Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Under Pressure

As mentioned in my previous post I had yet to make use of the lovely pressure canner that I bought just before Christmas. I was too busy to even look at it over the holidays and then I was back to work the first week of January and somehow it's been sitting there for 6 weeks now! And truthfully it made me a bit nervous. I read through the manual the day it arrived and there were steps to do before using in, and very thorough instructions how to use it and it was all a bit intimidating. In the meantime I've been stewing up pots of various meat stock that were not helping with the lack of fridge space and it reached critical mass this weekend when I brought home a large hambone from my friend's wedding. They actually offered me an entire ham and you have no idea how difficult it was to say no but it was a 20 lb ham and I just didn't have room even with the recent fridge clean out!

The hambone was still very meaty so I carved off all the excess to have another meal, and put the bone in the slow cooker to simmer. It had been heavy marinated in bourbon, mustard and cloves among other things so I kept the seasoning minimal, using just some onion and bay leaf. It made a huge pot of wonderfully fragrant ham stock!

I also had a pot of beef stock from a bag of rib bones and fat I rescued from the kitchen at work (I also made beef tallow for later use) and a pot of turkey stock from last week's bird.

So yesterday I finally bit the bullet and set up the pressure canner for the first time; it was actually much easier than I imagined! I cleaned and prepped the canner as directed and then ran it through a test run which went perfectly. So I filled up my jars with hot stock, sealed them and fired it up! I had a moment of confusion when I added the water since my manual says add 3 quarts of boiling water and then indicates a line in the inside where the level should be. Maybe it was because I was only canning four L jars and one 500ml but it took a lot more than 3 quarts to bring it up to the line. The level at that point reached just to the shoulder of the L jars. Can any of you pressure canning experts clarify for me whether that is the correct amount of water?

In any case it seems to have worked like a charm! I was also a little nervous about maintaining a proper pressure since many sources report that using just the pressure gauge can be tricky and many people suggest using weights. Well I don't know if it was beginners luck but I got it up to 11 psi as directed in the manual and there it sat for the entire 25 minutes.

Only in the last 5 minutes did the pressure start to creep up so I turned the heat off entirely at that point (gas stoves rock!) and let it slowly cool down. It was still over 11 for more than the time remaining and it took about an hour to cool down enough for the pressure to release. When the lid finally came off all the jars were intact and still boiling furiously, a good indicator that a vacuum had been achieved. It took quite a while for the contents to cool down, much longer than hot waterbath canning, but eventually I heard a series of lovely pops and today all my jars are nicely sealed.

My first batch of pressure canning was a success!


  1. Oh, I haven't used mine yet either! I'm glad you managed yours without the weights, since I cannot seem to be able to get them.

    I really do need to try mine soon - thanks for the nudge :)

  2. Mmmm. Ham stock makes fantastic ham gravy. And soup. And is a great addition to a pot of beans, or greens, or....yum!

    I'm so glad you made the leap to pressure canning. When you have a bunch of jars in your pantry that will yield quick, healthy meals and you know exactly what is in there, oh, that is such a good feeling!

    K, come on in, the water is just fine!

  3. I'm not an expert on pressure canning, but there are two lines on our canner - one is for the 3 quarts and the other is the max fill line if you're cooking in it (I think - we never use the second line). The lower line is about 1 - 1.5 inches from the bottom and is pretty hard to see. I had to feel for it the first couple of times we used it (filled it with tap water and brought it to a boil in the canner). Now we just use the mineral stain to know where to fill it.

  4. I guess I need to have another look. I only noticed two lines, midway up the side and I filled it to the lower line which as I mentioned is about shoulder level on a 1 litre (or quart) jar. Sounds like I may have over filled it!