Over the years, pressure cookers have helped me put supper on the table for my family in record time. I recently bought a new electric pressure cooker. And, even though I’ve been using pressure cookers seemingly forever, this is the first electric one I’ve ever had and it even has a setting marked “canning.”
But the question here is if a pressure cooker is so great at cooking meals quickly, why can’t one be used to make jam in record time?
Jam can be made in the new electric pressure canner, but only freezer or refrigerator jam can be safely made. The USDA has actually issued a warning against using electric multi-use cookers for making jam. Also, pressure cooking jam will not save time nor create a product that can be stored without refrigeration.
Besides these factors, pressure cooker jam will just not taste the same due to overcooking that is bound to happen when rushing the process. Let’s go into more detail on why you should just stick to making jam or jelly the old fashioned way.
Pressure Cooking Jam Will Not Save Time
Preparing jam in a pressure cooker will not be faster because of the time needed for pressure to build up and additional time for pressure release.
The regular process for making jam only requires that the fruit cook for 1 minute after all ingredients have been added. It can then be poured into jars, lids affixed and placed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. This process results in jam that can be stored safely for at least a couple of years.
On the other hand, when using the pressure cooker method, the fruit is cooked for 1 minute, but it takes the pressure cooker about 20 minutes for the pressure to build prior to cooking and at least 20 minutes for the cooker to naturally release.
And, once the jam is placed into the jars or other containers, it must be stored in a refrigerator or freezer as this method does not achieve the safe canning process necessary to store the product unrefrigerated for an extended period of time.
Here are instructions for the two different methods, the boiling water bath method, and the pressure canning method.
Boiling Water Bath Method
- 5 cups Strawberries (washed, trimmed, whole or cut in half)
- 7 cups Cane Sugar
- 1 package regular fruit pectin
- Assemble all ingredients, supplies, and equipment needed.
- Wash and prepare strawberries.
- Fill the boiling water bath canner one-half full of water and bring it to a full rolling boil over high heat. Then, reduce heat and let the water simmer while jam is cooking.
- Wash jars in hot soapy water and check them for cracks, chips, and nicks.
- Place jars in a pot or pan with at least an inch of water, bring to a full rolling boil and allow to boil at least 10 minutes to sanitize while you are preparing the jam.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add lids. Reduce the heat to simmer until lids are needed.
- Combine strawberries and fruit pectin in a Dutch oven or other non-reactive pot and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Add sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil.
- Boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and skim foam.
- Ladle or pour into prepared jars and affix lids and rings.
- Place jars in boiling water bath canner and bring water back to a full rolling boil.
- Process in the boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- Remove from canner and place in a prepared area until completely cool.
- Store in a cool dry area for 1 to 2 years.
- Makes 8 cups.
Pressure Canning Method
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 Tablespoons water
- Prepare strawberries.
- Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to the pressure cooker and let sit for 10 minutes for sugar and strawberry juice to blend.
- Close the lid and secure the pressure release valve.
- Bring up to high pressure and cook for 1 minute.
- Allow 15 minutes for natural release.
- Combine the cornstarch and water until smooth.
- Remove the lid and stir in cornstarch mixture.
- Select “saute” and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring frequently until mixture has thickened. Turn off the pressure cooker.
- Pour jam into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 6 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.
- Makes 1 & 1/3 cup of jam.
Comparison of Processing Times for Two Methods
For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll assume it takes about the same amount of time for the ingredients to initially come to a full rolling boil and then the same amount of time to jar the jam. We are only comparing cooking times.
Boiling Water Bath Method
- Add Sugar and Bring Back to Boiling: 5 minutes
- Cook Ingredients: 1 minute
- Processing Time in Boiling Water Bath: 10 minutes
- Total Cooking Time: 16 minutes
Pressure Canning Method
- Venting: 10 minutes
- Bring to Pressure: 20 minutes
- Cook Ingredients: 1 minute
- Natural Release: 20 minute
- Total Cooking Time: 51 minutes
After taking almost an hour in the pressure cooker, you still have to cook the jam a few more minutes to add a thickener. By this time, the fruit will have become overcooked, will be mushy and possibly have turned an unappetizing color.
Pressure Canning Jam Will Not Create a Product That Can Be Stored Without Refrigeration
In order for jam to be canned so that it can be stored for an extended period of time without refrigeration, it must be made according to certain safe canning practices. Those safe canning practices are:
- The jars must be clean and sterilized and heated to 120 degrees F when filled.
- Lids must be soaked in boiling water to soften rubber rings when affixed to the jars.
- Food being canned must be at the boiling temperature (120 degrees F) when poured into the jars.
- Rings must be attached immediately, screwed on snugly, but not over tightened.
- Jars being processed in a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes do not require being pre-sterilized.
The USDA Does Not Recommend Pressure Canning Jam
The USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation has researched and tested their procedures and recipes for safe home canning and can be relied on for any information about canning that you need. The process that ensures the safety of the canned products for long-term storage without refrigeration is the temperature achieved within the jars of food during the canning process and the length of time that temperature is maintained.
These studies have not been done by the National Center for Home Food Preservation on the electric pressure canning processes and they, for that reason, do not recommend making jam or canning any other high acid foods by using an electric pressure canner.
They cannot be sure the correct temperature within the jars has been achieved nor maintained for a sufficient amount of time. Even though the pressure cooker manufacturers say that the correct pressure has been achieved for canning, it is the temperature that matters, not the pressure.
However, this information does not apply to the Ball Automatic Home Canner which is electric but is not a multi-use home canner as the Instant Pot and other home canners are. The Ball Canner is a dedicated home canner and has been tested for its reliability in achieving safe canned products. The Ball Automatic Home Canner has its own directions which should be followed exactly.
Please note that for its canning processes to work properly, the USDA only recommends using a pressure canner with these 3 specifications:
- It must hold at least 4-quart jars, standing upright on the canning rack with the lid in place.
- The canner should have a way to vent the air from inside the canner before it is pressurized.
- The canner should indicate whether the target pressure is maintained during the entire processing time.
Small pressure cookers that will not accommodate at least the 4 quart-size jars mentioned above are not recommended for use as canners.
Pressure Cooker Jam Will Not Taste as Good
Due to the increased amount of time the fruit will be cooked in a pressure cooker because of the length of time needed for the canner to build up pressure and then to naturally release that pressure, the jam will be overcooked, mushy, and will lose its fresh taste and color.
Can I Use An Instant Pot For Making Jam?
You can use an instant pot for making jam. There are many recipes which will result in a delicious jam. These recipes can be made with or without fruit pectin or with an alternative thickening agent. The sweetener can also be adjusted according to personal preference.
But one thing is clear, any jam made in an Instant Pot must be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. The Instant Pot does not achieve the safe canning process necessary to store the jam without refrigeration for an extended period of time.
Can I Shorten the Cool-Down Period When Making Jam with a Pressure Cooker?
You should not shorten the cool-down period when making jam with a pressure cooker. Recipes for pressure cooker canning take into consideration the time required to build up pressure and to cool down after cooking. Shortening the cool-down period interferes with the total cooking time and may not leave sufficient time to destroy the bacteria that the process is designed to destroy and could render the food unsafe.
As has been the rule for many years, high acid foods such as jam, jelly, pickles, applesauce, tomatoes, sauces without meat, and salsa, can safely be canned by the boiling water bath method; low acid foods including most vegetables, meats, dairy, seafood, poultry, and some fruits must be canned by pressure cooking to destroy botulism-causing bacteria.
These recommended procedures will produce the best-finished products as far as taste and appearance and will ensure a safe product that will last for an extended period of time without refrigeration.
Why Are There Two Canning Methods? There are microorganisms in all foods that over time cause them to spoil. Canning interrupts this spoilage process and allows the canned foods to be safely stored for extended periods of time. The microorganisms fall into four categories: enzymes, mold, yeast, and bacteria. Enzymes, mold, and yeast (causes of salmonella and listeria) are destroyed at below the boiling water point of 212 degrees F, so the boiling water bath canning method does the trick on those organisms.
Food falls into two main categories: high acid and low acid. The acid content in high acid foods is sufficient to neutralize bacteria (which causes botulism) allowing those foods to be canned safely in the boiling water bath method. Pressure canning most high acid foods would overcook them, ruining the flavor and color. The low acid foods, however, must be canned using a pressure cooker to achieve the 240 degrees F required to destroy bacteria in the low acid foods.
Do Pressure Cooker Manufacturers Recommend Using Their Products to Make Jam? One of the most well-known pressure cooker manufacturers, Presto, recommends that jams, jellies, salsas, and pickles be made by using the boiling water bath method. They say, “DO NOT PRESSURE CAN THESE RECIPES because the food quality would be unacceptable.”
Does Altitude Affect Canning Methods? Yes, altitude does affect both canning methods.
- For boiling water bath canning, altitude increases the time required. When boiling water bath canning at altitudes of 1,000 feet or below, process according to recipe directions. At 1,001–3,000 ft. increase processing time 5 minutes; at 3,001–6,000 ft. increase processing time 10 minutes; at 6,001–8,000 ft. increase processing time 15 minutes.
- For pressure canning, altitude increases the pressure required but not the time. When pressure canning at altitudes of 2,000 feet or below, process according to recipe directions. At 2,001–4,000 ft., process at 7 pounds; at 4,001–6,000 ft., process at 8 pounds; at 6,001–8,000 ft., process at 9 pounds.
Are There Any High-Acid Foods That Can Be Processed by Either Traditional Jam making or with a pressure cooker? Yes, there are a few high-acid foods that can be either successfully pressure canned or boiling water bath processed. They include the following, all of which can be canned in pints or quarts:
- Apples: Hot Pack; Pressure 6 lb for 8 min; Boiling Water Bath 20 min.
- Applesauce: Hot Pack; Pressure 6 lb, pt 8 min/qt 10 min; Water Bath pt 15 min/qt 20 min.
- Apricots: Hot Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 10 min; Water Bath pt 20/qt 25, Raw Pack – Pressure 6 lb,10 min; Water Bath pt 25 min/qt 30 min.
- Berries (not strawberries): Hot Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 8 min; Water Bath 15 min; Raw Pack – Pressure 6 lb, pt 8 min/qt 10 min; Water Bath pt 15 min/qt 20 min.
- Cherries: Hot Pack – Pressure 6 lb, pt 8 min/qt 10 min; Water Bath pt 15 min/qt 20 min.
- Nectarines: Hot & Raw Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 10 min; Water Bath pt 20 min/qt 25 min.
- Peaches: Hot & Raw Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 10 min; Water Bath pt 20 min/qt 25 min.
- Pears: Hot Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 10 min; Water Bath pt 20 min/qt 25 min.
- Plums: Hot & Raw Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 10 min; Water Bath pt 20 min/qt 25 min.
- Rhubarb: Hot Pack – Pressure 6 lb, 8 min; Water Bath 15 min.
- Tomatoes: Hot & Raw Pack – Pressure 11 lb, 25 min; Water Bath pt 85 min.
Please note that this information on processing times are recommended for Presto Pressure Canners and Cookers. Recommendations and directions from the manufacturer for the canner that you are using should be followed.