Pickles

can you make pickles in a pressure canner | Family Cuisine

Can you make pickles in a pressure canner? Yes, that is possible with the proper equipment and instructions.

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Can you make pickles in a pressure canner

When you first take the step of getting and using a pressure canner, it’s typical that you want to pressure can everything instead of water bathing.

Reading: can you make pickles in a pressure canner

But, you can’t. Oh, it’s not so much a safety issue. You won’t kill anyone. But they might kill you, because you would be feeding them some pretty gruesome jars of stuff. There are many products for home canning that just won’t survive pressure canning without turning into a burnt paste or green unidentified moosh that looks like pond slime, so canning recipe testing labs didn’t even waste a second trying to develop pressure canner recipes for them.

Summary: You are not going to save time, you are not going to save energy, and you are not going to make a product safer.

Why do we have two methods of canning?

The reason pressure canning exists, and is recommended for some home canned products, is because of botulism spores.

Botulism spores require super duper heat to kill off, much hotter than you can get with boiling water.

The thing is, though, that those spores won’t germinate and grow in acidic food products. [1] Andress, Elizabeth. “History, Science and Current Practice in Home Food Preservation.” Webinar. 27 February 2013. Accessed January 2015 at familycuisine.net/multimedia/video/familycuisine.net The acidity neutralizes them, so they are taken care of. We’ll still going to water-bath (or steam can) our filled jars, though, because some nasties such as listeria, salmonella, etc, don’t always mind acidity. So acidity plus boiling water (or steam can) processing, and we’re done here. The process results in amazing food quality, too, killing off food quality spoilage organisms at the same time. What’s not to like?

In low acid, foods, though, such as meat, potatoes, plain veg, etc, we don’t have high acid to neutralize the botulism spores, so we have to actually kill them off completely. This requires super high heat for a set period of time, and this can only be achieved by pressure canning.

So we have pressure canning for those low-acid food products that need it. When pressure cooking is the only method specified, it must be used and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Can I just pressure can everything instead of water bathing it?

No for a bunch of reasons.

Because so many things meant for water-bathing (jams and pickles, for instance) don’t have recommended pressure canning times, you wouldn’t know the safe time required, and a cardinal rule of safe canning is never guess at processing times, no matter how much “over estimating” you think you are allowing for good measure.

And no again, because you truly don’t want to. It’s far and away more a quality issue than a safety issue. Pressure canning would destroy jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, chutneys. If you pressure canned pickled beets (for 30 minutes, the same amount of time as for boiling water bath), they will come out so squishy you can mash them in your mouth with your tongue — not the texture people expect, so they will spit them out.

When you first get a pressure canner, you just want to pressure can everything, thinking that it might magically add just that extra little bit of safety margin. (And as the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) And because it uses less water, it just seems more efficient. But you really do need both methods of processing in your toolkit.

Can all water-bath recipes be canned in the pressure canner under pressure? They could be if safe processing times had been developed for them, it’s not a safety issue, but, it’s definitely a quality issue, and that’s why no one even wasted 5 minutes on, say, processing times for pickles in a pressure canner. The University of Minnesota says “the quality is not acceptable” — that’s the academic way of saying, “yuck.”

” …..high acid foods are usually processed in a water-bath canner. Fruits can be processed in a pressure canner, although the quality may be unacceptable (i.e. mushy, an “overcooked” flavor, color change) and may take more overall time. If you do choose to process fruit in a pressure canner, use good quality fruit with a hot-pack method for better results. Do not process pickled products, jams or jellies in a pressure canner because the quality is not acceptable! [2] Home Food Preservation Newsletter. University of Minnesota. September 2011. Accessed March 2015. familycuisine.net/food/food-safety/home-food-preservation-newsletter/docs/familycuisine.net

The Presto Pressure Canner company agrees with the “yuck” factor:

“Q. How should pickled foods be canned? A. Pickles, pickled beets, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, and salsas should NOT be canned under pressure. They should be preserved by using the boiling water method. This process results in a more acceptable product.” [3]https://www.gopresto.com/recipes/canning/faq.php#13

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Acidic foods just happen to be products like jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, etc. that you really wouldn’t want to have to pressure can, anyway, as they would not survive the process.

Note that water bath canning and pressure canning are not interchangeable. There’s a heck of a lot of stuff (low-acid foods) that you cannot water bath owing to safety issues (not enough acid to suppress any botulism spores.) And, there’s a heck of a lot of stuff (acidic foods) that you would not want to pressure can owing to product quality issues — but thankfully water bath processing does the trick for them because yeasts, moulds and most other bacteria are destroyed at boiling water temperature while their acidity takes care of any other food safety issues.

THAT being said: there are a handful of food items for which you do have a safe, tested choice of whether to pressure can or water bath. See discussion further down this page.

Is pressure canning faster than water bath processing?

Pressure canning is not faster than water bath canning, though people who have previously used a pressure cooker might go into the world of pressure canning thinking that it would be.

Let’s look at a jar of jam that calls for 10 minutes of processing time.

Pressure canning times, for comparison:

  • 15 minutes to get it boiling;
  • 10 minutes of venting;
  • 20 minutes to bring it up to pressure;

So that’s 45 minutes of the burner on high, right there before you even get started.

Then finally you have the actual processing time, during which the burner is lower, on about medium.

So 45 minutes plus the actual processing time. Energy is being used during that time.

Then about 30 minutes, when the burner is off, while you wait for full and proper cool down before you can take the lid off (and it affects the safety of the food and the jar seal if you try to rush this end phase). No energy, however, is being used during this time.

When it has cooled, then you give it 10 minutes with the weight off, and then a final 10 minutes with the lid off, before you remove the jars.

That 10 minutes processing time at sea level can up being 110 minutes, 55 minutes of that is active energy usage time.

Water bath times, for comparison:

  • 15 to 20 to 30 minutes to bring to boil (depending on amount of water in pot);
  • 10 minutes to come back to a boil after jars are placed in;
  • Processing time;
  • Then 5 minute cool-down at the end.

But remember, water bath processing times have to be increased as your altitude increases above sea level, anywhere from 5 to 20 extra minutes. So if you live about 300 metres (1000 feet) you have to keep that pot boiling even longer.

That being said, in a rare number of instances, such as some tomato products, some time and energy savings can come into play if you pressure can instead of water bathing, especially depending on your altitude when high altitudes would otherwise call for very long boiling times, when there is a tested, documented choice to be had — and there is sometimes (see below.)

10 minutes processing time at sea level can end up being a minimum of 55 minutes. 50 minutes of that is active usage energy time

Steam canning times for comparison:

  • 10 minutes to bring to boil (depending on how hot your burner is);
  • Processing time;
  • Then 5 minute cool-down at the end.

Note: altitude adjustment also required for processing time.

10 minute processing time at sea level can end up being a minimum of 25 minutes. 20 minutes of that is active energy usage time.

Reminder: the water-bath and steam canning options are only available for high-acid foods.

How does altitude affect my two choices

  • For water bath processing and steam canning, altitude increases the time required;
  • For pressure canning, altitude increases the pressure required but not the time.

What things do I have a safe, approved choice about whether to water bath or pressure can?

Penn State Extension says,

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Pressure canning is an option for canning some fruits. It is not necessary to pressure can fruits, but it is not unsafe. Fruits are pressure canned at 5 pounds pressure in a weighted gauge canner and 6 pounds pressure in a dial gauge canner….. If you choose, high acid foods such as fruit may be safely pressure canned; the product may be softer than processing it in a boiling water bath.” [4] Penn State Extension. Selecting a Canning Method. 23 June 2012. Accessed January 2015.

The All-American Pressure Canner people say,

Do not pressure cook cranberries or strawberries. The USDA and the State Extension Services do not recommended processing [Ed: these] fruits in a pressure cooker under pressure, since the high temperature has a tendency to break down the delicate tissues of these products…. ” [5] Cooking & Canning with the All-American Pressure Cooker / Canner Manual. 2008. Page 18. Accessed March 2015.

Here is a list of some food items that can be either water bath processed or pressure canned, valid as of 2020, based on the USDA Complete 2015 Guide.

(Please note! The processing times provided here are just for comparison purposes in reading — for actual reference during canning use, please use the links provided in the footnotes to track through to the NCHFP site to make sure you are using the latest and greatest recommendations right directly on their site.)

Apple Pieces (Pints and Quarts, hot pack) [6] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 8 minutes Boiling water bath: 20 minutes

Applesauce (Pints and Quarts, hot pack) [7] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 8 minutes pints / 10 minutes quarts Boiling water bath: 15 minutes pints / 20 minutes quarts

Apricots (Pints and Quarts, hot-pack) [8] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 10 minutes Boiling water bath: 20 minutes pints / 25 minutes quarts

Berries except strawberries (Pints and Quarts, hot-pack) [9] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 8 minutes Boiling water bath: 15 minutes / 20 minutes quarts

Cherries, hot-pack [10] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 8 minutes pints / 10 minutes quarts Boiling water bath: 15 minutes pints / 20 minutes quarts

Peaches and Nectarines (Pints and Quarts, hot-pack) [11] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 10 minutes Boiling water bath: 20 minutes pints / 25 minutes quarts

Pears (Pints and Quarts, hot-pack) [12] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 10 minutes Boiling water bath: 20 minutes

Plums (Pints and Quarts, hot or raw pack) [13] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 10 minutes Boiling water bath: 20 minutes pints / 25 minutes quarts

Rhubarb (Pints and Quarts, hot pack) [14] familycuisine.net/how/can_02/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 5 lbs: 8 minutes Boiling water bath: 15 minutes

Tomatoes (Whole or half, Pints and Quarts, hot or raw-pack) [15] familycuisine.net/how/can_03/familycuisine.net Pressure canner 10 lbs: 25 minutes Boiling water bath: 85 minutes

Note 1: Now that steam canning has been approved as an equivalent to water bath processing for high acid foods, it can be the faster way (use the water-bath process times) to process many of the choices above because it doesn’t have the long-time required to bring a full pot of water to a boil.

Note: Ben Chapman from the North Carolina University Extension Service warns not to try to go the other way, from pressure canning to water-bathing:

Old, wartime directions for water bathing canning alternatives for other produce such as peppers, asparagus, corn, beets, etc, must be disregarded. It is now known to be very wrong, and has led to documented cases of botulism. [16] Chapman, Ben et al. North Carolina University Extension Service. Food safety infosheet August 2, 2012. Accessed March 2015 at familycuisine.net/2012/08/02/home-canned-beets-in-oregon-linked-to-three-botulism-hospitalizations/

Summary

If you want to speed up your water-bath canning, switch to steam canning! Thanks to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and a team lead by Barb Ingham at the University of Wisconsin, we now have steam canning as a great alternative in our book of choices!

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