Sometimes I over complicate things, and for many of you starting out in the prepping mindset, simpler is much much better. For years I have advocated canning food in steel cans, because glass jars break. But if you are just going to plan to stay put, come what may, glass “Mason” jars could be your best bet. These jars are available at Walmart generally, and are also under the brand name Kerr, in addition to the traditional green packaged Ball brand.
The important thing to really understand, no BS, is that you cannot safely can meat, fish, and even most vegetables in these jars without a “canner” pot which is specifically made for pressure canning. My local Walmarts still carry the jars, usually on an endcap, but they no longer have a canning section, so you may be forced to buy a canner online. Walmart.com has them, as does Amazon and Ebay.
Generally your best bet is going to be canners by Presto. The 16 quart you see in the video is difficult to get right now, but it was the cheapest when this was filmed, and sometimes it still comes available in the $70 range, especially on Ebay. It does not have a pressure gauge. Right now the 23 quart Presto is about $125, and I would say that is about the best you can do.
And even though I do own several All American canners, I can’t in good conscience suggest that you go out and buy one. The prices have come way up, and they are not materially better in the short term than a Presto. Theoretically they would be better long term, because the Presto uses a rubber gasket, and rubber can dry rot over time. The All American is a metal to metal design, and will work ten years later. Presto is now making an electric canner that holds like 3 quart jars. It is a $300 novelty.
There is a now a canner under brand name Barton that is being dumped by the Chinese on the American market for about a hundred bucks. I have to say as I have many times in this series that you can’t stand on principles with survival supplies. The Presto canners are also made in China, and the All American are overpriced. The Barton uses a silicone gasket, and it holds around 12 lbs with the weight. I saw a comment on Walmart.com that you can throw a standard 1/2″ washer over the rocker to bring it to 15lbs. You can find the Barton on both Amazon and Ebay.
Clostridium botulinum is the bacteria that we are concerned with here. It causes botulism, which is a nasty disease that has no real treatment options except for an “anti-toxin” that your local hospital probably does not even have anymore. There are very few cases of botulism in the US anymore, because most canning people know what they are doing.
Killing botulinum bacteria is very difficult. Regular boiling water will not do it. The Federal guidelines for food canners is 250 degrees for three minutes, and the only way to get there in any food with water is with pressure. A full 250 degrees at sea level takes 15 lbs., but most home canning guidelines center around 10 lbs of pressure. The key is time. To be safe, most recipes are going to suggest 10 lbs for a half an hour or more.
When I made this video, I was still canning all of my meat at 15 pounds for 90 minutes, which I learned from an old video series made by the Alaska Extension Service. I have been experimenting with less time and ten pounds of pressure, but not with glass jars. Glass is an insulator. Heat does not travel through it very well. So I am not sure I would suggest deviating from this original approach, even though the food is seriously overcooked by it. Dinty Moore is canned, and it doesn’t taste like it has been in a slow cooker for 20 hours. But those are metal cans.
To keep your canner from boiling out at 90 minutes, in my experiences it is best to fill the canner with water to almost the rim of the jars. Above the rim will create a pressure dynamic I don’t want to experiment with, and that seems to work with a full canner at 90 minutes in the Presto, All American, and Barton canners. You don’t want your canner to boil out because it will warp, and you will probably crack the jars in the bottom layer of the pot for that batch as well.
Your first step is to fill your jars. Now, if you are a canning Karen and are just checking this out to see what I say here, you may want to take your pills, or perhaps go get another booster. But I don’t believe that sterilizing the jars, or even washing them as the company suggests makes any difference. I also don’t think you have to be meticulous about not getting food on the rim, and I’ll explain that later.
You can choose whether to can your meat from raw or from cooked. I have always felt that failures are less likely with cooked, because there is no expansion of the physical stuff as it cooks while the pressure is building. This could be truer of steel cans than glass jars, I don’t know. Because the glass jars are actually meant to leak as they come up to pressure. As you can see in the video, I did both to show you that they really don’t fail if you follow the steps in order and don’t deviate.
Leave some headspace in your jars, at least the width of the screw threads. For rubbery tough meat, if you pre-cook it like you see in the video, it can stick right out of the top, but if you started with the proper headspace, in my experience they come out fine by just squishing them down with the lid, and screwing the rings finger tight.
You are not looking for extremely tight on your rings, no matter if you can from raw or cooked. After the canning pot comes down to zero pressure, you will tighten them as tight as you can can to ensure that the rim seals as it cools and draws a vacuum.
If you are taking food right out of a hot oven and putting them directly into the water, it is best to heat the water some first. Otherwise you can have jars shatter.
Close the pot, but do not drop the weight. First you have to bring the pot up to boiling, and wait for the pot to evacuate all of the air. It can be difficult to see this on the All American, but the Presto has a big enough vent hole that you can usually see when the gaps in the steam stop. If you waited 5 minutes but it still seems to have gaps, don’t worry about it, just drop the weight.
Then the canner will begin the build pressure. All canners have a safety release valve or plug of some kind, so you don’t really need to worry about blowing yourself up. Let the canner come up to pressure until the weight starts rocking back and forth, or jiggling with an All American. At first it will be violent, but you can let back the heat to either light rocking/jiggling, or intermittent.
Obviously in a survival situation we will all be trying to conserve fuel. As long as you hear the steam escaping from below the weight, you are going to be at a canning pressure at least close to what you expect. If you have a gauge on your pot, which is all but the 16 quart Presto, you will be able to see the pressure. If I am holding food at north of 40 minutes, which for meat I will always be doing, I am not concerned that my pressure may drop a couple pounds. That is just my experience, not advice. I have some half gallon jars of beets that I canned in probably 2017 that have been fine, and that I canned on top of a kerosene heater, where the weight never even rocked. They are still like the day they were canned, but the beets have faded. You can’t even get canning information for half gallon jars anymore, but they still do sell them.
When you are at pressure, that is when you start counting your time.
At the end of your time, do not remove the weight. If you do, your jars will most likely explode. This is because the pressure in the jars will become far greater than the pressure in the pot. The pressure in the jars has to gradually bleed off, through the edge of the cap.
Now, Karens, that is why I don’t think that sterilizing the jars is a big deal, or making sure that the rim is dry at the beginning of the canning process. If you look at the video and picture from the next day, when the canner is cold, there is a layer of fat on top of the water that leaked out of the jars as they came down in pressure. In my experience you can’t always prevent this, even by leaving a lot of headspace on precooked food, though that does help. No matter what, there is always going to be stuff passing over that rim in this process. I’m sorry but this is 2 + 2 = 4, even though I’m sure there will be Karen comments on this article, and for sure on CluelessTube.
The only step I haven’t covered, for glass jars, is that when the canner comes down to zero, but it is still ripping hot, you should open the pot and re-tighten the jars, as tight as you can. This keeps the rim in contact with the lid as the can cools and draws a vacuum. You will see the lid lock button drop on a Presto or the Barton, and on an American you just wait for it to drop below the 0, which it will.
That’s it. When your jars cool they will be canned and stable, and will last in my experience indefinitely. You do not need the rings, and if you want to leave them on, make sure to remove them, clean up the threads of the glass and the rings with soapy water, and then let them fully dry. I suggest you clean your jars with hot soapy water regardless.
The lid is not officially reusable, and you can buy official Ball lids on all the same sources. There are two sizes, regular, and wide. I suggest the wide, as the food is easier to get out. Since Ball started making their stuff in China, there are now Chinese knock offs for a fraction of the already not expensive price that seem to work fine.
In a survival situation, I would wash and keep the lids as you remove them. For years they may not be as viable as a fresh lid, but if you kill a deer and just want to be able to eat it for the next several weeks, I would expect that the reused lids will last just fine. Ideal canning rules don’t apply once this thing gets real, and again, this isn’t advice. I’m just musing.
To prepare for what’s coming I can’t stress enough that it isn’t luxury food like meat that you should be storing at first. Grains are what people survive on during a famine. Joseph did not store 7 years of meat in the Bible after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. They stored grain. And as I write this, Walmart flour is still $3 for ten pounds, north of 4,500 calories per dollar. Please see my recent article on food storage for more of this.
But if you have a source of inexpensive meat already, or you have game in the freezer that you would like to preserve without needing refrigeration, by all means get canning. If you have a garden, pretty much all vegetables except tomatoes must be pressure canned. The only reason you can do tomatoes in an open pot, with no pressure, is because of their acid content. Bacteria does not do well in an acid environment. Fermented vegetables that you have made acidic with pickling also can be “water bath” canned, as well as acidic fruits. But that’s pretty much it.
Look online first for known good canning recipes if you want to use spices and seasonings. Most do not do well at 90 minutes of 240 degrees or more. I use MSG because my family is not sensitive to it, and it works and makes things taste better that have been cooked to death. Stay tuned to Grid Down, and subscribe to GunsAmerica Digest for more on this. I have been experimenting with alternative canning methods that are affordable and seem to work great so far, but I have to let the food sit for a couple months to make sure it is stable.
It is always best to heat home canned food to at least 185 degrees and hold it there for 5 minutes before eating it. The toxin that botulinum creates, (otherwise known as Botox), dies at 185 degrees, so even if you can was bad, the thing that will kill you potentially will be rendered inactive.
Once you have the tools, canning is easy. It is not something you have to practice. Just get the tools now, even if you don’t have time to do any canning and you have no ready source of cheap food to can. Time is running out.