Before I get to the post-I found another great blog today. is terrific. Her photos are so inspiring. This a homeschooling mom (I loved my homeschooling years) with a flair for organizing. When I saw her photos I wanted to clean out my bookcases. She recommended a couple of books I want to read (including mine) and had a solution for problem for my dishwasher problem. I should be using a powder, not a gel for one thing. Now on to canning.

Before you begin any pressure canning, check over all of your equipment. I am usually the biggest fan of getting things used but in the case of a pressure canner, think twice. In some models, the seal is formed with a rubber gasket. Rubber breaks down over time and needs to be replaced if cracked or worn. The pressure gauge should be checked by the extension service and re-calibrated if necessary on a used model. I have an inexpensive canner that uses weights but I am upgrading to a much larger canner with a gauge this year. Find out your elevation. You need to adjust canning times if you are more than 1000 feet above sea level. Take out all of your jars and check them carefully for nicks and cracks. Discard rings that are getting rusty or have been bent at all. Stock up on new lids if necessary. You can reuse the rings. If you put out the word, you might score jars from somebody’s basement. I am not one for a ton of gadgets but I got a stick magnet for pulling jar lids out of simmering water. I love that little thing. I have a lifting lid holder but it does not fit in my small sauce pan. I have a plastic, large mouth funnel. I am trying to come up with a reason to swap it for a beautiful metal one. I have two jar lifters. I like the one that lifts from above rather than the one that comes in from the side. That one has to be held at a funny angle. You need a good place to set hot jars. It has to be safe from bumping and away from curious little hands. The contents of pressure canned food stays hot for hours. I have a timer on my microwave but I use a small manual timer. It is a lot louder and no one will accidentaly shut it off to check the time. I used wooden skewers for releasing any trapped air from my jars. A metal knife or spatula could crack a jar. Have plenty of clean rags and a good apron ready. Canning is messy business. I use three resources; The Ball Blue book, Keeping the Harvest and The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food. If you can only get one, go with Ball Blue book. It is inexpensive and accurate. If you are a novice, find a mentor. No book is a substitute for someone who knows what they’re doing. On that note, don’t believe everything you hear. The standards have changed over the years for a reason. You do not want to get food poisoning or lose produce because you tried to save some time or money. Follow the USDA guidelines.

Not all food cans well. Strawberries lose their color and get mushy. Canned broccoli is good for nothing but pig food. I mostly pressure can meat, some beans, carrots and peas to show at the the fair and to throw into stew if I am in a hurry and tomato sauce. I only  pressure can the sauce because I put in so many other vegetables like summer squash, onions, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms that need pressure canning. You always use the directions for the food needing the longest processing time. I could water bath the tomatoes and make the sauce as I need it but I love the convenience of having fabulous sauce on hand. The only thing I wait on are the spices.

One final thing. Use only the best quality produce for canning. Preserving always cost something in terms of flavor and nutrition and you want to start with the best from the garden or farmer’s market.

I know a lot of people are afraid of pressure canning. They have heard the stories of exploding canners and entire families found dead from botulism. In the early days of canning, the good metal was used for the war machine and inferior metal used for home canners. That is no longer the case. New canners have stringent quality requirements and are totally safe when the directions are followed. If you follow the directions, the food will not only be safe but, in some cases improved. Pressure canned meat is tender, flavorful and ready to eat-great for both preparedness and busy days.