Skip to Content

Tips for Using a Pressure Canner

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. Thank you for supporting this site.

SchneiderPeeps -Using a pressure canner can be scary for some, but it doesn't have to be. Can with confidence using these tips.

We’ve been canning up a storm lately and most of has been done using a pressure canner. We ordered extra meat from our meat co-op and canned some with onions and garlic like we do venison. We also canned some chili con carne (recipe will be on the blog next week). A friend gave us about 100 ears of corn from a friend’s farm and our green beans have been producing more than we can eat right now. It’s such a blessing! 

A couple of friends borrowed my pressure canner when I was not using it and their nervousness reminded me of how I was just a few short years ago. It’s funny how everyone wants to tell you their “horror” stories of almost blowing up their kitchen because they did something wrong. Well, I’m here to tell you that they were probably exaggerating. 

Not to say that you don’t have to be careful with pressure canners, you do. But they aren’t so sensitive that we need to be scared of them. You just need to keep a few things in mind.

I have some preservation worksheets to help you keep track of the foods you preserve for you family. Just fill out the form below and they’ll be emailed to you.

SchneiderPeeps -Using a pressure canner can be scary for some, but it doesn't have to be. Can with confidence using these tips.

Tips for using a pressure canner

Take a breath and keep calm. Really, there’s nothing to worry about. Unless you are trying to explode the canner or are being grossly negligent you’ll be fine. 

Inspect your canner before using it each season. If your canner has a gasket, make sure it’s in good shape or buy a new one. If your canner has a a dial gauge (no weights at all), you should have it tested to make sure that it’s reading accurately. If your canner has weights make sure they are in good condition (and that you actually have them). I have the All American 921 which does’t have a gasket and is dual weighted so I don’t need to get the gauge inspected each year. 

Keep the manual that came with your pressure canner handy. I marked the pages that I want to refer back to with sticky notes. If you don’t have a manual, you can use the Ball Blue Book for basic instructions on water bath and pressure canning. 

If this is your first time to use a pressure canner, you can run a test batch by canning water. Yep, just fill up some jars with water leaving a 1″ head space, put lids on them, and follow the directions in your book to can them. Obviously, there won’t be times or instructions for water so use the instructions for fruit. You won’t need to can it for the same amount of time but you will want to get the pressure up to the amount you need based on your altitude and use the canning time to adjust your heat to keep the pressure consistent. When you feel like you’ve got a good idea of what your stove temperature needs to be, turn it off and let it cool off and depressurize. 

It’s best to use recipes that follow USDA guidelines. I know people have canned pumpkin puree and lived to tell about it. But really, how hard is it to just follow the rules and cube the pumpkin instead of pureeing it to can? Since I’m certainly no canning expert and don’t have a laboratory and fancy equipment to test the puree to make sure it gets heated all the way through, I’m just going to trust the people who do. The Ball Blue Book is full of great canning recipes. Also the National Center for Home Food Preservation has recipes on their blog. Of course, you can do what you want, this is just what I do. 

Your jars don’t need to be sterilized but they do need to be hot. You can run them through the dishwasher and just leave them in there. You can put your jars in an ice chest and pour boiling water over them. If you have enough stove space you can boil a big pot of water and then put your jars in it. Some people put the jars in the oven and turn it on warm. You have lots of options. 

Your lids also need to be hot. You can boil water in a small sauce pan, turn the heat off and then add your lids. I usually keep my tea kettle full of hot water while I’m canning. Then I can put the lids in a bowl and just pour the water from the tea kettle over them. {edited to add: the guidelines from Ball have changed for their lids – both Ball and Kerr – they no longer need to be hot. Just wash in warm water and use. I don’t know if this is the case for other brands, you’ll need to double check.}

Be mindful of the head space. If you’ve done any water bath canning you know that the typical head space is 1/4″. But when you pressure can it’s more, much more. The recipe should tell you  how much head space to leave but it’s usually about 1″. 

Wipe the rims before putting the lid on. I always think I’m careful and don’t get anything on the rims when I can. But last year I had quite a lot of jars not seal properly because I was in a hurry and didn’t wipe the rims. This year I’ve been more diligent and wiped the rims and haven’t had that problem. 

Keep an eye on the pressure. Here’s the deal, if the pressure drops below what it’s supposed to be you have to start your timing over….bummer. So, it’s best to just stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on it, especially when you’re still trying to figure out what your stovetop temperature needs to be to keep the pressure consistent. 

Once the time is up, turn off the burner and leave the canner alone. It will cool down and depressurize in it’s own time. Ours takes about 30-40 minutes to completely depressurize. After it’s depressurized, take the weight off and let it sit for about two minutes. 

When you remove the jars from the canner, they will be hot. In fact, they may still be boiling inside. Put them on a towel a few inches apart from each other and leave them alone. I usually just let them cool overnight and check their seal in the morning. 

If you still feel like you just really need more detailed instruction before using your pressure canner, I suggest getting the At Home Canning for Beginner’s and Beyond dvd. I love this dvd and found it super helpful and inspiring when I was learning to use the pressure canner. 

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

SchneiderPeeps -Using a pressure canner can be scary for some, but it doesn't have to be. Can with confidence using these tips.

What are your best tips for using a pressure canner? Leave them in the comments so we can all learn (if you get this post by email, be sure to click over and leave your comment on the blog.) 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

The June Garden
← Previous
How to make your own body powder
Next →