Friday, February 22, 2013

Ask Granny... Vacuum Seal vs. Canning and Pressure Cooker vs. Pressure Canner

Q. I have the system that sucks air out of mason jar using a seal-a-meal. Does the water or canning process not only take the air out but sterilize the product? What I am asking is why can't you use just the seal a meal product that goes on mason jars and suck the air out?

A. Vacuum packaging or sealing and canning cannot be considered the same. Both the preservation methods involve the sealing of food in a container, but in canning the food that is sealed is heat-sterilized, which kills microorganisms. This is why there is no need to store canned food in the fridge. In the case of vacuum packaging, the food present inside the container is not sterile and microorganisms in the food are still present. But due to the removal of air from the storage container, the vacuum packaged food will stay fresh for a longer time in the fridge or freezer.

Q. What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner?

A. According to USDA, a pressure canner must be able to hold at least 4 quart jars, and have a gauge or weight to allow you to measure 5, 10, and 15 lbs. pressure. A pressure cooker is usually smaller and only has one pressure weight built in. You can cook in a pressure canner as well as can… but you can’t can in a pressure cooker.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ask Granny... Dry Beans, Pressure Canners, Hot Plates, Pectin, Removing Rings, Reusing Lids

(This is really MY very own Granny Smith!)

Q. I can’t seem to get a handle on cooking dry beans…cook them before pressure cooking? or do not cook? ~ SS

A. The "canning experts" recommend soaking and partially cooking dry beans before canning. Some folks can them dry... for quarts use a cup of beans, for pints, used a half cup of beans... fill the jars with boiling water... add salt, other seasonings and veggies or meats, put hot, sterilized lids on and pressure can at 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts. (the lbs. pressure and times are the same as for canning soaked and pre-cooked beans) ~CG

Q. I am considering getting a pressure canner. I have never used one before. What is a good one to get? ~ MJ

A. My personal opinion is get the best you can afford, a pressure canner is an investment that will last for many years. I really like my All-American pressure canner (they come in several sizes). It's easy to use, has no gasket to ever have to replace, has both a weighted gauge and a dial gauge, heats and comes up to pressure quickly, and is a real work horse. It is, however, expensive ($200-$400) and is definitely an investment that will last a lifetime and probably the lifetimes of several generations. A less expensive, but still great canner, is the Presto (16 qt. or 23 qt.) which is less than half the cost of the All-American. It DOES have a rubber gasket that will need to be replaced every few years. But it's a good pressure canner. ~CG

Q. Can you use an electric hot plate to pressure can? ~KD

A. In short, yes... but don't make the mistake I did by purchasing an inexpensive hot plate... get a good one... the one I bought wouldn't heat up enough to EVER bring the water to a boil in my canner. I have no recommendations as to brand since I gave up on the hot plate idea after my "cheap hot plate" experience (it was a $29 Black and Decker) ~CG

Q. Is it possible to substitute powdered pectin for liquid pectin? ~SH

A. Yes!
1 Tbsp liquid pectin = 2 tsp powdered pectin.
Mix 1 package powdered pectin in 1/2 cup water and boil for 1 minute. Pour into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1 cup. Use as you would liquid pectin. ~CG

Q. After I am finished canning am I supposed to remove the rings from the jars? and why or why not? ~JR

A. Yes, you should remove the rings after about 24-48 hours and before you store your filled jars, for several reasons... first, during the canning process, a vacuum is created, causing the jars to seal... during the process air is "burped" out of the jar and sometimes a bit of food or liquid "burps" out with the air and can become trapped underneath the ring and cause rust, lids that are difficult to remove, or spoilage. Also, if (heaven forbid!)  your jar lids come unsealed after they are stored... leaving the lids on can make it more difficult to spot an unsealed lid and if spoilage occurs, can even cause jars to break from the swelling of the spoiled food... if just the flat part of the lid is on the jar and it comes unsealed or the food inside spoils, the lid will just pop off... a much easier mess to clean up than broken glass mixed with smelly, spoiled food. ~CG

Q. I have friends who re-use their canning lids. I didn't know that they could or should be re-used. Can they be reused ~AL

A. It's not recommended to reuse the flat part of canning lids, they're made for single-use only (you can reuse the rings over and over again)... I personally never reuse lids, it's just not worth the chance you take with all the work you put into preserving food... some folks do it and have no problems... I won't take that chance myself. ~CG

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ask Granny... Canning Meat, Regulating Pressure, Stacking Jars

I'ma try this once a week... hopefully every Friday... I'll choose a few questions from Canning Granny on Facebook that I feel would be helpful to pretty much anyone who cans... and answer them here.

Q. I have a lot of chicken in my freezer. I would like to try to can it. I have never canned meat before and would love to try it. I only have a water bath. ~~MJ

A. Chicken, or any other meat for that matter, must be canned in a pressure canner. Most meats, or recipes with meat in them, are canned at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes for quarts, 75 minutes for pints (unless you are at higher elevations... also, seafood is canned for a longer time than other meats).

Q. I got a new 23 qt canner with the gauge. Right now I am making veggie soup and can't keep it at 10 lbs. If it
s over some is that ok? If it's under a little do I really have to start all over with my time? ~~BL

A. If your canner gauge goes a bit over the recommended pressure, it won't hurt anything. If it drops below the recommended pressure, yes indeed, you must start over with your time... bummer, huh? Once you know your canner AND your stove and their interaction, it'll get much easier to regulate the pressure.

Q. I've always been told not to stack jars, it could break the seal. I see lots of pictures of jars being stacked. So which is correct? ~~AO

A. You shouldn't stack jars directly on top of each other... HOWEVER, if you put a piece of cardboard or something between the stacks so they're not directly on top of each other, it's perfectly safe... or if your jars are in boxes, it's safe to stack the boxes on top of each other.
html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, font, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; outline: 0; font-size: 100%; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent; } body { line-height: 1; } ol, ul { list-style: none; } blockquote, q { quotes: none; } /* remember to define focus styles! */ :focus { outline: 0; } /* remember to highlight inserts somehow! */ ins { text-decoration: none; } del { text-decoration: line-through; } /* tables still need 'cellspacing="0"' in the markup */ table { border-collapse: collapse; border-spacing: 0; }