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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Jackie Clay

QandA: Canning in a pressure cooker and Apple bread

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Canning in a pressure cooker

…I’d like your thoughts regarding the Swiss-made Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers used as canners. I’ve included some information (and the urls) for your reference.

While these cookers are very pricey when new, I purchased mine used on ebay and have been very pleased with them. One feature driving my purchase was the fact that my particular cooker holds 3 quart jars “for canning.”

As the economy has become less robust and more people are returning to canning, preserving, and purchasing food locally, it seems that Kuhn Rikon is distancing itself from the whole canning culture (see yellow highlights). Given our lawsuit-happy society, I can certainly understand their concerns, but it also seems that their equipment is well suited to small batch canning.

Because this cooker uses a spring-valve pressure indicator at 8 pounds and 15 pounds, I’ve canned food at the 15 pound setting, for the time required at my elevation, since 8 pounds of pressure is insufficient to raise the temperature as needed. I know this is over-pressured, but it seems to me it should be fine, and I’ve had no complaints about the food preserved at this pressure.

I know you have to be careful about what you recommend, but would you give me your thoughts on this? Obviously I frequently can large quantities, but it’s great to be able to can up just a couple of quarts of leftover soups and stews. Do you see any red flags, or have any cautions for me?

Betsy Weible
Nevada, Texas

I’ve never been a fan of canning with a pressure cooker. They may seem alike, but they are made for different purposes. First of all, most are too small to can efficiently. It is not very efficient to can only one or two jars of food; it’s better to can more jars, even if it means freezing or refrigerating some foods in order to be able to can up a batch. It’s like throwing a pair of socks in the washing machine and running the cycle or only having two packages of meat in a freezer. You’re using the energy, so why not make it count? Does your Swiss canner have a rack to hold the jars up off of the bottom? This is necessary in all canners as sometimes the jar bottoms will break out if the canner does not have a rack and the jars are set on the bottom of the canner — even if it’s in water. They need the rack, even if it’s a wire grill cover or some other home-manufactured rack. I’d recommend using the pressure cooker for the use it was manufactured and using a pressure canner for your canning. I have a huge big old canner but bought a smaller (and lighter) new canner to can up small batches and that works real well for me. — Jackie

Apple bread

I made the apple bread from your canning book yesterday and didn’t have enough apples so I used 1 pint of home canned applesauce. The bread was very good but it didn’t get done in the middle. I tested it and the toothpick came out clean. It looked done too. Next time I will cook it a little longer as I only baked it about 45 minutes. Do you think it was because the applesauce is more moist than apples is why it didn’t get done as it was brown?

Ruth Ann Martin
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Yes. Applesauce IS more moist than apples. If you use applesauce in the bread, you’ll definitely have to bake it longer. If it starts to brown too soon on the top, you’ll have to cover the top with foil. Instead of a toothpick on these moist breads, use a slender, sharp knife to pierce deeper into the center of the bread. You’ll never notice the slot the knife made and you’ll know if it’s done in the middle. — Jackie

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