Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated soup maker who lives in Philadelphia. She shares her many canning projects (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.

How to pressure-can stock

Step-by-step instructions

By
March 4, 2011

When I make stock from leftover bones or vegetable scraps, I feel like I’m pulling off the con of the century. Forget turning base metals into gold. As far as I’m concerned, the true alchemy of life is combining the remains of a roast chicken with some flaccid bits of produce and a lot of water and creating a flavorful, enriching elixir. Truly, it’s downright magical. And yet, very few people I know are doing it.

Why aren’t more of us making stock at home instead of opting for those oversized juice boxes of industrially produced, homogeneously flavored liquid? After all, the ingredients are practically free (beef, chicken, or ham bones all make lovely stocks), and the work involved is minimal.

I think the answer comes down to storage. Making stock is all fine and good, but if you happen to be living with a small freezer, it’s far too easy to fill the whole thing up with bulky containers of stock in a single day of cooking. Then there’s the issue that the stock is never actually defrosted when you want to use it. What’s a home cook to do?

I have two words for you: Pressure canner.

When it comes to canning, there are some hard-and-fast rules. One is that you cannot use a boiling-water bath — the most common canning method, used for preserving jams and pickles — to can low-acid foods. And homemade stocks are woefully low in acid.

However, food scientists have discovered that you can process jars of homemade stock in pressure canners safely and without fear of botulism. This means that you can make your stock at home and safely seal it into pint and quart jars.

Make stock, then can it.

Learning to pressure-can stock has thoroughly changed my culinary life. I make stock far more often now that I know I don’t have to clear out the freezer first — and I’m wasting much less from my produce drawer. Plus, I can now go from no dinner plan to totally homemade chicken noodle soup in less than half an hour.

Pressure canning does require some special equipment — namely, a pressure canner. (Unfortunately, standard pressure cookers cannot be used as a substitute; you need a pot that has either a weighted or a dial gauge. For more, see Ashley English’s excerpt explaining pressure canning.) These days, they are quite inexpensive. The one I have cost all of $80 and has paid for itself several times over in the two years I have owned it. However, if that’s still too spendy, consider going in on it with a few friends or some preservation-minded neighbors.

I’ve now got the stock-making and canning process down to a science. Most often, I’ll set up my biggest slow cooker with the remains from a roast chicken, whatever veg needs to be used, and enough filtered water to come within a half inch of the top of the pot. I’ll let it bubble while I’m at work. Later that evening, when dinner is over, I’ll pull out some jars, fire up the pressure canner, and invest a little time one night that is certain to pay off over the course of many others.

Basic instructions for pressure-canning stock:

  1. Place your defatted stock in a large pot and bring it to a simmer.
  2. While it heats, put the necessary number of jars (either pints or quarts) in the pressure canner. Fill the pot with three to four inches of water and put enough water in the jars to keep them from floating. Put the lid on the canner (you don’t need to lock it into place at this point) and bring it to a boil.
  3. Put the canning lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and place the pan over very low heat, in order to soften the sealing compound.
  4. When the jars are hot and the stock is simmering, remove one jar from the pot. Empty the water into the sink and carefully fill it with stock, leaving a generous inch of space between the surface of the stock and the top of the jar.
  5. Wipe the rim of the jar with a cloth dipped in white vinegar (to help cut any grease), apply a warm lid, and screw on a ring band.
  6. Place the filled jar into the pressure canner and repeat the process until all your jars are filled and the stock gone.
  7. Put the lid on the pressure canner and lock it into place.
  8. A pressure-canner gauge.
    Bring the heat up and let the canner run with an open vent for 10 minutes. You want to get as much air out of the canner as possible.
  9. When the stream of steam coming out of the vent lessens, put the vent weight on the port. If you’re using a weighted pressure canner, choose the 10 pounds of pressure side of the weight.
  10. If you’re using a gauged pressure canner, watch your gauge. You need it to reach 11 pounds of pressure.
  11. Once the weight is jiggling the appropriate number of times per minute, or the gauge has reached 11 pounds of pressure, set a timer for 25 minutes.
  12. Keep tabs on your pot to ensure that the jiggles or gauge number don’t drop below their prescribed levels. You may need to reduce the heat to keep the pot where it should be, pressure-wise.
  13. When the time is up, turn the heat off under the pot and let it cool completely before touching. I tend to do my pressure canning right before I go to bed, so that I can leave it to cool all night long.
  14. When the pressure is totally down and the jars are cool enough to handle, remove the jars from the pot. Wash them (the stock often leaks a tiny bit during processing, which can make the jars a little grungy) and remove the rings.
  15. Label with the contents and date and store in a cool, dark place.
  16. Pressure-canned stock will keep up to a year on the shelf (although mine never lasts that long).
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1. by Wild Plum Cottage on Mar 4, 2011 at 8:25 PM PST

The slow cooker is perfect for making stock. I haven’t tried canning it yet, but that adventure is next on my canning list.

2. by Liisa on Mar 4, 2011 at 8:46 PM PST

Stock was my first canning project, and yes it is TOTALLY worth it!

BTW, I add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the canning water (not the stock) and it seems to help make the jars less scummy after the canning (I have hard water).

3. by Farmer B on Mar 5, 2011 at 1:26 AM PST

Must the stock be defatted, or is this just personal preference? I’m very excited to try this, but I like to keep all that good fat in my stock!

4. by anonymous on Mar 5, 2011 at 5:54 AM PST

Keep the fat out of the stock. You can let the stock simmer with the fat still in it, that will increase the taste of the stock. But you should always remove the fat before you put the stock away for storing/freezing.

The idea with stock is the flavour. If you use a stock as base for a soup, fx, you probably don’t want the fat in your soup. Just the flavour. You can always add a dash of cream if the soup needs it. But that varies, if you keep the fat out of the stock, it’s up to you to adjust the fat in your dishes later.

Have fun!

5. by Fasenfest on Mar 5, 2011 at 7:51 AM PST

Great suggestion Marisa. It is so nice to be able to reach for your stock from the shelves. One thought though, even though food preservation booklets suggests removing “excess fat” from the broth, I’m not sure how that is done when the stock is hot. You can remove some of it, most of it, (“excess fat” as it were), but some will always be there and I do not worry if I have a thin layer. Alternately, you can cool your broth overnight to remove all that comes to the top but even then, some will remain. If you do choose to chill the stock overnight remember to reheat the stock to boiling before filling jars if you are going by the hot pack time. And do remember to leave 1 inch of headspace in those jars when you are processing them. That stock will get a boiling in that pressure canner and you want room in the jar for that.

Finally, processing time for PINTS of hot stock in a Dial-gauge Pressure Canner is 20 minutes at 11 pounds with QUARTS requiring 25 minutes. If you choose to make both pints and quarts in one batch you must go with the 25 minutes. But I would always look to your local extension office since pounds of pressure (particularly between gauges and weighted measure) sometime relates to the area you live in.

As for the suggestion that you must ALWAYS remove fat from stock before freezing - well I just don’t know what that’s about. I just cool my stock before freezing and allow one inch of head space in a wide neck jar so the jar doesn’t crack when the liquid expands and I’m good to go.

6. by Fasenfest on Mar 5, 2011 at 7:54 AM PST

PS - once properly pressure canned, stock will last as long as you will. It is not really time dated. Hopefully though you are going through it regularly in a active householding kitchen.

7. by marusula on Mar 5, 2011 at 10:04 AM PST

The defatting of the stock doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. If I’m working with stock that hasn’t been cooled, I use a ladle to scoop off the floating layer of fat as best I can. If I have time and refrigerator space to cool it, I’ll do that (though admittedly, that’s a rare thing).

The primary reason that I like to remove what fat I can is that I’ve found that on occasion, it can interfere with the development of a good seal, particularly if your jars do any siphoning (escaping of jar content as air is pushed out) during the pressure canning process.

8. by anonymous on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:23 PM PST

“Once the weight is jiggling the appropriate number of times per minute”

Does each different brand of pressure canners have a different jiggles-per-minute? Or do all/most the weighted canners have similar jiggles/min settings?

PS: I had to block your sidebar because the blinking images hindered my being able to read your article. Maybe if more time passed between changing to the next image?

9. by marusula on Mar 9, 2011 at 7:51 AM PST

To be perfectly honest, I don’t use a jiggle-top pressure canner, so I don’t know whether the appropriate number of jiggles is a brand-specific thing or whether it is universal.

Is there anyone who uses this style of pressure canner who could speak to the number of jiggles?

10. by Fasenfest on Mar 9, 2011 at 8:54 AM PST

There are not that many weighted gauged pressure canners out there anymore. I’m assuming you are using an old one. If you are going to buy a new one I suggest getting a dial gauge. Most of the information about pressure canning refers to dial gauges. But having said that, given the pounds of pressure you are going for (and I’m assuming 10 pounds is what you are after- which correlates to 11 pounds of pressure when using a dial gauge) the weight will jiggle approximately three to four times a minute when it is at ten pounds of pressure. If it is jiggling more the pressure is too high. I have other things to say about weighted vs. dial but if you order my food preservation dvd (Preserving with Friends) there is a nice section in it about about using a pressure canner. My next post on Culinate will give more information on how and where to order it as well as some other primers on getting ready for food preservation season. Hope that helps.

PS - As always, contact your local county extension office to both test your dial gauge at the beginning of the season and to find out specifics about your region’s requirement. They offer great information and inexpensive booklets to get at their office or download on line. You can find out more about the link for publications by going to my website www.portlandpreserve and clicking on the Home Economics page.

11. by Cozy Little Cottage on Jun 23, 2011 at 1:16 PM PDT

What a wonderful idea! I always freeze my stock but would love the freezer space to be used for something else!

Is there a ratio of meat/veggies/water that must be followed? I like to make my stock in a super large stock pot with two roasted carcasses and a bag of vegetable trimmings that I keep in the freezer just for this purpose, but of course, the meat/bones to vegetable ratio always differs!

I asked my local extension office and they said that if were to blend the two, without following an exact recipe calling for a certain amount of veggies, I would need to process in the pressure canner for 75 min! Good gravy... what a long time!

Thoughts? Suggestions?

12. by marusula on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:45 AM PDT

In my experience, the amount of time to pressure can stock does not change based on the ingredients you used to make it. Pressure canning works mostly on a principle of heat penetration. The density of your stock wouldn’t change, it’s still a thin liquid and so the time allotted for heat penetration wouldn’t need to vary. I can’t imagine it would be necessary to pressure can a thin liquid for 75 minutes.

13. by marusula on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:45 AM PDT

In my experience, the amount of time to pressure can stock does not change based on the ingredients you used to make it. Pressure canning works mostly on a principle of heat penetration. The density of your stock wouldn’t change, it’s still a thin liquid and so the time allotted for heat penetration wouldn’t need to vary. I can’t imagine it would be necessary to pressure can a thin liquid for 75 minutes.

14. by LL Blackwell on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:05 AM PDT

Exactly! I use the recommendations here: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/

I love pressure canning because of not having to stick to a recipe. It’s all about which ingredient needs the longest processing (for heat penetration) and you process for that time. Since stock is clear, a quart jar just needs 25 minutes. Skim off the fat, though! Fat + canning = bad seal = botulism.

15. by anonymous on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:24 AM PDT

Thank you for posting this! I was considering buying a canner for quite some time and this convinced me. I used this post in my blog to talk about my first canning experience. Check it out!
http://singlemombarefootinthekitchen.blogspot.com/
Thanks again for the inspiration!
Nicole
A Single Mother: Barefoot in the Kitchen

16. by Cari on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:55 PM PDT

Thank you for this post. I found it to post on a comment on an online recipe (on food.com) that a member posted suggesting that veggie stock could be water bath canned. My main reason for leaving a comment is to put in my two cents re: fasenfests comment on dial vs weighted gauges. I was aghasted at the suggestion that dial is better than weighted guage. I personally own a weighted gauge canner from Mirro which was the best investment I’ve ever made. (Just dumb luck at the local hardware store.) As far as I’m concerned, weighted is much safer... it never has to be checked for accuracy. NONE of my friends with weighted gauge canners have been having them checked. I don’t even know where to go and how much that would cost! Also with the weighted gauge you don’t have to hover around it in the kitchen... you can be working in another room and hear the steam release and adjust it as needed. My Mirro, unfortunately, didn’t come with good instructions but I found online from a trusted source (federal?) that it should jiggle twice a minute. I aim for 2-3 times a minute. Other brands will be different... maybe they just need a constand jiggle.

17. by Jen on Nov 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM PST

I recently started making bone broth and will never go back to plain old chicken stock. You can also cook the bones in your pressure canner for a few hours, 2-3, and it turns out beautifully. Put a little vinegar in the stock water in help bring out all minerals in the bone marrow, you will not taste it once its done. I always save my vegetable scraps from peeling carrots and cutting celery, along with my bones, in the freezer - works fantastically in making stock without having to waste good carrots and celery.
I always processed it longer, 25 minutes of processing time has just changed my life, thanks! :)

18. by Linda on Jan 3, 2014 at 1:53 PM PST

One thing I did notsee addressed in the comments above, is: Please make sure you have washed any vegetables prior to peeling, that you plan on saving the peels for making stock. Any dirt on the peels or mold spots, can contaminate your stock, making it unhealthy to eat and possibly carrying botulism. They should be washed prior to peeling anyway, but I cannot tell you how many people I see who do not wash before hand. As to getting your pressure guage checked, all County Extension Offices will do it, usually for a nominal fee, and should be done yearly. Small bumps can cause it to read differently. And hometown hardware stores often have the equipment to read the guages and will do it for free, most any place that sells the canners and the parts.
Another thing of interest to you might be canning your freezer burned meat. Instead of throwing it away, cover it with water, cut in chunks, and can for your dog or cat. Just choose the size jar for an amount you could feed your pet in less than a week. For animals that have allergies to certain foods, this is a great economical way to feed them, as well.

19. by Dickens B. Slim on Jul 13, 2014 at 4:42 PM PDT

Good article! There’s just 2 pointers that may help.

1)Discarding the fat is a waste. Chill it and use it to roast potatoes, vegetables, or to add a shot of pure chickeny goodness to any dish. It’s too good of a flavor conductor to just get rid of.

2) You’ll get better gelatin and flavor extraction in much less time by using the canner itself to make the stock, along with being able to make a bigger batch. Jen’s comment about adding a touch of vinegar is right on the money, too.

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