You all know that I love you and I try to provide you with your every wish but I will not share my canning recipes with you . . simply because, in my old age, I no longer play exactly by the rules. Many of the recipes I can now are my own recipes . . not recipes tested and approved by the USDA. I will give you enough info to get started and then you can make your own decisions as to what you want to can.
The first thing I’m going to tell you is this: If you want to can, buy a canner . . order it today! Stop whining! Stop being afraid of a pressure cooker/canner. The directions for using them are so simple. There is nothing to be afraid of when using a pressure cooker . . so long as you follow the directions. My goodness . . most of you drive a car and I’d rather use a pressure cooker in my own kitchen than get out on the highway with other crazy drivers behind the wheel.
The second thing you need to know is that except for high acid foods, which can be canned in a water bath, EVERYTHING else needs to be processed under pressure! EVERYTHING!! Doesn’t matter how long you process it in a water bath, if it needs pressure, nothing else will be safe.
The first thing you’re going to need is a pressure canner. There are quite a few types of canners and quite a few opinions as to which ones are better than others.
In the image above, taken in my kitchen in Missouri, the cooker on the left is the Presto 23 quart (meaning it holds 23 quarts of water – not 23 quart jars!). The one in the back is an old Mirro that my dad found at a garage sale. I changed the gasket on it and it’s good as new. There’s no telling how old the Mirro is and the Presto is at least 20 years old. Both of these cookers have many years of usefulness remaining. The Presto can be purchased here. It will hold 7 quarts.
The cooker that I recommend, if you are sure you’re going to be canning a lot and you enjoy the process, is the All American. These pots are not cheap but they are amazing. I wouldn’t buy one until I had a gas stove but I have friends who have successfully used them on glass top stoves. They are using the smaller models. I would definitely NOT recommend using the bigger models on glass top stoves.
Above is the 30 quart, which indicates it will hold 14 quarts or 19 pints. I use wide mouth jars and can only get 16 pints in mine. I also have the 15-1/2 quart model which will hold 10 pints and 7 quarts (though it is not tall enough to use for water bath canning quarts). I also have the 10-1/2 quart that will hold 7 pints and 4 quarts. This is great when I’ve made a big dinner and want to can the leftovers!
You can pay about $75 for a Presto cooker or about $200 for an All American canner. I’ll never knock a Presto canner except to say this: I’ve canned on coil type electric stoves, several different glass top stoves and on two different gas stoves here. With the Presto, I always had to watch the pressure. It needed quite a bit of tweaking during the 75 or 90 minute period. I’ve even had the pressure climb high enough that I turned the burner completely off for a while, all the time watching the pressure so it didn’t drop below the minimum required pressure and then turn it back on. With the All American canners, I know the spot on my stove where I’ll get and maintain perfect pressure . . without so much as a needle’s width of variation. I took a nap the other day with the canner going! Today I’m knitting. Every now and then I go in to check it . . just to be sure . . and I don’t think I’ve ever had to make an adjustment to the heat, since I determined the exact spot on the knob where it needs to be set.
Again, if you’re new to canning, you may not want to invest in an AA canner but it is as close to perfect as I’ve found when canning.
If you do not know where to begin, and I didn’t when I started. My grandma was no longer canning, my mom had never canned that I could recall so I figured it out from books and reading on the internet.
These are the books that I would recommend to start with. The Ball Blue Book is a must have. I make sure that I always have two of them on my shelf in case I can’t find one of them. That’s how much I love this book! The other book I highly recommend is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving. By today’s standards, as far as presentation, this book is terrible. I can never find anything in it but there’s a wealth of information in there. All of the same information is on this website and most of the time, I use the website but I think the book is a must have just to have a print edition for easy reference.
Canning is my preferred method for putting up most everything. When freezing, if the power is out or the freezer goes out or the freezer door is left open, everything could be lost. Moving a freezer full of food long distances is next to impossible. When we’ve moved, we’ve never successfully moved anything frozen. The last time we moved, I was determined to save my frozen cherries and pesto with dry ice and I didn’t succeed. From the time the moves unplugged our freezer in MO til it was plugged in and cold again in Texas was 8 days. Hundreds of jars were moved (twice) and not a single jar was broken.
Having cooked “meals” in the jars great! So far, in the past few days, I’ve canned Cincinnati Chili, Goulash, Chili, Spaghetti Sauce, Beef Tips with Mushrooms and Chili Verde. That’s about 72 pint jars or . . 72 meals ready to heat and eat! Over the next few days, I will make Chicken, Pheasant and Sausage Jambalaya along with Pork Tenderloin with Apple, Mushroom and Wine Sauce. That will give us 8 different meals and about 100 jars of ready or almost ready to eat food. The jambalaya will have more liquid than other dishes and I will can it in quarts. When it’s time to cook it, raw rice will be added to the contents of the jar and it will all be baked (in a pot) in the oven.
Canning meals like this is done when the house is cooler. Once summer temps arrive, I’ll only can what the garden produces so that’s why I’m trying to get the “ready to eat” pantry re-stocked . . before it gets too hot in the kitchen to be doing all this.
I’m often asked about the shelf life. The “rule book” says the food should be consumed within a year. I’m not advocating keeping it longer but I’ve used things that had been in jars for 5 years and they were fine. I’ve read about people using things that were 20 years old. I never intend to keep food longer than a couple of years but recently I found a few jars of spaghetti sauce that had been packed in a wrong box when we left Kentucky in 2006. We at it and we’re still here!
Having these meals in jars is great as far as “food insurance” for if there is a crisis situation when we cannot get food or food is too expensive or we have no power to cook our food. It’s also great for those days when I’m too tired to cook! By canning only the foods that I love, it’s a treat to open a jar of Chili Verde and make up a dish of Spanish Rice and a side salad. Good food, little mess . . what more could a girl ask for?
I will be happy to answer specific questions but I’m not comfortable giving out recipes that I’ve come up with on my own or gotten from canning friends. But really . . it’s the stuff we eat all the time so . . I think it’s pretty safe but I suppose when we’re talking about botulism or worse, “pretty safe” may not be good enough!