Adventures in pressure canning

| Preserving | comments | Author :

1303 pressure canning - 1

I feel a little bit guilty about this. I am a committed Vacola preserver, like my mother before me, and her mother before her. We don’t can, we preserve. What is this pressure canning thing anyway?

Autumn is about preserving the harvest. Autumn contains many large and bubbling vacola units, and results in beautiful preserved fruit and food. But now we seem to have gone over to the dark side of the force. And I think I’m glad we did. 

1303 pressure canning - 3

Ok so pressure canning is really not a very different technique from vacola-ing which I’m pretty sure is actually called ‘the water bath method of preserving’. We call it vacola-ing because of that fine Australian company who makes the awesome preserving gear we’ve used forever – Fowlers Vacola.

Vacola jars are the best for preserving anything you have. They look cool, they’re easy to work with, they’re nice and heavy and they can be used for generations to come.

Also, the only part of the vacola system you need to replace year to year is the rubber seals – so they’ve got a super high re-use rate. Serious cred.

My vacola jar supply consists of jars my mum, my great aunt and various other relatives gave me, as well as batches of jars I’ve sourced from grannies in the wider Mudgee region. You can also buy them new if you’re just beginning the legacy.

So the jars are great. But the bubbling them (in the vacola unit) on a stove for an hour after bringing them to simmer is not so great, in my book. That’s a lot of heat energy used for 9 jars of goodness.

Enter the pressure canner – an All American 921 pressure canner, to be exact. It does the same job as a water bath unit, only faster, because it uses pressure. And you can still use your favourite jars inside it to do your preserving.

The All American 921 Pressure canner. Resplendent in both it's warnings, and its capabilities
The All American 921 Pressure canner. Resplendent in both it’s warnings, and its capabilities

We actually bought this pressure cooking unit for the purposes of easily sterilising substrate for mushroom propogation. But as a bonus, it’s a pressure canner. Whacko.

This week is the end of nashi pear season in Mudgee. Rose is in the midst of catering for 35+ peeps for the Forest Garden Design Intensive (which is amazing, by the way), so her enthusiasm for fruit preserving is drastically limited.

This leaves me, and the tinyhouse and the pressure canner, to deal with 120 kg of nashi pears. Let’s go.

I’m still experimenting at this point. Since we’re nearing the end of preserving season, we’re almost out of vacola jars – they’re all full of lovely things for supping on through Winter and Spring.

My solution this year has been to separate our home supply of preserves (in vacola jars) from our barter supply of preserves. This means jar-ing up a gazillion batches of nashi pears that are designed for swapping and giving away in ‘normal jars’.

The pressure canner has been great for this task. Jar up, stick 8 x 750ml jars in the canner, bring to pressure, maintain 5 psi for 15 minutes, and then… that’s it.

5 minutes after finishing I can open the unit and swap the hot jars out for another batch, and off we go again. It’s super time and energy efficient, and I am loving it.

I’m using honey instead of sugar for the nashi pears, and it seems to be all good so far.

One big dollop of Tim’s honey per jar of nashis with 1 star anise and a couple of cloves, top up with cold water, lid on and into the canning unit. Pronto preserves.

So I’m pretty happy with this discovery – best jars in the universe (or just normal ones) meets energy efficient preserving. Huzzah.

The stash is growing by the day
The stash is growing by the day

Secretly what I’m really excited about next in this pressure canning business is experimenting with pressure canning meat.

I am very thankful that we’re raising so much of our own meat these days, but relying on constant electricity to store it frozen really niggles me. The whole freezer solution to meat storage is a bit of a poor option, in my mind.

So. Canning meat we shall. That way the pigs, the chickens, the ducks (and maybe even the sheep) can rest in peace (in pieces, shredded and/or in sausages) on the shelf until their appointed winter casseroles.

Anyone got any pressure canning tips? Successful adventures? Great canned meat recipes?  Thanks in advance x

>> More posts on preserving here…

1303 pressure canning - 1

See the comments

Related Posts

How to make Passata

Storing the season for year-round stews of organic tomatoey goodn . .
Read More

Making Water Kefir (how to get your household hooked on prob

We're loving learning the techniques of getting living foods int . .
Read More

Apple and Juniper Kraut + Fermented Tomato Salsa

We had the best fun at the free little Fermentation workshop at t . .
Read More


58 responses to “Adventures in pressure canning

  1. Having moved to Australia 5 years ago with 3 suitcases, one regret I had was leaving my pressure canner behind. I have relied on it to get me and my family through some very tough times and I have always kept a few years of food on my canning shelves.Just recently I found a supplier here in Australia for a pressure canner and Ball jars( my favorite) and the day It arrived was the best chrissy like day I’ve had !! there is nothing like having a full cupboard of preserves beaming security out from the hall closet. Tip.. always use the suggested time and pressure for foods they are all different and required to kill the botulism for that particular food. Especially for meat and other non acidic foods strict control and sterilization is paramount. And even though other jars will seal,be careful of breakage in 2nd generation jars like mayo etc that is not as thick a glass. Nothing worse than opening up a canner and having bits of food floating and covering everything from a broken jar. Having said that ,enjoy your pressure canner and it will reward you for years and years.

  2. Awww.. I have not dared to think of investing on the pressure cooker just for the shrooms.. But now that there’s all these other things that one could do… 🙂 Especially since all means of storing are so essential in our cold climate.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Here in the states we pressure meat for 100 minutes. Since I am high altitude here in Idaho (6000 ft el.) it is at 13 lbs of pressure. Have you ever tried drying your vegetables? We did last year and was happy with the results. I am just starting our garden

  4. Hey thanks for the review of the pressure canner thing – it sounds really good. We are all sold up Vacola users in my family but it is always good to know what other people are using. I remember watching some episode of that tv show with the chef guy who moves to Tassie and bottles tuna on the beach. Weird and gross but kind of interesting.

    1. I have to say I saw him do the tuna on the beach also… and felt that it didn’t actually meet the food health safety standards…..from my reading of pressure canning meats I would highly recommend NOT doing it that way!

  5. For canning recipes you can not go past Ball book, amazing. Although recipes are great, I believe it is better to have plain minced meat or cubes in jars, this is my philosophy when bottling passata, base ingredients only. Congrats on having the balls to pressure can. It can be a difficult step for people to take.

  6. Thank you! I’m also a dedicated Vacola-er, but was given a pressure cooker and a pile of ball-mason jars this years. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but you’ve inspired me. I’m keen to have a go at milk, meat and dried beans. Imagine having jars of bolognaise sauce or something similar??? Cool..,,

  7. I have a vacola and a pressure canner (Presto canner) and love them both. I still use my vacola for water bathing as the pressure canner holds less jars but I’m really experimenting with canning now. I’ve just done coconut milk (had to make that one up myself as there were no blogs or instructions so hope they’re safe – should be) and I’ve got chicken stock, chicken stock with some chicken, all perfect for risotto in a hurry, corn kernals (some frozen some canned), pumpkin soup (need to leave the pumpkin cubed and not pureed but it’s easy to cook and puree) and chick peas. I’m planning baked beans and kidney beans and anything else I would normally buy in a can. 🙂 Just one thing to be aware of, Ball mason jars contain BPA in their lids so I would stick to the FV jars. 🙂

  8. Would it work to put the preserving jars (fowler or vacola) in a pressure cooker if they are put in with the clips on? Although a fowler disciple of 30 years I really like the idea of the faster process using less energy. Thanks everyone for tips!

  9. you girls remind me that I am an outsider the pressure cooker you refer to I have not seen in the states. I have two old Presto pressure cookers that I can use on a gas stove if need be. I can turkey broth at Thanksgiving which I use to make Spanish rice or make Turkey noodle soup with homemade noodles. It is fascinating seeing what everyone does in different parts of the world. Thank you for the enlightment

    1. The one I bought is a Presto, and it is very enlightening to begin canning in a new environment and culture. I would give anything to have good turkey broth the can, but the lamb is awesome and the tropical fruits magnificent. Because I grow pretty much year round it is only excess that I can and eat fresh otherwise.

  10. Here is a link to a gal on YouTube who does loads of canning meat.. I started following her a couple years ago & now can all sorts of meats and other foods. I have the same All American Canner you have too. I love canned meat.. One of the best things it does is make the meat super tender and tasty since you pack it raw & it makes its own juices.. its the best!! Hope this helps.

  11. Thank you for this post! I got all my Mum’s recently, added to the ones I got at a clearing sale years ago, so I have more than I can count. I have an old Vacola stove-top unit, even Mum’s new electric one, but I’ve not been game to try either. The time it takes to make just a few jars of preserves seems crazy. Been eyeing off the pressure canners for a little while, but wondered about being able to use all my jars.. but you’ve answered that question!! I read your post out loud to Marty who is pretty convinced now too. Thanks again! 🙂

  12. I prepared a batch of chili and cooked it all day (like I normally would for chili), then pressure canned it. It tasted overcooked and I didn’t care for the texture. Should I cook meat just long enough not to be raw and then pressure can?

  13. Thank you MK for all the great info you write for our help. We appreciate it all.

    I was wondering about this unit for cookking food in. Do you think that the Aluminium will transfer into the food during the cooking process. I was told to dump all our Al. pots as it transfers into our food. So we did. I guess if you use it only for preserving and steralising then it’s a superb unit.

    I ask not to being negative, but as I am interested to hear your opinion.

    We are getting ready to go off grid in the next two to three years. So, permaculture + preserving etc is really high in our learning curve right now.

    Thanks again. See you at a PDC next year, not sure which one yet but it’s on the goal list for 2014 already… 🙂

    1. Hey David, good question! We did some research on this prior to using the unit and it appears the main probs with cooking in aluminium is when the food itself touches the aluminium, especially if the food doesn’t have a neutral pH. In this scenario, the food in the jars obviously isn’t coming into contact with the aluminium at any point… not even the steam in the unit comes into direct contact with the food. So seems pretty super safe to us?

      See you soon! 🙂

      1. I haven’t researched it like you have but I thought about it before using my canner and figured the aluminium won’t be able to get inside the jars as it’s about the pressure building in the jars and pushing out air etc so nothing is going to get in. However, I would never use my pressure canner to pressure COOK foods. In fact our pressure cooker is going out too.

  14. I have a canning question that I hope you can help with. I use regular canning jars, Ball and Kerr and the traditional flat lids that seal and the twist on cap. Whenever I pressure can soup or broth, etc, they lose A LOT of liquid. I notice that your’s are full and everything is covered in liquid. Do you know what’s going on with mine?

  15. When we had our large garden in Illinois USA I used a water bath caner for fruit and tomatoes. Once I made so many batches that the steam condensed on the ceiling and dripped down like rain! If you want to preserve anything low acid like green beans, or meat sauces you must use a pressure caner they are wonderful!
    Back 30 years ago we reused glass jars for caning and they did fine even in a pressure caner, but now the glass is thinner because they use a different process for comercial products. Buying or yard sale or receiving gift jars is the best way just make sure they aren’t cracked or chipped at the rim. Also if anything looks cloudy or murky disgard it and boil the jar!
    I love rows of canned food on the shelves it is beautiful!

  16. I finally did stocktake of my jars today. 130 in all! Can you tell me if the huge No. 36 jars (about 10″ tall) would fit in a pressure canner your size? I imagine the lid and clip would make them taller than that again. Most of mine are No. 27 and 31 though. Thanks for your help!

    1. G’day Cheryl do you have any more info ie. did you double deck the jars, are you referring to the lid only or the band as well? Im not an expert but I do my fair share of presssure canning using both Ball and Fowlers jars.

        1. If you didn’t dent them and no manufacturing fault… I’m at a loss,to explain,,beyond my experience.. My first port of call would the manufacturer along with photos and a written commentary, get it from the horses mouth. There is too much at stake with pressure canning. Hey they may even send you a pack or two of complimentary lids! And then get on the net and let others know, share the wealth that i our collective knowledge.

  17. Fowlers used to have recipes for preserving meats in their really old books but started advising against it in the 50s due to bochelism and salmonella dangers. Bearing this in mind we went a different path. We also home kill and have 2 large commercial freezers, a small chest freezer and freezer compartments in 2 fridges, Lots of electricity! So we bought timers for all the freezers. We run them between 8am and 6pm, and turn them off overnight. We have solar power (feed into the grid), so our costs are basically nothing for the electricity during the day. The food keeps perfectly well in this way as nothing has a chance to thaw, as long as you don’t keep opening the doors and letting the cool out. It just takes a bit of discipline to pack your freezers so a little bit of everything is readily accessible, or to get out a week’s worth of stuff from the big freezer and keep it in the ones attached to a fridge, which run 24/7. The other option is to dehydrate some of the meat and use is reconstituted in soups, stews etc. I have just put 20 kilos of dried tomatoes into a large peanut butter jar. Meat reduces by up to 90% and can be stored on the shelf as long as you make sure it is totally dry, and even cryovac it.

  18. Great to see a site here in Australia that has oodles of people doing pressure canning. I thought for a while that I have been alone out there. I have the big All American canner that can do 19 pints or 14 quarts and it has been the most wonderful thing that I have ever owned. We do, soups, casseroles, curried sausages, beef bolognaise sauce, raw packed Chicken,lamb and beef , home made baked beans, corn,beans,potatoes,carrots as well as water bathing (as I still also have my trusty old Fowlers vacola) tons of tomatoes, fruit, pickled chillies, beets,onions, and various chutneys,relishes and pickles. Also piles of apples, and rhubarb. I just don’t know what I did before canning. Can’t recommend it enough.I also was very happy to realise recently that my old favourite fowlers bottles could be used in the PC.
    We will soon be living full time on our small 25 acre block out near Binnaway (which we have been setting up for the last 10 years)It is fully off grid but we enjoy all the mod cons except aircon.We have our own sheep which we butcher and have recently started to make out own sausages as well,…We are loving it all. Both my husband and I are from the bush, so really we are just coming home to roost.
    Great to follow your life Kirsten,and all the best to all the other crazy canners out there,

      1. Hi Kirsten,
        I have been using the ball mason jars and lids which i order through Ozfarmer at Kempsey for all the pressure canning but am constantly on the lookout for a cheaper source as they are quite expensive. I recently was given a name and website for a place in the US where you can order by the pallet load and have shipped over. I had seriously considered trying to get in touch with some other canners and pooling together to purchase a pallet.Now that I know I can pressure can with my fowlers jars, the need for more jars isn’t quite so desperate.

        1. Just a caveat on the vacolas, we’ve only done fruit in them in the pressure canner thus far, and vacola actually stopped recommending the canning of meat in their jars about 10 years back. Don’t know the details on that tho… So maybe stick with ball jars for them? I’m very keen to try em.

          Can you pass on the link for the ball jars by the pallet loads?

          1. Sorry Kirsten,
            I forgot I was on your blog and not on “Aussies living Simply ” forum. That’s where I have posted my photos in the community photos section.
            Have a great day,

  19. Hi ,
    Have talked to the Fowlers people and a woman in WA who teaches pressure canning classes who gave me a recent update…They say that you can do meat in Fowlers jars, just not in the old way (waterbath in Fowlers Preservers) if you do meat and such in the fowlers jars it MUST be pressure canned, and the result is the same as mason jars.I personally haven’t tried it yet in anything except the masons, but I know a couple of people who have..
    Also Kim, no I haven’t tried the tattlers lids but have heard many good reports on them..maybe in the future I will look into it,they sound a better option than the single use lids…
    As for the bulk jars site…can’t put my hands on it right now, (Think I may have left it up the bush) but as soon as I find it will put up here.

  20. TO answer the question about over cooked foods, It is best to just undercook your beans, sauces etc and allow for the extra time it is cooked in the pressure cooker. We always bottled our meat and game raw and all of our salmon, clams and just make sure it comes to the boil gently when you open and use it. Meat is better if cubed into equal sizes and it goes without saying off the bone.

  21. Hey just found your sight. Love it. Can you please tell me where in Aus you bought your pressure canner? Im looking for an all american 41 quart. Redback trading never seem to have any in stock. The USA wont ship them out. Ive enquired about it.

  22. Hello. I just recieved my all american 921. Its gorgeous! I was wondering is it possible to pressure can more than one product at a time? Like different jars of stuff? Thanks Rachel

    1. Yes you can can more than one type item in your canner at the same time as long as you are canning it for roughly the same time and process for the longest process time.
      . I had 2 different items I was doing a week or two ago.. one was to be canned at 70 minutes & the other at 75 minutes. I canned both at 75 minutes. Sometimes I’ll can pints & quarts in the same batch as well.. just go with the longer time. It hurts nothing.

    2. You can can different items at once but the time you need to run it for will have to be based of whichever of them requires the longest time, so if you can a soup that requires 60min along with a meat dish that requires 120min they’ll all have to be in there for 120 (times given as an example, check your recipes for canning times).

  23. Thank you! I’ve tried other sites but like someone else said, they don’t want to ship to Oz – fair enough I guess
    Best go sit on Santa’s knee now & see how I go
    Have a good one

  24. Hi Gypsy. Sorry about takingbso long to get back to you. I bought my pressure canner from Ozfarmer.
    They are based in Kempsey NSW. I ordered mine on their site. Good luck.

  25. I got mine from Oz Farmer also and they have specials on a regular basis so subscribe to their newsletter. I cheated and brought 5 doz pints back from Canada with me last month as the price of that many jars in Canada was a fraction of what I paid in Australia, covered the extra cost of an extra checked bag, which I was bringing anyway. However the response from the customs people was priceless when they discovered that all the 1 doz in my carry on contained under things ..” Bottled underwear” was one comment,|seen every thing now.”
    But when I told her the difference in price she said i hope you brought more than a dozen!

  26. I’m getting right into preserving at the moment and am wondering if I can use a regular pressure cooker? I have a smaller pressure cooker from Chefs Toolbox, has anyone used something like this to do small batches and if so what times?

  27. Great article. I grew up with Fowlers Vacola and I’m seriously considering buying a pressure canner instead of an electric water bath unit (still undersided) What really stood out for me was you said it only took you 15mins to preserve your fruit in the pressure canner instead of the normal 1hour in the water bath. Did I read that correctly? If that is the case-how does the end product (eg fruit) compare to the traditional Fowlers method? My mum is trying to talk me out of buying a the stovetop pressure canner and she said that food prepared in a pressure method doesn’t taste as nice-do you agree? (I’m not sure mum has even eaten home pressure canned food before tho.)

    I was so excited to hear that I can use my Fowlers Vacola jars in a pressure canner ?Although I have recently been experimenting with using just normal jars eg jam jars in the Fowlers Vacola unit, do you think I would be about to also use these jars in the pressure canner?

    I can’t wait to hear from you

Leave a Reply