Use Recommended Equipment to Preserve Food
Posted: August 1, 2015
The pressure canner and boiling water bath canners are the only equipment recommended to process food. Using these canners will destroy microorganisms which might be present.
- A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. Two basic types are available. One has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner; the other has a metal weighted gauge. Dial gauges must be tested for accuracy before each canning season. An accurate pressure gauge is necessary to prevent food spoilage and possible food poisoning. The weighted pressure control on canners does not need to be checked. Just be sure to keep it clean and rust free.
- Some people confuse pressure cookers and pressure canners. A pressure cooker is used to rapidly cook meats, vegetables and other foods for meals. However, they may not maintain adequate pressure; can heat and cool too quickly; and are not recommended to be used to pressure can foods.
In addition, there are some electric multi-cooker appliances on the market which have a “canning” or “steam canning” button on their front panels. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend using these for pressure canning for a couple of reasons:
1.The USDA canning recipes were not developed for that type of appliance. Stovetop pressure canners which hold four or more quart-size jars were used by the USDA scientists when they developed and tested their recipes.
2. What matters is temperature, not pressure. It is ultimately the temperature and heat distribution inside the jars that matters for the destruction of microorganism in the food product. So even though manufacturers of the multi-cookers say their cookers reach the pressure required for canning, that alone does not prove the food in the jars is heated throughout at the same rate as in the canner used for process development. Research needs to be conducted to document temperatures throughout the unit at a given pressure and throughout the whole process time.
In order for a pressure cooker/canner to be used for canning, it must:
- Hold at least 4 quart jars. The jars should fit comfortably in the canner, with water able to circulate freely around the jars.
- Be able to regulate pressure at 5, 10 and 15 pounds. Pressure cookers that have no way to regulate pressure, or simply have settings of low, medium and high, cannot be used to safely can food at home.
- Have a vent port that allows steam to exhaust from the canner. This vent port is closed or covered with a weight/counter weight after venting and prior to pressurizing the canner.
For more information on home food preservation, visit Penn State Extension at the Co-Op Farmer’s Market off Albright Ave. in Scranton on Monday, August 10 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. Educators will be distributing canning and freezing information, demonstrating and providing recipes, testing pressure canner gauges, and answering consumer questions. Additional home food preservation information can also be found at the Penn State College of Agriculture’s Food Safety Home Food Preservation page at: http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.