perhaps too unusual to be included in USDA recipes but can I still can it following their advice?



The USDA actually has guidelines for tweaking approved recipes to make them more of what your family likes. I know many people say that you should only use approved recipes but that's not exactly what the USDA says. They even have guidelines for canning your own homemade soup recipe. Some of the approved things you can do to tweak approved recipes are... adding dried herbs to the jar (be careful with sage as it might get bitter), adding  a garlic clove to the jar, changing the acid to a different 5% acid (using bottled lime juice instead of vinegar in salsa for example), using broth instead of water...there are other guidelines for tweaks but these are the ones I most often use.

As far as okra goes, there are USDA guidelines for canning it by pickling (water bath canning) and plain (pressure canning). I also use it as an ingredient in my beef stew recipe if I'm canning it in late summer when I don't have green beans.

Hope this helps!
 
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Angi,
Are the 'tweaks' listed in your book?  Or is there an online source?  I took the Master Food Preserver course and over and over it was said 'Follow approved recipe' and yet they would say "dry herbs are okay" or "it doesn't matter which type of pepper you use".  When I asked how do I learn where there is wiggle room, they said there is no wiggle room, follow an approved recipe.  Being new to canning, I wish I had a better 'sense' of what works and what doesn't rather than only following a recipe.  For example, I'd like to can 'meals' but don't always have exactly what is in a recipe currently growing in our garden.
 
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carla murphy wrote:Angi,
Are the 'tweaks' listed in your book?  Or is there an online source?  I took the Master Food Preserver course and over and over it was said 'Follow approved recipe' and yet they would say "dry herbs are okay" or "it doesn't matter which type of pepper you use".  When I asked how do I learn where there is wiggle room, they said there is no wiggle room, follow an approved recipe.  Being new to canning, I wish I had a better 'sense' of what works and what doesn't rather than only following a recipe.  For example, I'd like to can 'meals' but don't always have exactly what is in a recipe currently growing in our garden.



This is exactly what drives me nuts....lol...Yes, the approved tweaks are listed in my book (at least all that I could find). I spent many hours scouring USDA resources (printed and online) looking for inconsistencies and tweaks that are approved (until you ask outright) to pull them into cohesive lists  (with sources cited). You can certainly find them them in the USDA's publications (printed and online) they are just scattered in various places.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I was always taught that as long as you process for the ingredient that require the most time you will be fine. For example, my spaghetti sauce recipe contains meat so I process that for the length of time required for meat, none of the vegetables require as much time. One year I processed mirepoix, I found a lot of conflicting information on that, but I didn't have any problems with it.
 
jason holdstock
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Oka not okra :)

Thank you for the reply :)
 
jason holdstock
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One slight confusion with the USDAs own guideline as a for instance is a cup of chopped onions.
How is that an absolute measure?
If they listed a weight that would give less room for wiggle, but I would think how many onions you could squeeze into a cup would depend on how you chop them as much as how tightly the bits nest before you put them in your cup?
Precisely vague :)

Edited to add I had read the cup quantity of uncertantyness is a frequent criticism of the USDA recipes, not my insight.
 
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