Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Pressure Canning

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I see it all the time.  Comments like “I’d love to be more sustainable, but pressure canning scares me”.  Or, “I wish I know how to pressure can, but my grandmother’s grandmother blew up her house, so…nah”.

But you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to preserve so many things.  Your garden haul.  Produce on super sale at the store.  Homemade soups and stews.  Sure.  You can freeze most of those things.  But freezing takes a lot of plastic.  It doesn’t last nearly as long as pressure canned products.  It also hangs on that oh-so-dangerous assumption that you won’t lose power in a big storm or that your freezer will never fail you on the hottest day of the year.  

Stop being scared and unlock the money saving potential of pressure canning!  

You don’t need to be scared of pressure canning.  Pressure canning is NOT dangerous.  What IS dangerous is when people get lazy, or in a hurry, or just plain stupid and don’t follow the rules. It’s like driving those back country roads you’ve driven 1,000 times without issue.  Accidents don’t happen because the road is dangerous.  They happen because people get over confident and go 70 on a 35 curve.  Or people are too tired to drive, but too arrogant to pull over and rest a minute.

Pressure canning explosions don’t just “happen”.  It’s not a game of Russian roulette, waiting for that fateful day when your equipment will fail without warning.  Pressure canning accidents happen from operator error.  Because people are too lazy to check seals and sights before using their canner EACH TIME.  Because people are in too much of a hurry and try to pry off a lid when the pressure isn’t completely released.  

Here’s the simple ways you can make pressure canning SAFE for your family, overcome your fears, and start canning with confidence.

  • Most canners have a rubber seal/gasket around the inside of the lid.  Mine does.  Before using your canner, EVERY TIME, run your finger around the gasket.  You want it to still feel flexible and rubbery.  You want it to be completely intact…no divots or cuts or chunks missing.  It also should always fit snuggly.  Do not use your canner if the gasket is even the tiniest damaged, brittle, or warped.  That gasket is the first line of defense between you and 11 pounds of pressure blowing the lid off your canner and through the nearest window.
Most canners have a gasket that runs around the inside of the lid. More expensive brands, like the All American, will not have this due to having a more advanced sealing technology.
  • You also will want to check your vent.  Hold your canner lid directly under a bright light.  You should be able to see the light through the dial gauge (or weight gauge).  If you can’t see the light, your vent is clogged…most likely with hard water….and needs to be cleaned.  DO NOT use a canner with a blocked vent.  Ensure that it is clear before using!
This canner has a dial-gauge (black circle on the right). To check the vent, look through the center of the gauge from the underside of the lid.
  • Check that pressure gauge.  It should be sitting at zero when not in use.  The USDA recommends having your gauge tested and/or replaced yearly.  Your local extension office should offer this service free of charge.  If your gauge is off slightly (one or two pounds) it most likely can be reset at the extension office.  If it is off by more, you will need to replace your gauge.
This pressure gauge is broken! It is way too far off zero. Do not try to use “math” to estimate the pressure and consider this new number a “zeroed number”. It MUST be replaced for safety.
  • This is pretty simple.  If you drop your canner and dent in one side…don’t sit there and think “gee I think we’ll be ok”.  No. Nope. Nopety nope nope.  The integrity of the metal has been compromised.  The lid may seem to lock tight, but it might not be perfect.  Never use a damaged canner!
  • All good canning instructions will tell you to lock down your lid, leave the gauge/weight open, and run the canner for 10 minutes before allowing pressure to collect.  This ensures that your vents are clear.  This ensures that your lid is fitting tightly (no steam escaping around the seals).  Don’t rush this step.  It’s important for safety!
  • I’ll say it again…don’t rush.  Don’t rush!  Canning is hard work.  It’s hard work that takes time.  You need to let it take how ever much time it needs to take.  Never try to pry off a lid that won’t move.  Never try to take off a lid before the pressure is securely down to zero.  2 or 3 pounds of pressure may not seem like a lot…but it will send the lid flying, probably with a lot of hot water, leaving you with a broken nose and serious burns!
  • Lastly get yourself a GOOD canning book.  Like the Ball Book of Home Preserving.  Or the Kerr Canning Book.  Or use the National Center for Home Food Preservation Website.  If you have no canning experience, don’t trust some random blog recipe.  I have seen SO many with weird times and instructions.  That’s a great way to give your family food poisoning!  Use a reliable source and follow EVERY instruction step by step.  They are not there to be annoying or redundant.  They are there to keep you safe from your own creativity.

Stop being scared of learning to pressure canning.  You can do it.  You can do it SAFELY.  And it’s 100% up to you.  If you follow a few simple safety procedures you can can with confidence!  Now, go forth and learn to can!

Need a good, affordable, starter canner?  Here’s what I have: https://amzn.to/2KMPgGM