Not so. A little instruction-following is all it takes.
I took the plunge recently, and canned my first ever low-acid food! Low-acid foods are more prone to going bad over time, especially by being infected with botulism. So instead of canning them in a normal boiling-water canner (a big pot), they must be canned at high pressure, to raise the temperature of the boiling water. Check out the visual: the pressure-temperature graph for water.
Source: How Stuff Works
As the graph shows, as pressure increases, water boils at a higher temperature. So to process my low-acid food at a super-high temperature, which kills all the potentially lethal fungi and bacteria that it contains, I have to raise the pressure.
This is done with a lovely gadget called a pressure canner (basically just a giant pressure cooker), which has a tight-sealing lid to keep pressure in, and a gauge to measure the pressure.
As the water boils, it turns into steam, which builds up pressure inside the sealed pot. By adjusting the flame under the canner, I could control the pressure in the pot, keeping it right where I wanted it to maintain the correct processing temperature.
Here we go:
I chose to can ground meat (a few cans of turkey, and a few of beef) because it is cheap, readily available, and widely used in my recipes. It's important to choose lean meat because the fat in fattier cuts can easily become rancid during storage, even if it's canned. Rancid fats are not "good eats."
1. I prepare my meat and equipment:
-the canner (full of water) on a high flame on the stove (back right burner)
-the jar lids simmering (back right burner)
-the meat browning in two pots
-my pint canning jars were already thoroughly washed and in the canner, heating up too.
2. After it was browned, I carefully funnelled the meat into the prepared jars, wiped the rims with a vinegar-soaked cloth (to clean off any fat that could keep the lids from sealing, screwed on the lids, and began to process the jars.
3. Processing in the canner: Every canner is probably different, but the lid on mine just screws on very securely to create an airtight seal. It took at least 15 minutes for pressure to build up in the canner. Here it is at zero, before the pressure built up.
4. Finally, the pressure increased to the amount specified in my manual (or check this chart, which will show you exactly what pressure you need for your altitude, and how long to let them boil), I turned the flame/burner down a little on my stove to keep it at that specific pressure, and I let the jars process at high pressure for the time specified on the chart.
5. All the boiling paid off with eight jars of lovely, ready-to-use beef. Once the specified time to boil at high pressure has been reached, it is VERY important to just turn the stove off and leave the pressure canner alone until the pressure dial goes back down to "zero." There is a TON of pressure built up in that sucker, and you don't want to blow the lid off into your face (or through the kitchen window!) by messing around with it!
So, why go to all the work of pressure canning anyway?
I have never (purposely) eaten much canned meat before, and I'm philosophically opposed to most canned meats from the store, because of all the added salt and chemicals. But it's really nice to be able to store meat, ready to go, outside of my very overcrowded freezer. These jars have no added ingredients (you can add salt if you want, but I didn't), and the jars are glass, so there's no BPA scare. I don't know if this will be my normal method of preparing meat for everyday use, but it is nice to have some stocked up, and to have the knowledge to be able to do it again.
I am really excited about this meat, not only for everyday convenience, but because my rural area loses power quite frequently in the winter. I am excited to have a fully cooked, ready-to-heat meat option available in my cupboard!
If you're interested in canning meats or other low-acid foods, it's VERY important to follow the directions on your pressure canner. It's a simple process, but you don't want to mess around with meat that's going to sit in the cupboard for 6 months.
Posted at Simples Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS