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Mar 15, 2009 07:41 PM

Canning Low-Acid Gourmet Foods??

Hi everyone, after a few years of successful high acid canning I have made the investment in a pressure cooker and want to get into canning some of my favorite time-intensive low acid recipes (mole, curry pastes, etc.). Problem is, every thing I've read said you should only use tested, published recipes or risk contamination/bacteria. Does anyone know of a good way to either measure the ph level of the food to be canned and a reference chart for pressure/time based on that ph level, or an alternative so that I am not limited to only the recipes Ball and others have published.
Many thanks!

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  1. Do you mean a pressure cooker or pressure canner. I don't believe they are the same thing. There are very simple ways of testing pH levels--litmus paper. Ball does have good reference charts for timing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hankstramm

      Thanks Hankstramm, I meant a pressure canner. The reference charts I've seen on Ball's site are food-specific, not pH specific. Have you seen something that gives times based on pH level?

    2. Ph is not an issue in pressure canning. What is important is to get the temperature up to 240 degrees and keep it there for a specific time. Not sure what the time is, I think 12 minutes. This will kill the Clostridium botulinum.
      It is not enough to just get the temp up there, you have to make sure the innermost part of the jar has reached that temp before you start timing. Hence the need for proven recipes.
      The problems in doing this are
      1. The size of the jar. Obviously a large jar will take more time for the innermost parts of the food to reach the temp.
      2. The density of the food. Dense food takes more time to heat through.
      3. The heat conductivity of the food. This is why they recommend NOT thickening stews you are going to can.

      The best way to improvise is to find a recipe that has been proven and is similar to what you want to can. For instance, you want to can a pork stew but cannot find a recipe. Find a beef stew and use that. Or sub parsnips for carrots. Things that have similar density.
      Lastly, try the canned goods out on your neighbours before you eat it yourself :-)

      The University of Georgia has an excellent online course that anyone can take for free. I am Canadian and they let me take the course.

      1. Bileboy is correct. What matters is temperature, time and density. The times in the Ball Blue Book state 15 minutes for liquids and 60 minutes for small chunk food surrounded by liquid (and that is for pints -- add five minutes to each for quarts).

        The Dr. at my agricultural extension said that it costs a lot of money to have a lab test a recipe and you have to make the recipe EXACTLY the same way each time (like that will ever happen).

        That being said, from what I've read, the key to canning low acid foods is to can the components of the food not necessarily the whole beef stew recipe. You can the beef chunks in beef broth, can the mushroom soup separate from that, can the carrots, potatoes, and peas etc. individually. Then, three months later, you take a can of each and dump it into the pot and boil the snot out of it.

        My favorite low acid foods to can are soup stocks. I buy a 50 pound case of veal knuckles and make a buttload of veal stock and then strain and can it. If I do it in the winter, I can cook the stock on the wood stove. Whenever I cook a chicken, I cut it in half and save the back, wing tips, livers, gizzards etc. When I accumulate a bunch I make a large batch of chicken stock and then can it. I also use my old laying hens to make large batches of stock.

        This past St. Patrick's, I canned the broth from my smoked shoulder, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. I can use that to make Pasta e fagioli.

        The only really "prepared" recipes I've made were highly spiced pulled pork/ground beef recipes for tacos/burritos etc. I figured that the hot pepper would assist in staving off the botulism. Kind of daring, but I figure if old ladies were doing this stuff way back when, then there should be some basic rules of thumb.

        In all endeavors like this, please use your common sense. If you feel uncomfortable doing it, then don't do it.