Experiments in pressure canning.

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

Somehow this weekend I temporarily lost my mind and pressure canned up all of the food that's been hanging out in our downstairs freezer since last fall.

Okay. That's not entirely true. I left some food behind (Along with a deer hide that is crammed into our freezer on top of the last few chickens. Don't ask.), but I did go gangbusters pressure canning chicken soup, venison chili, taco meat, cumin black beans, and red lentil dal.

Lots of meals. Cooked. Canned. Ready to eat.

That's a crazy good feeling I've never known before. It's like I just became my own take-out restaurant.

While I have loved hot water bath canning for ages, I've not done much pressure canning, well, ever.

Okay, a little, but not enough to brag about.

When my Grandma died when I was in my early 20's my Grandpa gave me her pressure canner, but I've mostly just used it as a backup hot water bath canner excepting when Pete and I lived off-grid and we canned up dozens of chickens with my mom because our propane freezer was the size of a loaf of bread.

But I digress.

The point is that last weekend I made and canned a wicked crazy amount of food that is now stashed in my basement and yes, on my kitchen floor along with the big batch of gluten-free granola we just made.

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

I know. I'm a mess. But I'm to busy canning to bother with cleaning! It's rather addictive you see. 

So why the canning mania?

It's road trip time. We are planning a cross-country adventure akin to the one we took a couple of years ago.

But this time we're gluten-free and we rarely eat processed grains like pasta, crackers, or other easy-to-pack foods. We eat mostly meat and veggies. Everyday.

How the heck do you do that out of a cooler and a food pack while car camping?

I had no idea. Plus thawed meat in a cooler makes me uncomfortable. One food poisoning incident and you're off ground turkey for life. You know? So how do we eat without a cooler full of questionable meat in tow as we cross seven state lines?

Canned meals. That's how.

Yes, it will increase our packing weight. Significantly. (This is not a solution for the Paleo backpacker I'm afraid.) And yes, I'll be toting canning jars cross-country. But I think it's worth it.

Really I'm just thrilled to have real food that we can eat on this trip without worrying about where to find it.

I've never felt so at ease about the food situation for a trip before.

We did add legumes to our diet for this plan. (We're mostly Paleo so legumes and grains have not been everyday fare for us.) Lupine and Sage do great with them, so it's a concession I'm willing to make.

We'll be away for 3-4 weeks so I planned five breakfasts, five lunches, and five dinners that we'll repeat a few times per meal. There will be holes in our meal plan for eating out and visiting friends, but it will be the core of what we eat while we're gone.

And many of our normal food favorites are on the list. All we'll need to find is a source for fresh veggies to fill in the gaps.

Rad? Completely.

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

How hard is it to pressure can?

Not very.

You need a pressure canner (obviously) and then you just need to determine the safe canning time and weight for your recipe. Easy-peasy.

I used the instructions found through the links here and then created my favorite recipes but for canning instead of eating right away.

There are my regular recipes! My tried and true! That's maybe the best part of pressure canning. You don't have to tinker with your recipe to make it shelf-safe. The pressure canning does that for you.

And how do they taste?

We snitched a couple of jars over the weekend (failed lids on taco meat and black beans) and you know, it was almost as if they hadn't been pressure canned, though not quite. The flavor is very close to how we normally cook, and the texture is just a bit different (thought not unpleasant).

I thought they were delicious and there were no leftovers, so I think the rest of my crew agreed.

Oh, my. We're almost ready for our road trip!

(Can you tell I'm stoked?)

Pressure canning meals. {Clean.}

And one more (mostly unrelated) thing.

I realized while putting these photos together that I am raising children who think it is utterly normal to photograph canning jars and other minutia of daily life.

It's just what we do. Like other people ride the school bus or have pizza on Saturday.

It's normalcy.

I find this reality simultaneously amusing, brilliant, and utterly ridiculous.

Carry on.

26 thoughts on “Experiments in pressure canning.

  1. bella says:

    That is brilliant, well done you. I have just got a dehydrator and am currently making strawberry leather, Mango, Cantaloupe, Strawberry chips while the produce are all on sale in my local area. Then we can use them for snacks, road trips or even to add to our granola. I have also made a ton of Mango and strawberry freezer jam. I do love your idea of canning meals, I may have to try this..

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oh, yes! My dehydrator is also humming away. We’re drying random fruits for the trip – mango, banana, apple, pineapple, etc. – and I cut up every venison roast we had to make jerky. It’s a half-gallon jar, absolutely packed. All this dehydrating has me contemplating picking up a higher quality dehydrator… Have fun over there!

  3. casey u says:

    What a rad solution for your trip. I know it’s going to be totally epic and provide lifetime memories. Enjoy the open road!

  4. bella says:

    Yes on the buying a better one. I just got a cheapy dehydrator as I wanted to see if we would actually use it first or if it would be worth the time. I am totally addicted to it and even went out last night on an extra produce trip just to get more fruit for it.. One day I will grow my own garden! at the moment I just don’t have the space for one.

    The other thing what I was planning on doing with it was doing a few vegs like onions, celery etc for last minute soup mixes. We haven’t tried Jerky yet! if you have any recipes you can provide that would be brilliant, obviously after your trip as I am sure you are so busy. Have great fun on your trip.

  5. tameka says:

    What a great idea! You’re full of great ideas. I’m not familiar with pressure canning at all. Is it faster and easier than hot water canning? Are certain foods recommended for pressure canning vs hot water canning? Thank you and have a great family trip!

  6. Melanie says:

    I love those instant take outs!
    Yes pressure canning is so easy- but oddly hard to take that step into doing
    (and a little frightful at first).

  7. Mikaela says:

    How fun. I love finding great solutions to travel problems like that. Excited to hear more about your trip!

  8. Cassandra says:

    I got a wonderful canning pot from my mom this past holiday season and I’m both nervous/excited to use it this summer. Does a pressure cooker do the same job or does it have different capabilities?

  9. Karen C says:

    Your jars of soup are beautiful, and I bet they’ll be delicious, too! I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a home cooked meal while on the road. Unless, of course, you were to stop by for one. I would love to meet you if you are going to be in the Denver area. : )

  10. Rachel Wolf says:

    It’s actually slower because you have to bring the pressure canner up to pressure, and then normally process for 60 minutes or more. But it allows you to can foods that are not acidic or foods like meat.

  11. Lyssa says:

    Woohoo, road trip! I’m sure you have the route already planned. Any chance you’ll be in the midwest, looking to visit friendly faces?

  12. Ashley says:

    Hi Rachel, I have been reading your blog for a very long time, but have never written anything… until today. I was wondering if you would be willing to share the recipes you mentioned? They sound so delicious and I just happen to have recently been given a pressure canner (like you, I have no experience and some recipes would be very helpful). I hope you have a great trip!

  13. susan says:

    Excellent idea! We’re headed on a trip in a few weeks, too, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep myself fed while we’re on the road. Dehydrating had occurred to me, but pressure canning had not! I’m going to go borrow one now…

    Have a great trip! We’re smack dab in the middle of the country and probably not on your route, but if your going through eastern kansas and need a place to stay, you’re always welcome!

  14. Val says:

    Are you taking your wonderful vintage camper? What a wonderful journey. Who doesn’t love a road trip! And you have solved the problem of unhealthy road food. You could never get as good a meal on the road as you and your family are used to. I also love my pressure canner. People tend to be afraid of them. Possibly because of the scary stories of them exploding. But they have come a long way making them safe to use. As I’m sure you tell people, you just need to follow the directions exactly and don’t take shortcuts. I like mine because it uses so much less water.

  15. erica says:

    I’m so intrigued by this idea, being in the midst of planning a similar cross-country trip (though across Canada) solo with my three kiddos next summer. Obviously I have a bit of time to sort out our menu, but I’m busy collecting ideas! I can’t imagine anything much better than pulling up to a camp site and opening a jar of food rather than cooking from scratch!! A couple of questions that come to mind, though, are how are you going to prevent breakage with so many glass jars? And are you going to store the empty jars for the return trip? It seems like a bit of a hassle, but I also know they can get really expensive……Have you ever tried dehydrating soup and stews and sauces as an option (ie for camping?) I’m debating going vegetarian for the trip so I can dehydrate many meals, or wonder if it’s okay to dehydrate meat sauces and such – but perhaps not an area of expertise for you? So much to think about when one wants to eat healthy on the road!!!!!! Can’t wait to hear more of what works/doesn’t work for you on this road adventure, to learn for next summer!!!!!

  16. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Ashley,
    I can’t promise to share them before my trip but I’d be happy to share. Most of my cooking is done without proper recipes, so I’d need to make the foods again and actually measure. But I’ll keep it on my list for future posts. Thanks for asking!

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    I’m planning on packing the jars in divided cardboard cases, though these might be an even better idea.


    Pete suggested that I drop the jars off at a second hand store but I’m inclined to bring them all home. I’m also packing some things in recyclable containers (used juice bottles for our kombucha) that we’ll recycle on the road.

    As for dried foods, yes. When we took our trip to NC I dehydrated all of our food, including meat sauces and soups. We did not love it. At all. We ate what we had to but none of us with gusto. The texture was just wrong for this tactile crew of mine. But it is absolutely safe to dehydrate meat!

  18. Brynn says:

    I have often wondered what will happen to our generation of children (mine included) who have grown up with digital photos of life’s minutia and a camera everywhere. Will it be called “mommy blogger syndrome” when they think this is normal in their twenties? Will their own children get to hear stories about how they “should be thankful, do you know what my mother did? She took pictures and wrote about EVERYTHING!” It makes me smile to consider….

Leave a Reply