Our First Experience With a Pressure Canner

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Even before we purchased our acreage, it has always been my dream to have a huge garden and stock the pantry with everything we grew.  I have been water bath canning for a few years and have always had good success with it.  I knew though that if I wanted to can vegetables, I’d have to graduate to a pressure canner and truth be told, I find them to be very intimidating.   With the pressure gauge, the dial, and the bolts the mechanism looks to me like stockpot meets Frankenstein.

Our Canner
We have named her ~ Christina

Not to mention the fact that all those dials and gauges have to be carefully monitored lest one blows up one’s kitchen: something I was sure would happen on our first attempt.

Knowing though that there was no way to (safely) can without the help of a pressure canner, husbie and I decided to bite the bullet and initiate ourselves to the process of pressure canning.  We chose a Saturday afternoon when he would be free to help me with any lifting, or at the very least, to just be available for moral support.

Now, I have always been very ambitious and have a tendency to plunge into learning new skills starting at the advanced level instead of working my way up from beginner.  This was no exception.  Rather than choose something very simple such as… say…green beans; I decided I wanted my first attempt to be a canned roast and carrots.  Go ahead and laugh.  It’s funny.

So I set to work.  I cubed about 5 pounds of locally raised grass fed chuck roast I had purchased on sale, chopped up about 8 cups of carrots I had on hand, and coarsely chopped about 3 cups of onions.

Everything chopped and ready to go in the stock pot.

Now, I really wanted this to be canned in a gravy; but upon researching recipes I learned that gravies are too thick for the heat to evenly permeate the mixture and are therefore not recommended.  So I decided instead to just use beef broth and thicken the sauce to a gravy when we serve it.  I browned the beef in a stock pot, added the vegetables, covered with the broth, and brought it to a boil.

It was about this point that I learned canning is not the sort of thing that an obsessive compulsive type can really enjoy.  There was the whole bit about the jars.  “Mixture must be ladled into hot jars.”  Well, ok.  How hot?  Hot as in warm to the touch?  Hot as in melt a laminate countertop? HOW HOT?? I remembered my grandma loading her jars into a warm oven and decided to go that route, hoping all would be well.

Beef stew ready to go into the “hot” jars.

I ladled the mixture into the “hot” jars, wiped the lids, and proceeded to seal them.  The directions said to seal them tight (HOW TIGHT??) and put them into the pressure cooker that had been filled with 3 inches of water. (I know it was three because I got out a ruler and measured).

Filling the jars. Because I have limited counter space, I filled them in the sink.

Screwing the lids on the jars.

Setting the filled jars into the pressure canner loaded with 3″ of water *exactly*.

Bingley and Lydia waiting expectantly for the scraps that fall on the floor.

The big moment had arrived.  I locked the dogs (who love to be in the kitchen and eat off the floor as I cook ~ I make such a mess…) in their little room so they wouldn’t get underfoot  and took a deep breath.

Husbie and I placed the lid on the cooker and, as directed, screwed down the lid working the knobs directly opposite each other.  I did one side, husbie did the other.  Then we turned on the stove and waited.   Our manual said to place the petcock after releasing steam for seven minutes.

Screwing down the lid. Husbie did help, when he wasn’t taking photos. Did you know that little do-dad is called a petcock? I didn’t either.

Me (squinting at the vent): “Do you see that?  Is that….is that steam?”

Husbie: Not sure.

Me: THAT! That, is that steam?

Husbie (squinting at the vent from the other side): “I think so…”

Me: “So ~ do we start timing seven minutes now?  Is that enough steam?

Husbie: “Yyyyyyeah…yeah. Set the timer now. I think.”

Me: “What happens if I’m wrong and we don’t let off enough steam?”

Seven minutes later we set the petcock.  Directions said that we start timing the process after the first “jiggle” and keep the heat at a temperature to where it jiggles 1-4 times per minute.  Husbie and I stood about one foot away from the stove, hands on knees, squinting at the pressure gauge and the petcock.

Me: “Do you see that?  Was that….was that a jiggle?”

Husbie: “Hard to tell…”

::hiss,spit,spit,hiss,…..::

Me: THAT! That, is that a jiggle?

Husbie: (constulting instruction manual)

::hiss,spit,spit,hiss,…..::

Me and Husbie: “IT JIGGLED!!”

We set the timer.  And I began to calculate.  “One to four jiggles per minute…four jiggles into 60 seconds per minute…that means one jiggle every 15 seconds….THERE!  It jiggled again. ONEmissisippiTWOmissisippiTHREE…”

I watched that pot and that gauge like a hawk.  I didn’t leave it for a minute.  I didn’t even look at Facebook. I did relax enough at some point that husbie felt he could go for a run.  And…ninety minutes at ten pounds of pressure later…I lifted out seven quarts of canned roast and carrots.

The moment of truth…

Canned roast is not quite as pretty as canned jam or canned peaches but it is a meal in a jar.  One less meal I will have to cook when we get busy with our move and our garden, and they all sealed.

Canned chuck roast and carrots. Ta-da!

In spite of the experience being so nerve-wracking for my obsessive compulsive self, I’ve decided to try again shooting for one canning project per weekend.  I figure the more I do it, the more I will get used to it.

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Comments

Our First Experience With a Pressure Canner — 36 Comments

  1. I am an obsessive, compulsive kind of gal too & I have been thinking about buying a pressure canning pot. I was right there with you…I could see my hubby and I being exactly the same way! Congratulations on your first attempt. I may need a little encouragement when it’s my turn. :-D

    • I’ve done about five projects since I wrote this post and it does get easier each time. I got my canner through Lehman’s and it is pretty sturdy.

    • I love to cook and I love to fuss when I cook but when you bring in certain things like a pressure cooker, candy thermometer, etc. I just get stressed. :? I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds the process intimidating at first.

  2. LOL!! MY first experience with a pressure canner, I hid under the table as the top blew off and stew rained down! I have to admit I was only 3 yrs. old at the time, but it definitely made an impression. lol I have canned vegetables (no meats, not THAT brave) with a pressure canner since becoming an adult, but that first time, I still get paranoid…
    Loved reading about your first experience!!

    • Did you purchase yours through Lehman’s as well? The stew turned out pretty good. I was skeptical because I’ve had canned meat before but it was nice. :) It will work fine as a homemade convenience food.

  3. I have been canning for sometime now, but when I saw your canner, I think I would run the other direction completely. I also agree, your stew looks wonderful

  4. Thank you Terri. :) I have done a few more projects with it but I still sort of feel a bit overwhelmed when I take it out of the box. She is big and she is heavy.

  5. I loved this post. I had to have my mom come down to Arkansas from Wisconsin to “help” me the first time I canned something. Beans by the way. I would have been even more of a nervous wreck without her. I am so glad she came and then we moved onto canning meat. How great to have that in the pantry and not have to worry about the freezer not working. I want to do some beef stew also, yours looked beautiful.

    • We had a power outage a few years ago that lasted for about four days. I lost the entire contents of my freezer which prompted me to look into canning meat. Plus it is so quick to just heat something from a jar rather than wait for it to thaw. We’ve tried the stew since and it does taste pretty good.

  6. Your canned roast and carrots look amazing! I am fortunate to be married to a commercial hvac expert and he is so comfortable with all that :pressure canning” but on the bad side I have never gotten 100% comfortable I think you will find a lot of us that have dabbled but are not completely sold on it but then when you see the evidence of your beautiful product I am scratching my head like why am I hesitant? My husband does can our meat at our homestead. I am so thankful for him. Also years ago we found a pressure canner very close in size to yours for $2.00 at an auction never used with the receipt still in the box people just were not into it then……it still works great and my husband calibrates it. Great post! Thank you so much for your encouragement and linking up to “The Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post’ monthly blog hop!

  7. We have this canner – the 921 model. It is awesome although it did take some getting used to. Most of my canning projects are successful and the pleasure of seeing my shelves stocked with home-grown, home-cooked food is worth any amount of first-time nerves. Blessings to you and your family.

  8. Loved this post, Jenny. Sooo funny. Sounds like me. I’m much more relaxed now. I used to can a lot of meat when my older two boys lived at home and brought home one deer after another all hunting season. Now, we have very little meat to can. But I love to have readymade meals. It makes the homesteading life so much easier.

  9. Thank you, thank you for this post! I think I could try pressure canning now. I know that’s the next step in preserving for me, but I’ve been very hesitant. Even the comments helped–my husband teaches HVAC, and I hadn’t even thought about the expertise he could bring to the project. I’m impressed that you started with beef stew (it looks great), but after that you must think canning plain old beans a cinch! My mother still uses the pressure canner she bought new in the 1940′s, she’s just changed the gasket and had it tested a few times, and it still works great, so maybe you, too, have purchased a “working heirloom”. Thanks again. Wonderful post.

    • Meredith I purchased mine from Lehman’s and have used it several times since. I have been very happy with it. I will admit I still get a little nervous doing *any* sort of canning but the more I do it the easier it gets. It is very rewarding to have a full pantry of your own canned food. :)

  10. I had to chuckle at your preciseness (is that a word?!). I am the same way. My brain is very literal. :D
    I’ve been too scared to try to can food for our family. I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong and poison someone! Seriously!
    I love the idea of putting up food though. I just love the look of canning jars filled with food. And on the healthier note of things, I’d love to make some jam/preserves for our family. Much healthier than store bought for sure!

    Have a blessed day,
    Janet

    • Water bath canning required for jam isn’t as intimidating as pressure canning. I was nervous about it for some time and still get anxious when I start a project. One thing that has comforted me is to remember that canning has been around for generations and botulism poisoning is very rare. If you follow the directions you should be ok. All the same that didn’t stop me from tossing what was most likely a very good jar of chili one day because the seal didn’t seem quite right. :?

  11. I really enjoyed this post. I’m really working on more shelf stable “convenience” and a pressure canner is a must! I was very nervous at first also. But now I just wait for the jiggle, set the timer and heat and go do something else. lol This year I’ve canned lots of broth, chili, spaghetti sauce, beans, green beans, corn, pumpkin, and my next project is beef stew and then split pea soup. Year round canning! (I also dehydrate a lot of my garden veggies)
    Jenny, your beef and carrots looks great! I hope you share more experiences. Teri

    • We just finished up all of our homemade canned chili. Making and canning some more is on my to do list for this month. That was a wonderful thing to have on hand because it was a little more substantial than just a bowl of soup. I’m anxious to hear about your split pea soup as that is one thing that I have wanted to try. We just purchased a dehydrator a few weeks ago and I’ve started using that as well.

      • Jenny, today I made my split pea soup. 16 1/2 pts. It turned out great! I used the recipe in my Ball Blue Book (tripled it), added celery along with the carrots and onions and used my homemade turkey broth for some of the liquid. Also, I didn’t add allspice. We had a little leftover so that was dinner tonight. I’m excited to hear about your dehydrating! Teri

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