Under pressure

In this, our fourth year of food preservation, I’ve finally found the nerve to try something that has long given me the heebie geebies: pressure canning.

High-acid fruits can be stored using a simple boiling water bath. But with low-acid foods, a much higher temperature is required to prevent unwanted bacteria like botulism — which can kill you eight ways to Sunday. Only a pressure canner will maintain high enough temps to do the job.

Knowing we wanted to start preserving low-acid veggies like green beans, we ordered an All-American 21.5 quart pressure canner during our last Pact Free period. This one’s a little spendier than most, but it’s the only brand that doesn’t have $50 gaskets which need periodic replacement.

Thirteen pounds of beans have been stuffed in the fridge since the weekend, and I finally got around to canning them yesterday. Here’s a little play-by-play action of how it went down.

Phase I: Wash and snap beans for two hours until losing feeling in your right thumb.

Phase II: Read manual five times until sure you won’t blow up the kitchen. Place prepared jars in three inches of water, then seal the pot and exhaust steam for several minutes before covering vent with pressure regulator.

Phase III: Obsessively check gauge to make sure it hovers at or slightly above ten pounds of pressure. Adjust heat on stove accordingly. Then run and hide in the laundry room.

Canner gauge
Phase IV: After cooking, wait half an hour for pressure to fall to zero, so you can open the canner without causing aforementioned explosion.

Phase V: Repeat process twice and enjoy ten quarts + ten pints of green goodness. A bit of a hassle, no doubt, but completely worth it for an entire winter’s supply of beans.

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