The Domestic Wildflower


Can You Use an Instant Pot for Canning

Jenny GomesInstant pots are very popular for good reason. They are a modern, digitized iteration of the pressure cooker that can save a cook lots of time and can prepare anything from rice to roast to hard boiled eggs to chicken chow mein and everything in between. But can you use them for canning? It’s a question I get a lot and I wanted to address it.

Water bath canning and steam canning works in part because the inside of the jar reaches over 212 degrees fahrenheit. The USDA tests recipes to ensure that the inside of your applesauce, salsa, or strawberry jam gets to this temperature, which is hot enough to kill spoilers in a high acid environment. 

Instant pots are not tested for canning. We have no idea how hot, for how long it is inside your jar of tomato sauce if you tried to can it in an instant pot. Therefore, we’d have no idea for how long to process any particular recipe to kill spoilers. We cannot rely on the rather amateurish test of if the jar is sealed or not to determine a safe canning process. A jar can be sealed by simply sitting in a hot grocery store shelf, completely empty, and we know that’s not a safe canning process, right? The seal is only ONE part of the very important trifecta of elements that works to ensure water bath canning is safe. 

An instant pot is designed to do a very different job than a water bath canning pot or steam canner. It doesn’t create steady heat- it builds pressure very, very quickly, and it is designed to cook foods with pressure, as fast as possible. That’s a very different job than what a steam canner or water bath canner does. 

instant-pot

Canning works by putting a high acid recipe (raspberry jam, tomato sauce, pickled pearl onions) in a jar and submerging the jar in heat. The heat kills the spoilers present in the jar and forces the oxygen OUT of the jar, creating a vacuum which causes the lid to suck inward and seal. A sealed lid alone is NOT enough to create a safe canning situation. 

You can read more about acid and canning in this post- there’s even a free pH chart of all the foods you may can that you can download for free! 

My recommendation, which mirrors that of the USDA, is that you should not use an instant pot for canning. 

The motivation to use an instant pot to can is surely to save time. The FASTEST way to can is to use a steam canner- they save 25 minutes per batch, every batch. Read this post about them! If you’re ready to dive in, grab the Steam Canning for Beginners Ebook that will have you canning 25 minutes faster per batch, every batch. You’ll never wonder if you’re doing it right; get started on the right foot today! 

Want to learn more about canning in general? Sign up for the Free Canning Basics Course and get a few easy, STEP BY STEP lessons right in your inbox that will help you master the basics!

How to Start Steam Canning

Jenny GomesSteam canning used to be reserved for those who didn’t abide by tested recipes or methods. Now, after being approved by the USDA in 2015, steam canners open up a world of possibilities for the home canner in terms of time savings and safety. I use a steam canner exclusively, and many of you will too when you read why they are so fantastic. 

If a traditional water bath is like a hot tub, I like to say that a steam canner is like a sauna. Both achieve the same result (a safely sealed jar) with slightly different, but still very similar means. Heat surrounding a jar for a set amount of time forces oxygen out of the jar, creating that vacuum and air tight seal, and also kills spoilers inside the jar. The heat of a steam canner is the same as the heat of a traditional water bath, and we know this because it’s been tested by the USDA and several Cooperative Extension office.

Steam canners use the exact same recipes as every other water bath canning recipe. The process is very similar except instead of submerging your jar in boiling water, you are simply setting it on the rack to warm. 

A steam canner boils only 2.5 quarts (or about 2 inches) of water, while a traditional water bath boils 8+ inches of water in about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of pot. The time saving is realized on the second and third batches, when the applesauce or salsa is already cooked and ready, but you would have to wait for a water bath to come back up to boil, but the steam canner is immediately ready to can a subsequent batch instantly. 

Not only do steam canners save hours in an afternoon of canning, but they are so much lighter. They are lightweight aluminum pots, with a simple rack and dial that’s easy to read, making them ideal for anyone who is tired of carrying a heavy pot of boiling water around the kitchen. A traditional canning pot can weigh over 35 pounds when full of water! This weight is impossible for some people with disabilities or after a surgery or as my Grandma says, “after a certain age.” A steam canner is ideal for someone wanting a lighter load (literally and metaphorically) or for someone who wants to use less water in their canning process; those living in an RV, tiny house, or sailboat, for example.

There’s a few limitations for steam canners, so read on before you get yourself a steam canner.

Steam Canning

They run out of water after 45-50 minutes of processing. SO, if you live at a higher elevation and thus have to add 25+ minutes to your normal process time, you may find the steam canner is limited. The recipes that you’d soonest find limited would be for tomato sauce or whole fruit like peach halves, as those have longer processing times. I live at 3000 feet elevation, and thus add 15 minutes to every recipe’s process time, and use the steam canner truly 99% of the time. I cannot think of the last time I used my water bath for anything other than a demonstration. 

You cannot fit a half gallon in the pot, or rather, under the cute lid. So, if you exclusively can jugs of juice in half gallon jars, the steam canner won’t be right for you. 

Worried you’ll need a bunch of equipment to try out a steam canner? Nope! The same if not fewer items are needed to can with a steam canner. 

Download the free steam canner equipment checklist and fact sheet here!

 I can’t recommend them enough, to either an experienced canner (Get two! Holy cow you’ll really be in business then!) or a brand new beginner (truly, they are so simple to use!). Now that they’ve been tested and approved by the USDA, I’m so happy to share them with others. 

Ready to dive in? Grab the Steam Canning for Beginners Ebook that will have you canning 25 minutes faster per batch, every batch. You’ll never wonder if you’re doing it right; get started on the right foot today! 

Canning Pumpkin Puree

Jenny GomesIt is pumpkin season, and of course, there’s countless blog posts and YouTube videos out there telling you, in an expert tone, how to can pumpkin for pie, pumpkin puree, and more.

These posts are all wrong, because the latest recommendations by the USDA are that you CANNOT can pumpkin puree.

I could not, in good conscience, suggest to any reader, that they can pumpkin puree based on that science.

Pumpkin is a low acid vegetable. It is also very dense. Even in a pressure canner, which gets over 220 degrees, it is too dense for the heat to reliably penetrate the puree to kill any potential botulism spores.

Don’t worry, new canners; there are VERY FEW items that you cannot preserve in a home canning setup and this is one of them. Truly, very few. And, just like when you bake bread, you don’t have to understand why or how the bread rises. You DO have to follow the directions in order for it to work. Canning is the same. You just have to follow the directions.

Jenny Gomes holding pumpkin

All foods have an acid value, lemons have an acid level of a 2 (high acid!) and tangerines are significantly, and somewhat surprisingly less acid 4. It will list all the low acid veggies, like pumpkin too. You may, according to the USDA, can in a pressure canner cubed pumpkin, but I would consider this to be an intermediate canning activity.

Furthermore, the USDA goes on to say how the final product of pressure canned cubed pumpkin isn’t as good as frozen.

I can’t see how anyone, when fully informed, would decide to can pumpkin, cubed or pureed, if the best product is preserved frozen.  I’d recommend wide mouth pint jars for freezing. Those jars have a freezer safe line right on them, are easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher, and are my favorite for canning.

Cubed pumpkin (rather than a puree) is required because a trusted recipe source (the USDA for example) TESTED the size of the cubes (1 inch by 1 inch) and measured the heat inside those little cubes to be sure that it was hot enough inside to kill the spoilers that would make you sick.

It is for this reason that you cannot ever can spaghetti squash at all—it won’t hold a cube shape and becomes a mushy mass that the heat, again, can’t reliably penetrate.

You can read the aforementioned page on the USDA site for more detailed, and tested by science specifics on exactly what you can and cannot do with pumpkin.

To be clear, “puree” also refers to pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie filling, mash, mush, or anything that’s not a 1x1 inch chunk. No pumpkin baby food, no smooth pumpkin of any kind.

Canning pumpkin simply isn’t safe. Enjoy it in muffins, lattes, frozen if you must, but don’t can it.

Want to learn more about canning? Dive into my Free Canning Basics Course and get bite-sized lessons right into your inbox!

6 Most Outdated Canning Techniques: How to Save Time and Can Safely

Jenny GomesLearn what methods are out of step in the modern kitchen and replace them with safe, time-saving techniques so you can learn to can the fast, modern way!

1. Using a giant black speckled pot. Those pots work just fine, and are what your grandma may have used, but you don’t have to! The giant black and white speckled pot with the wire rack takes about 35 minutes to come to a boil. That’s a lot of time, energy, and even more so when you want to preserve a second batch. They simply are a time suck that’s really heavy; lugging that huge pot around full of hot water isn’t all that safe. Also, they aren’t useful for anything other than canning. I don’t have room in my kitchen to store something that’s slow, cumbersome, AND really big.

INSTEAD: I have two great solutions to the huge canning pot.

A. Use a pot you already have with a silicone trivet on the bottom. The smaller pot will come to a boil faster, and the silicone trivet will keep the jars from rattling around on the bottom and breaking.

B. Use a steam canner. Steam canners are ready to can in 5 minutes whereas a traditional pot + silicone trivet takes at least 20 minutes. They use the same recipes as a traditional water bath of any size, but are ready to use so much faster! They are lighter, and super easy to use. Differences Between Water Bath Canning and Steam Canning

2. Simmering your canning lids. I know, I know, your granny simmered so you think you should. Or, you got a utensil kit and it comes with a lid lifter so you feel like surely, you should be pulling the lids out of some hot water, right? Wrong. You DO NOT have to simmer your Ball canning lids (and many other brands — check brand websites or lid packages) and haven’t had to since the 1960’s.

INSTEAD: Use clean, cold, new lids and put them right on your jars full of preserve.

3. Using paraffin wax to seal your jars. Oof. This is a common one. The reason the USDA says you shouldn’t use this method is because it has a high rate of failure and it bypasses the boiling water bath which drives oxygen out of the jar, creates a reliable seal, and parrafin wax “seals” lead to wasted preserve. Also, with wax all over the jar, you can’t tell if your jar has sealed (weakly) or not. Lastly, who wants to pick crumbles of paraffin wax out of their jam?

INSTEAD: Use a steam canner or water bath pot to preserve. Learn more about the canning process here.

4. Using the upside-down method. This is where the jar is filled with preserve, the lid and ring applied, and the whole thing is turned upside down on the counter. A weak seal may form, but the boiling water process is skipped, thus leaving the canner wide open to spoilers growing in their jar.

INSTEAD: Use the simple canning process and either submerge your jars in a water bath (like a hot tub!) or in a steam canner (like a sauna!) Both are great and will result in safely sealed jars.

5. Canning in the oven. This isn’t safe and hasn’t been recommended for years. I wrote Oven Canning: Should You Try It, but the short version is that jars aren’t meant to be roasted, can explode, and the risk isn’t worth it.

INSTEAD: Process jars in a water bath or in a steam canner.

6. Sterilizing your canning jars. This step is unnecessary most of the time because most recipes have you processing your jars for the required 10 minutes, thus sterilizing your jars as they are processing.

INSTEAD: Fill warm, clean jars and process for the time specified in the recipe.

What other techniques should I add to the list, GRIT readers? Share in the comments below!

canning pin

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