9/18/17

0 Safe Steam Canning With Your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker: Part One


One of the most frequent questions that I see is, "Can I use the Instant Pot pressure cooker to can foods?"

Of course you can.

But only using certain foods and a safe way to do it.
I have been canning for over 30 years. I watched and learned from my mother how to carefully prepare food and water bath can many fruits, jams, jellies, and pickles. I have done pressure canning, and more recently, have been steam canning. Some canning practices have changed over the years, so it it important to keep up to date.
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Statement about canning from Instant Pot:
"Instant Pot can be used for boiling-water canning. However, Instant Pot has not been tested for food safety in pressure canning by USDA. Due to the fact that programs in Instant Pot IP-CSG, IP-LUX and IP-DUO series are regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer, the elevation of your location may affect the actual cooking temperature. For now we wouldn't recommend using Instant Pot for pressure canning purpose." 
Sorry, folks. No pressure canning allowed in the Instant Pot.
Pressure canning is for foods that are low in acid.

You can  watch a short video on the 7 Rules for Safe Steam Canning.





What is a Low Acid Food?
From the NCHFP:
"Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters.
Although tomatoes usually are considered an acid food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6. Figs also have pH values slightly above 4.6. Therefore, if they are to be canned as acid foods, these products must be acidified to a pH of 4.6 or lower with lemon juice or citric acid. Properly acidified tomatoes and figs are acid foods and can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner."
Fruits like tomatoes, figs, asian pears, melons, persimmons, papaya, white peaches and white nectarines, and bananas are often just a bit too low in acid in their natural state for safe canning. 
(Source)


What is Water Bath Canning?

Water bath canning, or Open Kettle canning, is when prepared jars are submerged by 1"-2" of continuously boiling water. No pressure is used, and you can use a any well fitting lid to prevent rapid evaporation of your water. If you do not have a lid that fits, you can find an Instant Pot clear lid here.
There are some limitations to water bath canning with the IP:

1. You must use the trivet to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. Direct contact of jars on the bottom of the pot puts your jars at risk of breakage. Because of this, you must use short jars, as the water needs to come to at least 1" above the jars. 8 oz jelly jars or shorter can only be used.

If you overfill your IP, the water can boil over and get in between the pot and the Instant Pot, potentially causing damage to your Instant Pot.

2. I am uncertain as to which setting you can use to maintain a rolling boil - it must be a rolling boil during the entire processing time of your food.

You can use any large pot of water. You must use a rack, or trivet, between the bottom of the pot and the jar, to prevent any possible breakage with direct heat/contact with the jars.

Instant Pot Trivet

If you do not have a trivet, or steam rack for your Instant Pot, you can find one here, at the Instant Pot Store. 


Let's talk about Steam Canning and how it works...

STEAM CANNING 

Also known as Atmospheric canning, it uses steam, which is the same temperature as boiling water, to process your foods.

Steam canning has been around for over 80 years, but the process just got research tested approval from Utah State University Extension Services and University of Wisconsin Extension Services in 2015! Woot!


This is the steam canner I have from Back to Basics.

PROS OF USING A STEAM CANNER

1. It only uses a couple of inches of water, versus up to 4 gallons with water bath canning.
2. It heats up more quickly, as 4 gallons of water can take 30 minutes.
3. Less water, less time, helps keep the kitchen cooler.
4. No more lugging big pots of water onto the stove.
5. No risk of water boiling over.
6. It is not a complicated machine with dials and knobs. It is very easy to use.

This is AMAZING for me, as I live in a desert, and water is a precious commodity.

With a steam canner, all you do is put the shallow part of the steam canner on your stove, place your trivet/rack into the canner, fill it up to the rack with water, set your prepared bottled foods on top of the rack, cover with the top canner pot and begin to boil your water. When a full line of steam comes out of the little hole (as indicated by the RED arrow in the picture), you can start the timer to process the food.

This got me thinking....I wonder if I can use my Instant Pot as a steam canner?

Before you jump into Steam Canning, let's go over the rules, which are summarized from the above statements from USU and UW , which you will need to follow for steam canning in the Instant Pot.






WHY USE SAFE CANNING PRACTICES?

One of the reasons for canning is to preserve food. Foods that are properly canned will keep well for 2-5 years in a cool, dark place. Shelf life primarily is determined by the type and quality of the food and how it is preserved.

If you do not can your food properly, you can get Botulism.
Botulism is a rare, but deadly illness that is caused by a germ called Clostridium Botulinum. The germ is found in soil, and can survive, grow, and produce a toxin, especially when food is improperly canned. The toxin can affect your nerve, paralyze you, and even cause death.
You cannot see, smell, or taste the botulinum toxin - but taking even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.

When in doubt, throw it out!
     If there is any doubt that safe canning practices have not been used, throw it out. Do not use taste or smell to determine if the food is safe to eat. If any of questionable food spills, clean up the spill by using 1/4 cup liquid bleach mixed in with 2 cups of water.

7 RULES OF SAFE STEAM CANNING

1. Food must be HIGH acid.
     High acid foods are: fruits, pickles, jams, jellies, marmalades, & fruit butters.

2. Must use a research tested recipe. Do not change or adapt the recipe.
Use recipes from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,  National Center for Home Food Preservation, or your State or County Extension Service. Please do not use any methods or recipes that do not follow these guideline, even if it is from a trusted friend or family member. 

3. Jarred food must be processed in pure steam.
Make sure your IP is vented (you can remove the pressure valve), and when a full column of steam appears, you can begin the timing process. Full steam is the same temperature as boiling water, at your altitude. You can remove the float valve assembly and insert an accurate probe thermometer to test for 
4. Jars must be heated prior to filling.
Heating the jars and keeping them hot until they are filled with hot liquid, will minimize any breaking of your jars and process your food more accurately and safely. If cold jars are allowed to touch hot steam, they can break. If cold foods (raw pack) are used without hot liquid, the processing time will be off, your food will not be completely processed and may be unsafe to store and eat. 
5. Processing time must be adjusted to your elevation.
Water boils at different temperatures depending on the altitude. The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure. That is why, at higher elevations, more time is added to the overall processing time. You will need to find your altitude and use this chart to adjust your processing time. I'm at 4,500 feet, so I would add 10 minutes to my processing time. If you do not know your elevation, you can check the chart below, look online with this elevation tool, or use your smart phone to ask, "What is my altitude?"

6. Processing time must be 45 minutes or less, including adjusted times for elevation.
Since the IP is smaller than a steam canner, this processing time requirement may be even less, as it is limited by the amount of water used. (See Water Test, below) When processing food, the IP should not be opened at any time to add more water. 
If the IP boils dry before the processing time is up, the food is considered under-processed and will need to be immediately re-processed using the water bath method or refrigerated.
7. Hot jars must be cooled in a safe place away from drafts, for 12-24 hours.
Cooling of hot jars must happen in still, room temperature air. Set your hot jars carefully on a wire cooling rack or a thick towel, away from drafts. Do not put hot jars into the refrigerator. to hasten the cooling. Cooling jars should not be disturbed for 12-24 hours.


Water Test your Instant Pot for Steam Canning!

It is recommended that you test your IP for canning before beginning your canning process. You will want to know your altitude, boiling point, and how long your IP will consistently keep the steam at a constant temperature before starting any canning or processing.

You will want to purchase a probe thermometer to test your Instant Pot for steam canning. I chose the ThermoPro Digital thermometer based on the size of the probe and the customer reviews. It was also a great deal, at 50% of regular price.

1. Put a couple of pennies in the IP liner. As the water heats, the pennies will begin to rattle, and if they stop rattling, that means your pot has boiled dry.

2. Place the wire trivet (steam rack) in the IP liner. Fill the liner with enough water to reach the level of the trivet. For the 6 quart, this is 3.5 cups of water.

3. Remove the Instant Pot float valve assembly by removing the plastic grommet, removing the pin, and placing these parts in a Ziploc baggie, so you don't lose them. Removal of the float valve assembly is ONLY FOR TESTING. You will need to keep it intact and in place for actual processing.

4. Insert the probe through the hole left by the float valve. I put the float pin on top to help keep any excess steam from escaping.

5. Check your IP lid seal. Make sure it is seated correctly.

6. Close the lid. Make sure the tip of the probe thermometer is NOT touching the bottom of the IP pot liner or the trivet.

7. Open the Pressure Valve, or set it to VENTING.

8. Push the STEAM button. As long as the pressure valve is set to VENTING, your Instant Pot will continuously heat the water, with no fluctuation, and will not come to pressure.

My current elevation (altitude) is 1374 meters, or 4508 feet, so my boiling point should be at least 203.5°F. According to my thermometer, it is reading at 205.7°F.



9. Once you see a full stream of steam coming from the pressure valve, set your timer for 35 minutes.

10. At the end of 35 minutes, push Cancel/Keep Warm. Open the IP lid.

If your water does not boil dry within the 35 minute period, you can try steam canning with your Instant Pot!

When hot, prepared jars are added to the pot for processing, the water does not evaporate as quickly. Make sure your seal is seated correctly and that no steam is escaping from the sides. 

My test batch used 3.5 cups water, the trivet, 5- 8oz jars of Strawberry Jam, hot packed. The float valve assembly is NOT REMOVED  for the actual processing, only for testing. Keeping the float valve assembly intact helps keep the steam inside the pressure cooker. Here are my results:
  • 5 min to reach full steam, float valve came up
  • 20 min to process (according to my altitude)
  • 2 min to NPR (Natural Pressure Release) for float valve to drop
  • 2 cups of water remained in the pot liner!
HOW MANY JARS WILL MY INSTANT POT HOLD? What Equipment will I need?

You can do a dry fit of your jars, with the lids on and set them on the trivet. All the photos are of my Instant Pot Duo, 6 quart size. If you have the 8 quart, you will need to see if your jars will fit. Put the trivet in the pot, and place your jars on top of the trivet.

Use regular mouth jars, not wide mouth jars, for the best fit.

This is the height clearance of 8 oz jelly canning jars. Because they are set on the trivet, they are too hight to water bath, but are fine for steam canning.


When 1/2 pint canning jars are set on the trivet, they are the same height as the IP pot liner. You do not want to use jars that are taller than your pot.  Four pint jars fit well in the 6 quart. 


The shorter, 4 oz jelly jars can be double stacked, as long as they are not stacked directly on top of each other. Off set the jars and use a foil sling for the center jar, as shown in the next picture. A total of thirteen, 4 oz jars will be the max for the 6 quart.



To help remove the center jar, you will need to make a foil sling that is folded over itself a couple of times and is at least as wide as the jar.


Fold the foil sling flat, as to not interfere with the lid or sealing ring.


You can see that six or seven 8 oz jelly jars fit nicely.

Once you remove the center jar, it will be easier to remove the other jars.


To remove the rest of the jars, you may want to consider using a hot pad, silicone mitts, or a canning jar lifter. You can find the jar lifter and other canning equipment in an expensive kit in the link below.



In summary, in the 6 quart, you can easily fit the following jars:
4  Pint jars
6-7 Eight Ounce Jelly jars (half pint)
13 Four ounce jars

You may also want to use a wire cooling rack to help your jars cool evenly.


Are you ready to begin steam canning in your Instant Pot?

Do the steam canning test and take a look at my step by step IP Steam Canning post for processing Strawberry Jam.

Enjoy!


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