Thursday, September 25, 2008

Food Preservation Series: Pressure Cooking

**I have made a few changes--forgot a few steps! Eek!--check for the changes in red.

Please forgive all the technical difficulties I've had during this post. You may have to stand on your head at some point to see the pictures at the right angle.

In today's post we're going to cover canning green beans using a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking can be a little intimidating because technically if you did it wrong, you could blow up your kitchen. But if you are careful and do it right, there's no problem. Some people wonder why you should even bother with pressure cooking because it can be dangerous. Good question. There are certain vegetables that can only be preserved using a pressure cooker (like green beans) so if you want to preserve those you have to use a pressure cooker. But it's definitely not a must for the food storage-er. (We have to come up with a better name for us food store-ers.)

First things first is the prep work. And the first prep work you have to do with a pressure cooker is with the actual pressure cooker. You need to take your pressure cooker to your county's extension service and have it tested. Since every area has different altitude and every pressure cooker is different, the point of pressure to which you'll be aiming for in your cooking will be different. DON'T try to pressure cook to the pressure point I use here. It probably won't work--and it may blow up your kitchen (I'm not joking). You have to have your pressure cooker tested specifically for your altitude and your specific machine...thing. How was that for technical?

You may be wondering what an extension service is. Well, it's a program from your state university. Specifically the agricultural division, and there should be one in every county in your state. (You can google search for your specific one, but there isn't a search engine for all of them since each state has it's own univeristy). Each county has information specific to that particular state. They can tell you what types of plants grow best in your area, test your soil for you to see what nutrients you should add for a productive garden, etc. And they can test your pressure cooker and give you your exact pressure point. This is turning into a novel.

Once you get that done, here's where the dirty work starts.

Prep the beans by snapping them.

Basically just snap off the little tops and the bottoms from each bean. You can use your hands or scissors or a knife, whatever is convenient. But get comfortable, for the amount of beans you'll need, you'll be snapping for a while. We did a grocery bag full at this sitting.

If you have extra long beans, snap them in half after you snap the ends.

You'll be able to fit more into your jars this way.

Make sure your jars are all nice and clean.

Now bring your snapped beans over to the sink and rinse them.

And drain them, and rinse them again. You want to get them really clean. Obviously.

Now start stuffing the beans into the jars. Really stuff them in there. Push 'em down, try to get as many in as you can!

You can use one of these funnel things if you want.

Top it off with a teaspoon of salt. Some people say it matters which kind of salt you put in, some people say it doesn't.

Fill up your pressure cooker with water, just an inch or so above the raised floor, so about 3-4 inches total.

Like so.

Have a pot of simmering water on to fill your jars of green beans with. Be careful, it's hot.

Put your lid on and a ring and screw it on tight.

Put your ready jars in the pressure cooker. The water level will rise as you put more jars in to about halfway. You will put seven jars in the cooker, six around the edges and one in the middle.

Like so.

Put the lid on and secure it. This is important because the pressure built up inside the pot is what seals the jars.

Make sure your steam vent is open. It will be different on whatever model you use, but make sure it's open so that steam can escape. This is important.

Turn the heat on high and let it go. Just kidding. This is one thing that you have to babysit. No running to the store, no folding laundry in the other room. You have to stay right next to this thing.

Okay, what you are looking for now is visible steam coming out of the pressure cooker via the little steam duct. When the steam starts to come out, set the timer for ten minutes and allow the steam to escape for ten minutes before proceeding to the next step. As the steam starts to escape, check to make sure that it is only escaping from the steam vent. If there is steam coming from under the lid, then the rubber on the lid did not seal, and you need to stop and start over again.

After the ten minutes have elapsed, close your steam vent and trap the pressure inside.

Now you need to start watching your pressure measurer thing. Wow. I impress myself sometimes. You are looking for the number your extension service gave you. It's measured in pounds per inch if anybody cares.

When it gets to that number, set a timer for 25 minutes. It needs to process at that particular pressure point for 25 minutes to make a seal on the jars.

Now don't think you can run off now, because you definitely can't. You have to keep your pressure point at that same point for the entire 25 minutes. It shouldn't go up or down. (Definitely not up though, talk about a bomb).

The way you control this is through the heat. If it's getting above your pressure point, turn down the heat, if it's getting below the pressure point, turn up the heat. This is one of the reasons why pressure cooking is dangerous because you can't just take off. You have to constantly babysit it, with no interruptions. Sure you can do the dishes, but really no leaving the room. You probably don't want to try this with little kids running around.

Once your timer goes off, the process time is over but DON'T open the cooker. The pressure is still at your specific pressure point. Turn off the heat and let your pressure come back down to zero. It must be at a zero before you open it. Remember, kitchen exploding.

Once the pressure is down to zero, open up your steam vent. If a lot of steam escapes then it isn't ready to be opened. If no steam comes out then open up your cooker carefully (and away from your face) and remove your beans. You're done! At least until the next batch.

Notice the color difference between the unprocessed beans (the bright green ones) and the processed beans.

So, pressure cooking is a lot of work. But it's doable, and those green beans sure are good in the middle of the winter!

Check out this website for more information. It would be a good idea to try pressure cooking with someone who's done it before the first time around. Then you could borrow their pressure cooker! Maybe ask a grandparent to show you how. You may be surprised at how much your grandparents know about preserving food. Make it a point to ask them to teach you so that knowledge doesn't get lost. And above all else safety first!


Jim and Debbie said...

Hey Abs! So we're practically family! :) Glad to "meet" you. I really think your blog is awesome. What a great idea. I'm sure it's helped so many people. I'll be sure to tell everyone I know about it!

Shayleen Lunt said...

Those were great instructions. Canning stuff has always scared me because it seems so complicated. I think I could do it though after reading your instructions. Maybe I'll plant green beans next year! Oh, and buy a pressure cooker. Thanks again.

Aleasha said...

Who was helping you? Do you have a pressure cooker? I would love to borrow it if you have one. I haven't ever used one though, so I think I would need some help.

Positively Creative! said...

Thanks so much for your amazing inspiration!! I am so inspired by you and all your Be Prepared knowledge!

Question: What and Where do I get a pressure cooker, which one would you recommend to buy?

email: rayandnicole@msn.com and I also posted about you on my blog livinlifepatinostyle.blogspot.com if you don't mind!
Thanks so much!

Deb said...

I love your blog and enjoy all the great ideas. May I make a suggestion though pls don't call it a pressure cooker it is a pressure Canner that you used. There is a lot of confusion about this appliance esp for people who have never canned low acids foods. I have been doing it for awhile, and while you can cppk in a pressure canner you can not can in a pressure canner.

Deb said...


i meant to say you cannot can in a pressure cooker


Jess and Rhet said...

Hey, just found your blog through Aleasha's. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. I am so amazed. But, I, too, need help. Let me know if you ever have a pressure cooking party so I can come see firsthand (cause although I don't love my kitchen, I don't want it blown up!)