When I was growing up I was blessed to not only have a Mama that grew her own food, but canned it as well. Not only my Mama, but all the women in my family. Many family gatherings would include a circle of women chatting about their recent crops and what they were planning on canning with them. It was a given that once I had a household of my own, I would follow in all their footsteps. And proudly, I have.
I spent the first 18 years of my canning life afraid of pressure canning. I think we’ve all heard a terrifying story or two about Great Aunt Edith having her pressure canner explode on her. With hearing stories like that, I had completely written off pressure canning.
As my garden grew every year, so did the items on my list to can. Some of those items had to be processed in a pressure canner. I finally talked myself into giving it a try.
The first time I took the pressure canner out of the box and sat it on my stove, I was nervous. I wasn’t going to let my fear keep me from doing it, but a healthy dose of caution guided my every step. I kept having visions of my day ending like Great Aunt Edith’s did: my wild imagination conjured images of explosions, and shrapnel flying all over and through me that would lead to the headlines, “Woman Killed by Flying Tomatoes in a Pressure Canner Explosion.”
I made it through that canning session just fine, praise the Lord. Pressure canning is not difficult, not dangerous and not all that time consuming.
For years when I made chicken broth I would put it into baggies and freeze it. I would fill the baggie, lay it flat to freeze and then find great satisfaction in how nice and neat they look when you stack them.
Except they are frozen. And when I’m whipping up a recipe, I have to take time to defrost them.
I wanted instant chicken broth.
I am by no means a pressure canning expert. But today, I’m going to walk you through pressure canning chicken broth.
First things first, you need to make your chicken broth.
Every time I cook a chicken, whether in my rotisserie or in the oven, I save every leftover bit and bone and broth and grease. I put it all in a large freezer-safe tupperware container and put it in the freezer. Each time I cook chicken, I pull the container out and add to it until I have what I think is enough to make chicken broth. Normally, once that container is full I’ll do a go of broth. Or you could just go out and buy 2 stewing hens.
When I have a free day to make the chicken broth, I give myself plenty of time to cook it. It’s not that it’s a lot of work, it just takes time. I try to start mine earlier in the morning and allow it to simmer and reduce all day. It probably isn’t a good idea to start cooking your broth at 9 pm, unless you like staying up all night and not sleeping. It takes a minimum of 3 hours to turn bones into broth but I like to let mine go a lot longer than that. The longer it reduces, the richer your broth will be.
Before starting your broth first gather your ingredients. You’ll need onions, celery, garlic, carrots, salt and pepper. And grab your container of chicken bits out of the freezer.
Put everything in a large stock pot. Don’t worry about dicing or making your veggies pretty. I just quarter the onion, cut the celery and carrots in half and let the garlic cloves whole. Cover everything with water. I put enough water so everything is covered by at least 3 inches on top.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, and then simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. I let mine go for much longer than that. This last time mine cooked for about 12 hours. I’m not going to tell you to taste it to see if it’s done. If you’ve cooked it for longer than 3 hours, it’s done. Although I highly recommend letting it cook for longer than that. At this point it’s probably more of a chicken stock. A more reduced, darker, stronger, thicker version of broth. And amazingly yummy in recipes!
Now is the only “work” part this recipe really has. After you’ve simmered the broth down, strain it through a colander into a bowl. Actually you’ll probably need a few bowls. You don’t realize just how much broth you made until you get to this point. You can also strain it a second time through cheesecloth to get those small bits that the colander let through.
Once you have the broth strained stick it in the fridge overnight to allow the fat to rise and solidify at the top. If you’re like me, your fridge is full of 25 dozen eggs and fitting a big pot in there is next to impossible. I separate mine into 2-3 large bowls and try to maneuver things around to make it fit. The next morning, take it out off the fridge and remove the hardened fat with a spoon.
If you aren’t interested in pressure canning this broth, you can put it into baggies and freeze it. I always measured mine out into 1 or 2 cup baggies and wrote on the front of the bag how much was in it.
Otherwise, let’s get on to canning!
First, I use a Presto 23-quart pressure canner. I love it, it’s easy to use and I’ve never had a single issue with it. And the best part? Amazon has them on sale right now!
You’ll need to have your broth on the stove on low heat. You want to put it into your jars hot. Also prep your pressure canner by putting it on the stove and heating water in it. Make sure to read your directions for your specific canner to see how much water they advise. I put 3 quarts of water in mine. Also, to keep your jars from being “spotty” you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. You’ll also want to simmer your rings and lids on the stove as well.
Gather up the rest of your tools that you’ll need. You’ll need a funnel, magnetic lid lifter, a jar lifter and a large spoon. Most hardware stores, and even WalMart, has canning kits. The kits will have most of the supplies pictured below in them.
Fill your jars with hot broth. Make sure you have 1″ headspace between the broth and the rim of your jar. In canning, headspace is the amount of space you leave between the rim of the jar and whatever you’re filling it with. Each thing requires a different headspace. I found this handy dandy funnel that also has markings on the side to measure headspace. Here is a little headspace chart to follow:
- Leave 1-inch headspace for low-acid foods, vegetables and meats.
- Leave 1/2-inch headspace for high-acid foods, fruits and tomatoes.
- Leave 1/4-inch headspace for juicers, jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes.
Wipe the rim of the jar off. Never forget this step! Even when you’re using a funnel, you are bound to drip on the rim. And if the rim isn’t clean, it won’t seal properly.
Using your magnetic lid lifter, pull out a lid from your pot of hot water and place it on the jar.
Put your ring on and finger tighten. I use a towel or hot pad to hold onto the jar so I don’t burn my hand. Don’t over tighten your rings. Also, once the jars are sealed and cooled you can remove the rings. The lids are what keeps the jar sealed.
Place the hot packed jars in the pressure canner.
The first thing you need to do is vent your canner. Venting means getting rid of the steam inside the canner so you can build up pressure. To vent, you put your lid on and make sure it’s sealed (follow the manufacturers instructions for this as well) and turn the heat up to medium or medium/high. You DO NOT want your weight on yet. When steam is steadily coming out of the vent, set your timer for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, you’re ready for the next step.
Put your weight on the canner, being careful of the steam that’s coming out, and wait for it to come to pressure. Once it’s up to pressure, set your timer for the appropriate time below. Remember to only start the timer once your canner is up to pressure. Waiting for the canner to get up to pressure sometimes takes several minutes, and it will feel like time stands still. Just be patient, it will get there.
20 minutes at 11 lbs for pint jars
25 minutes at 11 lbs for quart jars
You may need to adjust the heat up or down during this time. If you see your pressure rising above what it should be, reduce the heat. If you see it falling below what it should be, raise your heat. I normally don’t leave my kitchen while I’m pressure canning, just so I can keep a close watchful eye on the pressure.
When your timer goes off, turn the stove off. Actually, turn the stove off and walk away. Go take a much deserved seat for a while. You HAVE to leave the lid on and allow the pressure canner to return to normal pressure. I just let mine sit for quite a while. Once the pressure is down to normal you can remove the lid and take your jars out. I use the jar lifter to remove them. And I always set them on a kitchen towel then cover them with another towel. I don’t want them to cool down too quickly.
If you are new to pressure canning, I highly suggest purchasing a book on it. There are some variables to consider, like altitude, and a book would be a great resource to get you familiar with pressure canning.
Sure, there are risks when it comes to pressure canning. There are also risks when you light a propane grill or walk to feed your chickens in the snow.
If you know what you’re doing and understand what you’re working with, the risk is considerably lessened. When it comes to pressure canning, the more I learned about canners and how they function, the less nervous I was. Pressure canning is a great item to have in your food preservation arsenal.
And nothing is quite as satisfying after a long, exhausting day of canning than seeing all those jars full of food you prepared with love for your family. Give yourself a high-five!