National Center for Home Food Preservation UGA Publications

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National Center for Home Food Preservation Home Publications Search Seasonal Tips Info Request Multimedia FAQs Contact Links How do I? Can Freeze Dry Cure & Smoke Ferment Pickle Make Jam & Jelly Store For Educators Preserving Food: Using Pressure Canners UGA Publications COOPERATIVE EXTENSION THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA College of Family and Consumer Sciences in cooperation with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Pressure canners for use in the home were extensively redesigne
  National Center for Home Food Preservation  UGA PublicationsHomePublicationsSearchSeasonal TipsInfo RequestMultimediaFAQsContactLinksHow do I?CanFreezeDryCure & SmokeFermentPickleMake Jam & JellyStoreFor EducatorsPreserving Food:Using Pressure CannersCOOPERATIVE EXTENSIONTHE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIACollege of Family and Consumer Sciencesin cooperation with the College of Agricultural andEnvironmental SciencesPressure canners for use in the home were extensively redesignedbeginning in the 1970's. Models made before the 1970's wereheavy-walled kettles with clamp-on or turn-on lids. They were fitted with a dial gauge, a vent port in the form of a petcock or coveredwith a counterweight, and a safety fuse. Modern pressure canners are lightweight, thin-walled kettles; most have turn-on lids fitted with gaskets. (At least one style has screw-down knobs around the cannerand does not have a gasket, however.) They all have removable racks, an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent port (steam vent), and a safety fuse.Today's pressure canner may have a dial gauge for indicating thepressure or a weighted gauge, for indicating and regulating thepressure. Weighted gauges are usually designed to jiggle severaltimes a minute or to keep rocking gently when they are maintainingthe correct pressure. Read your manufacturer's directions to knowhow a particular weighted gauge should rock or jiggle. Dial gaugecanners will usually have a counterweight or pressure regulator forsealing off the open vent port to pressurize the canner. This weight should not be confused with a weighted gauge and will not jiggle orrock as described for a weighted gauge canner. Pressure readings on  a dial-gauge-only canner are only registered on the dial and onlythe dial should be used as an indication of the pressure in thecanner. One manufacturer now makes a dial-gauge system where eitherthe dial or the weighted gauge may be used.Pressure canners come deep enough for one layer of quart or smallersize jars, or deep enough for two layers of pint or smaller sizejars. The USDA recommends that a canner be large enough to hold atleast 4 quart jars to be considered a pressure canner for itspublished processes.Serious errors in processes obtained in pressure canners can occurif any of the following conditions exist:The altitude at which the canner is operated is above sea leveland adjustments in pressure are not made. Internal cannerpressures (and therefore temperatures) are lower at higheraltitudes. Canners must be operated at increased pressures as thealtitude increases. Check reliable canning instructions foraltitude adjustments.Air is trapped in the closed canner during the process. Airtrapped in a pressure canner lowers the temperature obtained for a given pressure (for example, 10 or 15 pounds pressure) and results in underprocessing. To be safe, USDA recommends that all pressurecanners must be vented 10 minutes before they are pressurized.To vent a canner, leave the vent port (steam vent) uncovered (ormanually open the petcock on some older models) after you fill the canner and lock the canner lid in place. Heat the canner on highuntil the water boils and generates steam that can be seenescaping through the open vent port or petcock. When a visiblefunnel-shape of steam is continuously escaping the canner, set atimer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of continuous steam, youcan close the petcock or place the counterweight or weighted gauge over the vent port to begin pressurizing the canner. (See steps 3and 4 below.)An inaccurate dial gauge is used. Dial gauges should be checkedfor accuracy each year before use. If the gauge reads high or lowby more than two pounds at 5, 10 or 15 pounds pressure, replaceit.Clean lid gaskets and other parts according to the manufacturer'sdirections. Use only canners that have the Underwriter's Laboratory(UL) approval to ensure their safety.Follow these steps for successful pressure canning:(Read through all the instructions before beginning.)Center the canner over the burner. When you have your jars of food ready for canning, put the rack and hot water into the canner. Ifthe amount of water is not specified with a given food, use 2 to 3 inches of water. Longer processes required more water. Somespecific products (for example, smoked fish) require that youstart with even more water in the canner. Always follow the  directions with USDA processes for specific foods if they requiremore water be added to the canner.For hot packed foods, you can bring the water to 180°F. ahead oftime, but be careful not to boil the water or heat it long enoughfor the depth to decrease. For raw packed foods, the water shouldonly be brought to 140°F.Place filled jars, fitted with lids, on the jar rack in thecanner, using a jar lifter. When moving jars with a jar lifter,make sure the jar lifter is securely positioned below the neck ofthe jar (below the screw band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into thesealing area of the lid.Fasten the canner lid securely. Leave the weight off the vent port or open the petcock.Turn the heat setting to its highest position. Heat until thewater boils and steam flows freely in a funnel-shape from the open vent port or petcock. While maintaining the high heat setting, let the steam flow (exhaust) continuously for 10 minutes.After this venting, or exhausting, of the canner, place thecounterweight or weighted gauge on the ventport, or close thepetcock. The canner will pressurize during the next 3 to 10minutes.Start timing the process when the pressure reading on the dialgauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached,or, for canners without dial gauges, when the weighted gaugebegins to jiggle or rock as the manufacturer describes.Regulate the heat under the canner to maintain a steady pressureat, or slightly above, the correct gauge pressure. One type ofweighted gauge should jiggle a certain number of times per minute, while another type should rock slowly throughout the process   check the manufacturer's directions.Loss of pressure at any time can result in underprocessing, orunsafe food.Quick and large pressure variations during processing may causeunnecessary liquid losses from jars.IMPORTANT: If at any time pressure goes below the recommendedamount, bring the canner back to pressure and begin the timing ofthe process over, from the beginning (using the total srcinalprocess time). This is important for the safety of the food.  When the timed process is completed, turn off the heat, remove the canner from the heat (electric burner) if possible, and let thecanner cool down naturally. (It is okay to leave the canner inplace after you have turned off the burner.) While it is cooling,it is also de-pressurizing. Do not force cool the canner. Forcedcooling may result in food spoilage. Cooling the canner with coldrunning water or opening the vent port before the canner is fullydepressurized are types of forced cooling. They will also causeloss of liquid from jars and seal failures. Force cooling may also warp the canner lid.Even after a dial gauge canner has cooled until the dial readszero pounds pressure, be cautious in removing the weight from thevent port. Tilt the weight slightly to make sure no steam escapesbefore pulling it all the way off. Newer canners will also have acover lock in the lid or handle that must release after coolingbefore the lids are twisted off. Do not force the lid open if thecover locks are not released. Manufacturers will provide moredetailed instructions for particular models.Depressurization of older canner models without dial gauges should be timed. Standard size heavy-walled canners require about 30minutes when loaded with pints and 45 minutes when loaded withquarts. Newer thin-walled canners cool more rapidly and areequipped with vent locks that are designed to open when thepressure is gone. These canners are depressurized when the pistonin the vent lock drops to a normal position. Some of these locksare hidden in handles and cannot be seen; however, the lid willnot turn open until the lock is released.After the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weightfrom the vent port or open the petcock. Wait 10 minutes; thenunfasten the lid and remove it carefully. Lift the lid with theunderside away from you so that the steam coming out of the canner does not burn your face.Using a jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time, being carefulnot to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a towelor cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space betweenthe jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surfaceor in a cold draft.Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the centerof the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.Remove ring bands from sealed jars. Ring bands can be washed anddried and put away for using another time. Put any unsealed jarsin the refrigerator and use first.
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