Pressure Canning Basics

pressure canning basics

Pressure canning can be very intimidating to even the experienced canner. It doesn’t have to be complicated or scary as long as you follow these simple tips and instructions. Join me as we go over some pressure canning basics to get you started putting up delicious food for your family safely.

Pressure Canning Tools

There are a few essentials you need to get started pressure canning.

  • Pressure canner- make sure you choose a pressure canner, not cooker there is a difference. Usually, your canner will come with at least one rack. One to keep jars off the bottom of the canner and one to separate jars when double stacking pints and half-pints. Some pressure canners have a rubber seal, others bolt and screw down without a seal.
mirro pressure canner
Mirro Pressure Canner
  • Jars- Home canning jars, are the only jars recommended for home canning. They are made to withstand high temperatures used in canning. Standard jars come in regular and wide-mouth openings. They are available in many sizes including quart, pint, half-pint, and even gallon and half-gallon size.
Ball Mason Jars
My favorite Ball Mason jars, ready to fill.
  • Metal lids and bands. Choose the appropriate size to fit your jar.
  • Jar funnel- used to fill jars easily.
  • Bubble remover and headspace tool- used to remove air bubbles and measure headspace.
  • Lid magnet- used to lift lids out of hot water.
  • Jar lifter- used to lift hot jars out of the canner after processing.
  • Wet cloth to wipe rims of jars off before sealing with a metal lid.

Instructions are important!

Always begin by reviewing the instructions that came with your canner. Become very familiar with them. Safety is the most important aspect of pressure canning. We’ve all heard horror stories about pressure canners exploding and injuring or even killing their users. And I bet we’ve all heard stories about the dreaded b-word. You know, botulism. Injuries and deaths are all preventable in canning by just following instructions and using FDA canning approved and tested recipes. Messing with the details is dangerous. Don’t take any chances.

Clean and sterilize jars and lids.

Start with clean jars. Hand wash in soapy water and rinse well or put them through the dishwasher. Please wash brand new jars as well, you don’t know what has been touching them in the factory, warehouse or store. You can sterilize them many ways. For instance, using your dishwasher with the sterilize setting, boiling them in a big pot of water, or heating them in your oven. There are many approved ways to get your jars ready to fill.

Prepare your canner.

Every canner is unique and requires different levels of water. Please refer to your instruction manual and add the appropriate amount of water to your canner. Refer to your recipe and start with your water, jars and food at the right temperature.

 pressure canner
Inside my pressure canner, showing bottom rack.

Fill your jars with yummy food.

Using an approved recipe, fill your jars to required headspace (space between the food and the top of the jar), remove any air bubbles using a bubble remover tool or a chopstick, by pressing on the food, and running it between the food and the side of the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean wet cloth, apply a metal lid that has been simmered to warm the rubber seal on the underside, and tighten to finger tight a metal band.

Filling Ball Mason Jars for canning
Filling jars with grapes and sugar to make grape juice.

Load your canner and start heating.

Once all your jars are filled, it’s time to load them up in the pressure canner. Place all the jars in a single layer for quarts on the bottom rack. Jars should fit in the canner with a little room in between. If you are canning pints or half pints, you may be able to double stack with a rack in between if your pressure canner is big enough. Please check your manufacturer’s instructions to be sure. Lock the lid in place and start heating. Refer to your manufacturer’s instructions for temperature. When you get a steady stream of steam coming out the vent, start your timer and vent for 10 full minutes.

Place weight and start timing.

Once you have vented for the full 10 minutes, place your weight per recipe instructions (5, 10 or 15 lb weights are typical) and altitude. Wait until your canner comes up to pressure before starting your timer. With a weighted canner, your weight will jiggle, a bit like a hula dancer. With a guage canner you just watch the guage.

Process per recipe time.

Process your jars in your pressure canner per your recipe’s instructions. The weight should jiggle consistently or the gauge should stay consistent the entire time you are processing. In the event that you let your canner dip below weight you must start your processing time over. I like to stay within earshot of my canner at all times to keep tabs on it. I will occasionally run out to grab the mail or move a sprinkler, but I never leave it for more than a few minutes.

Remove and cool.

Once your processing time is complete, turn your burner off, and carefully remove the pressure canner from heat. I typically pull mine off and place it on several layers of hot pads on my island, away from the stove. The canner will be very hot. Keep canner out of any drafts and resist the urge to cool it down quicker by placing it outside or in cool water. Cooling it down too fast will cause siphoning of your jars. Allow canner to come to zero pressure before removing the weight. This is easy on a gauge canner, you can readily see the pressure. On a weighted canner, it is at zero when it stops making a hissing noise and no steam comes out when you tap the weight gently. Wait about 5 minutes after you remove the weight to remove the lid. Then wait another 5 minutes before you lift the jars out of the canner. Use your jar lifter to lift the hot jars out of the canner and place them on a thick towel to finish cooling. Remember, they will be very hot!

Allow jars to seal and set.

Leave the jars alone, no touching, shaking, tipping. Allow your jars to sit undisturbed for 12 hours at least. Jars will ping as they seal. Oftentimes, pressure canned jars will ping multiple times as they seal and unseal and then seal again as they cool. However, they are very hot and can take a long time to seal. If they haven’t sealed within 24 hours refrigerate and use soon, freeze or reprocess.

ball mason jars of grape juice cooling and sealing
Grape juice cooling after processing.

Thats it! You have sucessfully pressure canned! That wasn’t so hard was it? What is the first thing you canned in your pressure canner or what is the first thing you’d like to try canning? Ready to try your hand at water bath canning? I can walk you through it step by step here!

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