Recently, I was asked about the dangers of pressure cooker canning. While they still exist, the real horror stories mostly come from the models past. Today’s pressure cookers are really pretty safe, and I’m not talking about in a plane crash vs. car wreck way either. Besides some freak accident, I really only know of a couple of ways that the actual pressure cooker can harm you by material or design failure.
A recent search for “Pressure cooker injuries for 2011″ yielded article after article of horror stories. I won’t go into details because some are bad, but one blew and injured 8 people from the one incident. So the dangers are there; these things still blow sometimes. But a good one like the All American should serve you safely for the rest of your life.
Just to be clear, there is a difference between a “pressure COOKER” and a “pressure CANNER”. The ones I have referenced here for you actually do both cooking and canning. Some are only meant for cooking or vice-versa so please do your homework.
One is the actual metal itself failing, most likely on the side of the pot. Again anymore, that would be quite rare because of improvements in design engineering. Two models I refer to are; the Presto and the All American.
The second danger is seal failure. If the seal were to fail, high pressure steam and water at temperatures beyond boiling could come spraying out. While unlikely to occur, it DOES happen.
Third is not really a failure of the product, but in its care. If you open the pot too early, you could earn yourself a Darwin Award. Both the Presto and the All American have features that prevent this. I am not so sure about other models because I have no experience with any other kind, besides what I have seen on YouTube.
I like the All American better, because it is thicker, has all the same safety features of the Presto, but has no seal (which will wear out eventually; not so swell for prepping) and requires much less attention to use.
I’ve also been asked several times to give a little more info on the “water bath” method of canning. This canning is done with a large pot, a rack to keep your canning jars off the bottom, and your stove top. There really isn’t very much to it. As with all canning, you should always follow your recipes. These recipes are not meant to be experimented with. They have been tested and proven safe. The times and temperatures are there to assure your canned food is safely preserved. This remains true whether you are pressure canning or using a water bath.
The water bath method relies on water reaching the boiling point of 212 degrees F to kill off any harmful bacteria, molds or yeast. This is done by pouring boiling water around, not on, the jars then covering the pot and boiling for a pre determined amount of time. Again, follow the recipe. This method takes longer, which in turn cooks your vegetables or foods longer and some people complain that this causes the food to lose vitamins.
Pressure Canning Vs. Water Bath canning
While the Water Bath canner reaches 212 degrees, the pressure canner method reaches much higher temperatures of 240 degrees F. This kills bacteria like botulism much faster thereby shortening your cooking time and retaining more vitamins. Now whether this is true or not, I can’t be positive. I am not a scientist. I am just telling you what I have heard.
The water bath method is still preferred by some people for canning high acid foods and some softer vegetables, fruits, and meats. Their reasoning being, the pressure will mush them. I have never had this problem. But this method isn’t as safe as far as Botulism is concerned.
Some folks will say as long as you’re careful the water bath method is just as safe (and some say safer). I disagree, because with the water bath method, you’re really just guessing at the internal temperatures, whereas the pressure cooker/canner guarantees the temperature you are at and you won’t “mush” anything when following the recipes. I always use the Ball Blue Book.
You should also stock extra lids at something like 20 to 1 for every jar. The more the merrier, unless you buy Tattler “reusable” lids & rings which are pricier but, when you’re buying 20 to 1 of the other, I think it more than evens out.
You really do need a set of ‘canning tools’. These are items used specifically when you are canning. Things like the ‘jar grabber’, a tool which is used to grab the hot jars out of the pot when you are finished, are absolutely worth the purchase and you will find having these items make the task so much easier. Amazon has a great set for purchase that I recommend.
Any tool used improperly can be dangerous. There are plenty of “how to” videos you can find on YouTube for extra guidance on this subject.