I'm here to tell you that pressure canning on a woodburning cookstove is not only quite possible, it is pretty easy. In fact, the Presto canner that my mother and grandmother bought at Minden Hardware in 1979 came with instructions on how to can on a "constant heat stove." It is just about knowing where to put everything on the cooktop. Furthermore, it only makes sense to me that the farm that produces much of my food should also be able to produce the energy needed to cook and preserve it.
Below, I'll show you how I pressure can on the wood cookstove. I want this blog to be helpful for people who want to know more about using a woodburning cookstove, but I don't claim to have all of the answers. My hope is that by showing others what I do, they will have a better chance of finding success with their own stoves.
This post assumes that the reader is familiar with the pressure canning process and focuses on how it is accomplished on a wood cookstove. If you aren't familiar with canning, resources about it abound in both print and electronic forms.
I start by building a hot fire of small sticks and pieces of what I think of as "biscuit wood."
|Small pieces of wood burning in the cookstove.|
Once the fire was burning nicely, I closed the oven damper halfway. All I need in this particular case is intense heat over the firebox. The rest of the cooktop doesn't need to be all that hot, and I'm not going to be baking anything at the same time, although I have done that before, so the oven doesn't need to be evenly heated. I'm going to be canning green beans (courtesy of my mother-in-law's beautiful garden) for this post, so the first hot item that I need is boiling water to pour over the beans once they are in the jars.
|Boiling water in the teakettle to the left. Canner and lids on the|
cooler part of the stove on the right.
I start with the various vessels arranged on the cooktop as shown above. Directly over the firebox at the back (usually the place with the most heat) I have the teakettle with water coming to a boil for the beans. In the pink saucepan in the front, my canning lids are warming up. The base to the canner already has water in it, and it is warming over the coolest side of the cooktop, which of course, is still way too hot to touch. The white coffee pot in the back has water in it and is there simply to absorb some BTUs since the outside temperature was in the 90s.
While I wait for the water to come to a boil, I fill the canning jars with the produce.
When the water in the teakettle has come to a boil and I'm ready to start putting it in the jars, I move the warm canner over to the top of the firebox so it can begin heating more.
Jars are then filled, lids are adjusted, canner is filled, and the lid is put into place.
|Putting the lid on the pressure canner.|
Now here comes the fun part. This canner belonged to Ruth Nickle, my wife Nancy's grandma. As near as I can tell from the instruction book that came with it, she purchased it sometime in the 1940s. Ruth had only a wood/coal stove until the early 1950s, and I can tell from the bottom of the canner that she frequently removed a lid from over the fire and placed the canner right over the fire. With the other pressure canners that I've used, I've always tried to keep their bottoms in pristine condition. This one left pristine condition in the dust over three score years ago, so I'm going to speed things along and follow Ruth's method.
What is it about men always wanting to cook over flames?
Above, the canner isn't centered over the eye of the firebox, just so that you can see the fire. As soon as the picture was snapped, I moved the canner forward so that the eye was completely covered; otherwise, removing the lid is pointless because it spoils the draft and cold air rushes right by the canner to the fire.
In a few minutes, the canner had reached the correct amount of pressure for our elevation.
Thus began the 20 minute countdown for pints of green beans, and thus began "the dance" of moving the canner to a location with less intense heat to just maintain the correct pressure level. In the following sequence of pictures you can see the clock above the warming oven and notice the location of the canner as the twenty minute interval progressed.
|Canning on the wood cookstove.|
Once the correct amount of processing time has elapsed, I move the canner completely off the stove so that its pressure can go down. Once the pressure is gone, I remove the jars to a towel on the countertop for them to cool, and I begin waiting for that all-important and rewarding sound of canning: the ping of a canning lid sealing.
I got a little artsy with the camera while I was waiting.
|Vintage cookstove in the lamplight.|
All of this batch sealed. Canning with a pressure canner on a wood cookstove is not only possible, it is easy.
Update: For more information about pressure canners and wood cookstoves, please see this post.
If you want to pressure can on a wood cookstove with two pressure canners simultaneously, check out my post about that.