Hello, Chowhounders! I have been very interesting in home-canning for some time now, and was recently gifted a pressure canner. So far I have made a chili and gumbo z'herbes for my husband to take back to grad school to make sure he is well fed, both items being a success, and I am curious how many of you also can low-acid foods. I was worried it would not work (aka I would poison him), but as long as I can using the correct pressure for the low-acid foods, I understand from what research I have done that it should be safe. The best sources I have found is the "Blue Ball Book Guide to Preserving" (2009 edition I believe) and the larger "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving." Does this sound like good judgement? I want to use my own soup and chili recipes, but want to be sure I am not going to poison my husband! I also follow all procedures to sanitize my equipment. Any other tips or recommended readings?
Heard tales about pressure cookers EXPLODING from Grnadmother?? Didn't even have one until a few years ago. Talking to sister and mentioned was gonna can chili... one of those thing that's hard to make SMALL?! She said, since had meat in it... was gonna KILL myself processing like pickles or tomatoes?? Bought a basic/no-frills pressure cooker/canner shortly after our conversation. One with that thingie on top that wobbles/rattles around while processing. NOT scary at all. Takes more time and only holds 5 pints at a time.
Periodically will make VATS of chicken and beef stock to jar up. Does take a little time, but once simmering... just does it's own thing. Well worth the time... definitely a winiter-time activity!
That jiggly thing still scares me!
I make and can stocks about every three months. My kitchen attitude can generally be described as nonchalant, but when it comes to canning I read the instructions that came with the canner and its guidelines for meat soups every time even though I think I know them by heart. Pressure canning is more forgiving IMHO than hot water bath canning - I even pressure can my tomatoes these days.
Get yourself the current edition of the Ball Blue Book (Walmart and Target usually carry it, or I think it's around $12 on Amazon)
It's important to buy the current editions, because they rewrite it as food science discovers new things...fortunately, the Blue Book is cheap enough to replace every year or two.
You might also want to bookmark www.freshpreserving.com (Ball's website)
(the National Center for Home Food Preservatin) -- they even have USDA documents that you can download and print to keep as a reference.
Good luck, and happy canning...!
Another website I find useful is: http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/home_canning.html
There are lots of good books on canning and preserving food. Available at a bookstore such as Powell's Books, http://www.powells.com/ who may have a good used one for less than new. Always try to buy the latest editions as mentioned above. Powell's lists 360 canning books here: http://www.powells.com/s?kw=canning. Amazon lists 2,883 canning and preserving books rated by consumers (look for the ones with five stars): http://www.amazon.com/Canning-Preserv...
CAUTION: Follow easy to understand proven recipes exactly when learning. Any deviation from 'normal' can be a problem. For example, adding extra onions and veggies to a proven salsa recipe can make it deadly by making it less acidic. Low-acid foods can be especially dangerous if done wrong. Microbes grow better in a low-acid environment. When canning and preserving is best to not push limits.
NOTE: You can now cook many things much faster often better. Under pressure allows higher temperature with other advantages like more intense flavor. For example, short ribs or tough stew meat gets more tasty and tender in less time pressure cooked.
Have fun with it.