Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Pressure Can

After hearing stories of pressure canners exploding, jars breaking inside, etc., the first time I pressure canned about seven years ago, it was intimidating to say the least! And never having seen anyone do it before made it even more so. :) Once learning how, though, the process is really quite simple! (Though, I should add that it can be dangerous which is why it is very important to carefully follow the pressure canning instructions.)

If you have water bath canned before and would like to venture into pressure canning, yet are unsure how to do so, I hope that this little tutorial will be a help to you and will give you the confidence to start pressure canning!

(Please note, this tutorial is for dial gauge canners and specifically for the Presto. If you are using a dial gauge canner other than the Presto, please also refer back to your specific canner instructions - sometimes they vary from canner to canner!)

-- Put 3 quarts of hot water into the canner (and make sure the bottom canning rack is in place)

-- If you have hard water, add approximately 2 Tbsp. of vinegar to the water in the canner

-- Place washed jars into the canner


Prepare your recipe, heat the lids, etc. according to basic canning methods and per your recipe.


-- About ten minutes or so before you are ready to start filling the jars with your prepared product, begin heating your canner water and jars. You want it to be around a simmer when it is time to start filling your jars and also during the filling process. (And during this time, adjust the heat if necessary to prevent the water from boiling or from dropping below a simmer.)

-- One at a time, take the jars out of the canner and fill them following your canning recipe and basic canning instructions. After a jar is filled, and the lid and ring is in place, put it back in the canner.

A full canner load of quart jars of carrots

-- Once all of your jars are filled and back in the canner, make sure that none of them are touching each other or the sides of the canner. Then put the lid on the canner and align the arrows. Turn the lid to lock it securely into place. The cover handles must be aligned over the body handles. (Note, before putting on the lid, always check to make sure the vent pipe is clear!)

-- Now it is time to exhaust the air from the canner and jars! This step is very important so make sure not to skip it. Turn your burner heat to a relatively high heat setting (with our stove, I use the highest heat setting.) Once a steady, free flow of steam is coming from the vent pipe, set a timer for ten minutes (the vent pipe is directly to the right of the dial gauge in the below photo.) Lower the heat to maintain a moderate steam flow during this time.

-- During the above step, water may bubble out around the air vent/cover lock (which in the above photo, is in the front center of the canner lid.) This is nothing to worry about! If it is a lot, simply absorb it with a dry towel.

-- Once the ten minutes is up, place the pressure regulator over the vent pipe. Turn the heat back up to a high heat setting. The air vent/cover lock will soon pop up, and the canner will begin pressurizing.

The pressure regulator is over the vent pipe and the air vent/cover lock is up. Now the pressure will start rising!

-- When the dial gauge reads about two pounds away from the desired pressure, turn the heat down some (it will take a bit of testing to learn the best heat settings to use with your stove.) Adjusting the temperature down at this point will help to keep the canner from heating too fast and going well past the pressure you are wanting to reach (I learned from experience on this one! :) 

-- Once the desired pressure is reached, start your timer for however long your recipe needs to process. For the carrots that I was canning, this was 30 minutes.

As a little side note here, it is important to get your dial gauge tested each year to make sure it is accurate. This year, mine was reading a pound under so instead of processing at the called for 11 lbs of pressure, I am doing 12.

-- Reduce the heat enough to maintain the desired pressure, but not so low that it drops below it! Again, this could take some experimentation before you find which setting works best with your stove and canner and also the quantity of jars you are canning.

-- Helpful hint: I always like to bring my pressure to a little above the needed pressure (as can be seen in the above photo.) That way if it starts dropping, I can adjust the heat to bring it back up before it drops below pressure and thus necessitating the processing time being started all over again.

--Which brings me to something important, if at any time the pressure should drop BELOW the pressure needed for your recipe, bring it back up to pressure and start the processing time over again.

-- During the processing time, your canner will need to be 'babysat' to make sure the pressure doesn't go too high or low. This is a perfect time to do some deep cleaning in the kitchen, wash dishes, or things like that! (Or type a blog post :) which is what I am doing right now at 10:00 while the last load of carrots for the day are processing. edited to add: what I was doing, I should say :) . . . I started this post on Thursday and am just now finishing it!)

-- Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and carefully remove the canner from the stove to cool. Let the canner naturally cool and let the pressure drop on its own. Do NOT quick cool, and do NOT remove the lid or the pressure regulator at this time.

The cooling/depressurizing process takes quite awhile . . . usually forty-five minutes to an hour for my canner with a full load.

-- Once the pressure is down to zero AND the air vent/cover lock has also dropped, remove the pressure regulator and set a timer for ten minutes.

The pressure regulator is now off and the timer is going for 10 minutes

-- Once that time is up, remove the lid, lifting the back up toward you to keep the steam from blowing out on you.

-- If the lid is hard to turn, there may still be pressure inside the canner. In that case, let the canner completely cool before removing. (I have never had this happen, but thought I should include it just in case you ever do!)

-- Carefully remove the jars from canner with a jar lifter. Let cool according to basic canning directions.

23 quarts of carrots cooling

And there you go! It sounds like a lot of steps, but it is simpler than it sounds. :) It will also get easier and easier each time you can! And once you learn to pressure can, you will be able to preserve an even wider variety of healthy foods for your family and especially the delicious bounty from either your garden or from another's.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask and have fun canning!

(And for you seasoned canners, if you have anything to add 
that I am missing, please feel free to do so!)


  1. Ever since a pressure cooker exploded in a friend's house, I have been terrified of them. I just freeze our produce....but there is very little compared to your harvest!

  2. Thanks for sharing Sarah! I have been so interested in pressure canning but have been sort of scared of it. One day I'll have to try! My grandma is a huge canner but she won't try pressure canning! Thanks again! Oh, and your carrots are beautiful! <3

  3. Pretty much how we do things around here. Your carrots look very nice! Your garden is way ahead of ours as the peas are just getting ripe.

  4. Those carrots do indeed look wonderful--like golden coins in a jar!:-) My question is this--what advantage, if any, does pressure canning have over just regular canning methods?

    ~ Betsy

  5. By the way, Sarah, did you realize that you never answered my comment on the "Visit from Family" post?

    ~ Betsy

  6. You know, I was just canning some pickles and I was reminded about something my grandma used to do when canning carrots. She would add some fresh peas in the jars for color. At least I think they were for color! Just an idea. We never have fresh peas when the carrots are ready but maybe you do.

  7. That would be a frightening for your friend and for you, Elizabeth! I can see why that would put quite a damper on ever wanting to pressure can. I forgot to mention in the post that the canners nowadays have a special overpressure plug which would help prevent the canner from exploding if the pressure should get too high.

    Freezing produce is great, too! It actually preserves more of the health benefits that way. (: Enjoy your garden bounty!

  8. You’re welcome, Tabitha! You would probably really enjoy pressure canning once you got comfortable with it. You should give it a try sometime! I’m sure you would do great with it. :)

    Thank you!

  9. Thank you, K. family! Our garden is way ahead of yours! I guess that is one different from way up north and the Midwest. :) Though, this winter was an especially long one making everything behind. Enjoy your harvests!

    Thank you also for sharing about the peas canned with carrots! What a neat idea. It would make the jars prettier! We haven’t had peas at the same time as carrots yet, but if we do, I will have to try this.

  10. Thank you, Betsy! Pressure canning and water bath canning are for different types of food products. Water bath is for high acid foods such as pickles, fruits, and tomatoes (though it’s recommended with the latter to also add lemon juice to each jar.) Pressure canning is the only assuredly safe way to can low acid foods such as all other vegetables, meats, etc.

    I am sorry that I forgot to answer your comment in the other post! Thank you for mentioning it! I’ll go answer it now. :)

  11. Nothing tastes better than a home canned green bean. :-) Years ago, I had a canner bow on the bottom while canning. I immediately retired it and bought one that has a jiggler, a gauge, and a pressure vent. I really like it, have had no problems with it, and have been using it for 19 years.:-) Your carrots look great!
    Enjoy your Sunday ♥

  12. I'm glad you noticed the bowing in your canner before you had more significant problems with it, Mrs. Anne! With all of your canning experience, it would be fun to can with you and learn from you. :)

    Thank you! I am sure you are busy this time of year with all of your canning . . . have fun with it!


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)