I am a little embarrased to admit that more than a year ago, my co-worker “leant” me a pressure cooker which has remained under my desk all this time – manual, weight, and all. Now, my co-worker has downsized and since she hasn’t asked for it back (it’s one of those loan until I need it kindof things), I think this summer it is time to bring that sucker home. Because this is going to be my year of pressure-canning! At least, I hope it is.
See, I’ve been canning for about fifteen years – not long after moving to Vancouver I decided to make jam for gifts even though I didn’t have a very large pot, or any canning implements. For a few summers, that’s basically what I did – a little jam, perhaps some Chinese plum sauce (we had a plum tree in my first Vancouver house), and that was all. But increasingly, the canning bug grew and since meeting Brian (an earnest partner in food storage it turns out) I (we) process up to 300 pounds of fruit and veggies in the summer. We do a little at a time throughout the season (I will be doing rhubarb next week most likely), but late in August we take a few days off work and we really go at it all day and all night until it’s done.
As much as I get cranky about it mid-process (by day three usually I am asking why? why? would I bother to do this much work when a supermarket with canned goods exists just down the way) – I am positively in love with the larder that is always offering up what I need during the fall, winter and spring. Pickled beets, salsas, pie filling, jam, chutneys, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce – we use it all, and give lots away too (canned goods make a great hostess gift!). I could go on and on at how glad I am that this is a part of our practice.
But up until now, it’s been all boiling water canning – a method that requires no special gear, but also requires that everything be acidic in order to kill off any possibility of botulism. Fruit-bases are fine, but anything like vegetables, meats or legumes must be brined in order to be safe….. or…… Pressure canned!
I think this summer I am ready to go to the next level. Dried beans could be canned and ready for eating, fresh salmon can be chunked up and processed in its own oil, stews and soups can be cooked in the pressure-canner, ready to be heated and served. And what is the point exactly? Choosing one’s own ingredients, steering far clear of the food production industry, and keeping the chemical flavourings and colourings out of our food. Not to mention that it’s a lot cheaper than shelf-ready food – and it tastes more like you think it ought to.
So I’m on the lookout for anyone’s favourite pressure canning recipes – as I plan to make small batches of a number of things in hopes that I learn what I like and don’t like this year. I know from years of boiling water canning that sometimes you *do* throw out batches of things because they didn’t work, or for some other reason…. which I’m sure will be the case with learning to pressure can. So let me know if this is something you do and you have something to share!