Letter Re: Practical Lessons Learned From Home Canning of Meat and Vegetables

JWR,
Thusfar this year I’ve canned 140 pints of meat and veggies. And more to go. I believe ready to heat and eat meals will be very handy when the Schumer hits the oscillating rotator. We grew the potatoes, garlic, onions, sweet banana peppers, and carrots ourselves. We buy whatever meat is the loss leader at the grocery that week. I am storing pasta separately. When we open a pint we will add cooked egg noodles. If one cans the egg noodles they get very mushy. I’ve been canning for some years now and have some serious advice. I opine that there are two human activities that require exquisite attention to detail: reloading ammo and canning food.

Data and equipment you will need: Ball Blue Book of Preserving ; one or more All American canners (these have a metal to metal seal) and spare parts for these; a Ball canning kit that contains a magnetic wand for lifting the hot lids from the boiling water, a jar funnel, a pair of tongs; all the pint jars (those made by Ball or Kerr pack better in a canner) that you can buy and store; extra lids. Why pints? Two reasons: less time required in the canner and one may pack more pints than 2x quarts in the canner. You need a very nice stock pot, I’ve a Piazza Professional that has a thick triple bottom. This distributes the heat much more quickly and evenly, vastly reducing any scorching of the food.

Now you need to ascertain how deep the stockpot needs to be filled to maximize the number of pints you are canning at a time. Remember that there should be 1 inch head space above the food when canning. So fill up the stockpot with the maximum number of pints you are able to put into your pressure canner with water that comes just up to one inch below the rim of the pint jar. Then measure in inches the depth of this water and put this info on a note on your stove. For my case, I do 17 pints at a time, and the stockpot needs to have the food 4.8 inches deep.

Now for the procedure:

First, read slowly and carefully the part of the Ball Blue Book on the overall procedure. My suggestions below are excerpts from the detailed procedure in the Ball Blue Book.

1. First put the pint jars, the jar funnel, the soup ladle, and a 6 cup Pyrex volume measuring device into the dishwasher. Place the jars onto the bottom rack. Add any other items to be dishwashed. Turn on the “heated dry” option. It takes me about 2.5 hours to get all the meat and veggies ready. If you wait about an hour to start the dishwasher then about the time the cycle is complete you will be ready to use the hot jars.

2. if the meat is about half frozen, half thawed, it is easier to cut and trim. First put ¼ inch olive oil in the stockpot (veggie oils provide essential nutrients). Then add chopped onion, chopped pepper (if you so desire), and finely chopped garlic. Do not heat yet. I cut the meat into small pieces, about a half inch in diameter. Add the meat to the stockpot. Now turn the heat on. At this point I add Mrs. Dash spice mix. Saute rather slowly as you prep the veggies.

3. Begin with the most difficult veggie to clean: carrots. I take the carrots from the ground and cut off 90% of the top leaves and stems, removing only the larger clumps of dirt. Place in 1 gallon ziploc plastic bags. They will store better in the refrigerator this way. Take them out of the refrigerator, put in a bucket in one side of your double sink. Add more than enough water to cover the carrots. Now using a very stiff vegetable brush, brush the carrots with a motion perpendicular to the length of the carrot. This will effectively clean most of the carrots, with the bits of dirt acting as an abrasive. Cut the top and root tip off, place in a pan filled with water. After all the carrots are in the pan, wash them several times. Then dice and wash again. Do not add to the stockpot, rather add to a chilled pan on your kitchen top.

4. Dice the remaining vegetables. Consider adding store-bought celery. If you’ve snap green beans, fresh corn, whatever, add them to the chilled pot.

5. when you believe you’ve enough diced veggies, place all of them into the heated stockpot, turn up the heat, add enough liquid (chicken stock is great) and chopped veggies to fill the stockpot to the measured depth. You want at least ¼ to 1/3 of the volume to be liquid. At this time begin heating the water in the pressure canner and the lids to be used should go into a small pot and heated to almost boiling on a low heat setting. Hopefully just as the mix in the stockpot comes to a boil the lids will be at the boiling point and the water in the pressure canner should also be boiling.

6. Place the jar funnel and the soup ladle into the 6 cup volume measuring device placed close to your stockpot. Place them back in this device between filling the pints. I fill the pints two at a time. I take two pints from the heated dishwasher and fill with the mix in the stockpot using the funnel and ladle just washed in the dishwasher. I often add a bay leaf and a couple of peppercorns to each jar before filling with the just-boiling mix. Make sure to leave 1 inch head space. All the veggies in each pint should be covered in water. Then I wipe the rims and outer threads with a damp paper towel, retrieve two lids from the boiling water with the magnetic wand, place the lids on the wiped jars, add the screw band and hand tighten about as hard as I am able. Then place the pints in the pressure canner.

7. When the pressure canner is filled with pints, carefully put on the lid and tighten down the screws, taking care that the space between the top of the canner and the lid is reasonably uniform. Then place the weight on the protruding orifice so that the 15 psi stamp is at the bottom. Then turn up the heat on the canner. Watch the pressure dial carefully. As it approaches 15 psi slowly reduce the heat so that it remains just below 15 psi. At this pressure a very small amount of noise will be made by the weight on the protruding orifice and a very little steam will escape. A pressure of 14 psi will suffice up to 8,000 foot altitude. At my altitude I need 11 psi, but go to between 14 and 15 as an added margin of safety. It is totally critical that the canner remain at the desired pressure for the entire time given by the Ball Blue Book. If one reduces the heat too fast, one may drop the pressure below the desired point.

8. After the Ball Blue Book time has elapsed, turn off the heat. Leave the canner alone. Do not mess with it in any way just yet. Note the time at which the pressure gauge has dropped to zero. Wait 1-to-2 hours after this time before opening the canner. If you do not wait this long, after you open the canner you may see steam and/or liquid escaping from the pints. This will generally result in failure to seal. Open the canner very carefully, holding the lid between the canner and your face. With a pair of canning jar tongs remove the pints and place onto a clean towel on your kitchen counter. Leave 2” air space between the pints. Now go make yourself some tea or coffee, go get into your rocking chair and rest. Do handle the jars in any way until the next day. Then I run hot water over the band, and using a flat rubber gripping device, remove the band from the jar and rinse the jar in hot water. Store the pints in the darkest coolest place you have that will not freeze. Write the year the pint was canned on the lid. Regards, – Holly

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