Today I did something I've never done before: pressure canning!
When I was a kid, my mom did lots of canning. Tomatoes, peaches,
various pickles, green beans, sauerkraut, ketchup, plums, grape juice, various
jams/jellies... lots and lots of canning, though I don't remember her ever canning meat.
Some of that
was water bath canning, but she did a lot of pressure canning too. All
low-acid foods (most vegetables and all meats) have to be pressure canned, otherwise the really really
bad bacteria can grow in the jars and poison you. Not something to mess
I lived in fear of the pressure canner when I was little. It was so scary, with the hissing and the rattling gauge and the steaming. When I was maybe five or six, I clearly remember my mom very sternly telling me and my sister not to ever EVER touch the canner, because it was very hot and had lots of dangerous pressure built up inside.
That did it for me. I can't remember if she actually told me it could explode, or if that was something I inferred on my own, but I've been scared of pressure canners for the past 40 years.
Today I bought one.
I can do this. A canner will not defeat me. There are just so many foods that can only be preserved by pressure canning. I was going to do a batch of green beans for the inaugural run, but the good brand of chicken was on sale and green beans weren't (plus they were all shrivelled and ratty looking), so I did up some chicken.
I got eight pounds of boneless/skinless, no-salt-added, hormone-free chicken breasts for $12, which was an awesome deal. (Actually, I got 10 pounds for $15, but the other package was stir fry for dinner plus four breasts stored in the freezer.) Freezer space is at a premium right now, so putting most of this chicken in jars is great.
I cubed up the eight pounds, sauteed it briefly, and put it in pint jars. One pint jar holds about one pound of meat, and the canner holds eight wide-mouth pint jars, so that worked out well.
I followed the directions (exactly and nervously), letting it vent steam for ten minutes, then putting on the rocker weight. After it was up to pressure and the rocker started dancing, it needed to cook for 75 minutes. That's a long time, but the stove only had to be on #3 (medium low) to keep the pot up to pressure and the rocker jiggling, so it really wasn't a huge energy expenditure.
After the 75 minutes, I moved it off the heat and let it cool down on its own, which took about half an hour. Then the pressure indicator popped down, no more steam was venting from the rocker, and it was ready to open.
They were all still boiling inside the jars when I took them out of the canner, which was as it should be, and the lids all sealed in less than five minutes. Hopefully, this chicken will be great in soup, burritos, chicken salad, casseroles, etc. Plus, it cuts the prep time since it's already cooked. No defrosting, just grab a jar off the shelf.
Nothing exploded, no one was maimed, and no jars broke. It felt very safe. I feel like a whole world of food preservation has opened.
Next up: canned black beans. Emma's favorite.