Way back in May, as a combination Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, and any other gift-receiving holiday you can think of, I got a pressure canner. And I’ve been waiting to use it. I knew that the first thing I wanted to can was homemade stock. I make a lot of stock, chicken especially, and I’d wanted the pressure canner especially so I could put the stock in jars and give us more room in the freezer.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, the pressure canner made its canning debut….
I get weird about certain things. First things. Like, back when I was single, whenever I moved to a new place (not that often, but often enough for it to become my “thing” to do), the first record (yeah, that dates me) I would play once I moved in was the soundtrack to Oliver!, and the first couple of foods I’d cook would be a simple roast chicken, and a batch of bread. Sounds. Smells. Important parts of creating my home, wherever it happened to be.
Anyway, with the canner.
First, before the canning, I had to make stock. We save bits and pieces of chicken (bones, wing tips, skin, etc) in the freezer until we have enough for a vat of stock. We do the same thing with beef. And the time had come to clear out all those bits and pieces and do something good with them.
I bought onions, carrots, and celery, and I was all set.
I browned all my chicken bits in one pot, in “shifts,” removing the browned pieces as I went along and adding the next round. Next I browned the cut up onion, carrots. Then I put everything back in the pot on top of the lovely browned bits and golden chicken fat, added enough water to cover everything, and lit the flame beneath. I brought the liquid to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and then let it bubble away for hours.
Oh, the smell! (I suppose I should say “oh, the aroma!” as that sounds a bit more pleasant.)
I followed the same procedure for the beef stock. Didn’t have as much to work with, trimmings-wise, so I ended up with less stock, but that’s okay. Every little bit helps.
After the stocks were “finished” – they smelled heavenly and tasted suitably chickeny and beefy – I removed all the bones and vegetables and bits of meat, strained the broth through a fine mesh strainer, and chilled it in the fridge overnight.
When it was time to do the canning, I took the pots of stock out, skimmed most of the fat off the top, and set the pots back on the stove to bring back up to a boil.
This is the beef stock. I know, it looks like a tiny bit of the arctic, with lots of icebergs floating around. Beef fat hardens when it chills, so you can just kind of break it apart and lift out the majority of the pieces. That’s the rest of the fat in the bowl off to the side.
And here she is – my All-American 921 Pressure Canner. Isn’t she pretty?
Okay, now pressure canning isn’t ALL that different from hot water bath canning, as far as preparation goes. Pressure canning just takes it all one step further by raising the temperature of the canned goods enough – beyond boiling - to kill things like botulism spores and their evil friends.
First of all, I need a bigger stove. I have four burners. The front left is my hot water canner, but I was using that to sterilize my canning jars. Behind it is a small pan with the canning lids, also sterilizing away in some simmering water. On the right – front burner has the chicken stock, back burner, the beef.
Because I need to do too many things at once.
Here’s another look at the canner, with the innards exposed. Those round metal pieces with the concentric indented circles and the holes are the racks. I only needed one – to place in the bottom of the canner – because I was planning to use mostly quart sized jars. If I was canning in all pint jars, I could use the second rack to add an additional layer of jars on top of the first ones. So cool! Maybe next time.
In the yellow packet? The Pressure Regulator Weight!
Here’s a closer look.
This little thing IS the pressure canner, in my mind. It’s what I see when I think back to times my mom cooked with a pressure cooker, and it’s also what I hear when I think back. The Pressure Regulator Weight is what sits on top of the steam vent and makes all the noise I associate with pressure cooking and canning.
More on that later.
Now, a few things about this particular brand of canner. It’s on the pricier side than some other brands, but it’s very heavy duty, the reviews I read were superlative, and it’s made in America. Wisconsin, to be a bit more specific.
It also doesn’t have a rubber gasket, which, in other pressure cookers/canners, helps create the tight seal between the lid and the pot. Instead, this canner is designed to seal with metal against metal, using 6 badass clamps to keep everything properly closed.
The only real preparation I had to make, then, was to rub a bit of olive oil around the angled rim of the pot, where it will connect with the lid. So simple.
I also made sure the steam valve wasn’t blocked. Below is the blurry image I took while I was trying to hold up the pot lid (which weighs 1,345 pounds) so I could (and so, by extension, the camera) peek through the little hole there.
It was clear.
Next I had to put one of the racks in the bottom of the pan and add water. You don’t need to fill the pot like you do with a water bath, because you’re working with steam and pressure. You just need enough water to last for the full processing time without boiling dry. That would be bad. I don’t know what would happen if all the water steamed away, but I imagine horrible things like glass shattering and lots of stock going to waste.
The directions said to use an inch and a half of water, so that’s what I did.
Next, I moved the big pot of simmering jars to the side and put the canner in its place (that’s where our biggest burner is) and started warming up that water.
Here’s my work table, which is basically my office desk in the kitchen. I’ve got the owner’s manual for the pressure canner open, and right next to it is my Ball’s Complete Book of Canning and Preserving, open to the page on chicken stock. I didn’t use their recipe, I was just following their guidelines for processing. The other book that’s open has nothing whatsoever to do with canning. I just live in chaos.
Okay, once the stock comes back to a boil, it’s time to get going. I ladled stock into my jars, leaving, as directed, a good inch of head space. This is so that as the liquid heats and expands during the processing, it has elbow room in the jar. If it didn’t…I’m thinking I’d be hearing the horrible sound of shattering.
In the picture below I’ve got 7 quart jars of stock. Two are beef, four are chicken, and one is about 2/3 beef and 1/3 chicken because I didn’t have enough beef for another full jar.
Time to pressurize!
Here are those seven jars. I still had more chicken stock left, but that would have to wait for another round of canning.
Here’s the canner, lid on, and clamps tightened. You have to tighten opposite clamps at the same time, so the canner seals evenly.
I know, the picture is ever-so-slightly tilting to the right. I must stand weird when I’m taking these pictures.
So the next thing to do is heat the water until it’s very, very hot – until a steady stream of steam is escaping from that little steam opening in the picture above.
Here’s a picture of the steam:
Doesn’t steam look like that where you are? Hm. Must be something in the water here.
Once you’ve got that steady stream of steam, it’s time to break out the Pressure Regulator Weight. Here’s a picture of it again, so you don’t have to scroll back up to look at it.
If you look at the surface, you can see the numbers 5, 10, and 15. These indicate how much pressure you’re using. The recipe you use will tell you which number to use. In the case of the chicken stock, I needed 10 lbs of pressure. There are little holes around the perimeter of the weight – not the ones you see in the picture, but on the sides (do you say “sides” when it’s circular and there are no corners to separate sides, or do you just say “side?”) and when you put the weight on the steam valve you use the hole just below the appropriate number.
So it looks like this:
The weight sits there and kind of blocks the steam, and when the pressure has built up inside the canner (and, as a result, the temperature has climbed past boiling as well) to the right amount/ temperature, the little weight will start to shake and jiggle, making that very familiar pressure cooker/canner sound.
Here’s a look at the temperature guage. The weight has been on for a little while, and the temperature is at about 228 F. Halfway there! You can see the corresponding pressure beneath the temperatures, too. So 10 lbs of pressure corresponds with 240 degrees F.
Okay, now, it’s time to share A Goofy Jayne Moment with you all.
I was watching the temperature climb higher and higher (slower than paint drying or watched pots of water boiling), waiting for that weight to move.
I was waiting, with the joyful anticipation of reliving a moment from childhood, for the weight to “jiggle and sputter” (direct quote from the owner’s manual), which would indicate that the correct temp/pressure had been reached.
So I’m waiting. Watching. Watching. Waiting.
And, finally – it happened!
And I yelled, loudly and excitedly, to no one in particular,
“IT’S JIGGLING AND SPUTTERING!”
And then I laughed hysterically at myself.
According to the manual, you only want the jiggling and sputtering to happen maybe one to four times per minute. This will let you know the temperature is staying where it needs to be and everything in the canner is processing correctly and safely.
So you have to play around a bit with the heat until you have the proper amount of jiggling and sputtering.
I processed the jars for half an hour, as directed, and then shut off the heat.
And then I had to wait some more, for the pressure to drop.
That went faster than the waiting-for-it-to-rise portion of our program.
Once the pressure had dropped to zero (and the temperature was down to only boiling), I removed the Pressure Regulator Weight (yes, I have to always capitalize it. I just do.) and unscrewed the clamps all around the sides of the lid.
And look! There they are! My jars of stock! All pressure canned!
Here’s another fun moment – as soon as I removed the canner lid, I started to hear those magical little “pop” sounds as the pressure inside the jars sucked the lids on nice and tight. Music to my ears.
Now, after all this, I also canned the rest of the chicken stock – 3 pints of it.
And I left all the jars in the pantry to cool overnight. Then I wrote “beef” or “chicken” or “beef and chicken,” as appropriate, on each of the lids, and that was it!
I figured I’d just write on the lids since they’re not reusable anyway. And then I don’t have to bother with cleaning off sticker residue later.
So anyway, that’s my inaugural pressure canning story.
I know you’ve been glued to your seat for the duration, so now’s probably a good time to stand up, stretch, maybe get a beverage and a snack, and carry on with your day.
I’ll be canning tomato sauce, and making bread and butter pickles.
What are you up to today?