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OK, I know right of the start that asking which way to go is opinion based, and the both still likely have their pros and cons, but still asking, more for what are the pros and cons for each method as it pertains to those of us at altitude. I personally am at about 4000 feet (1200 meters).

My personal goals are to remain safe in preserving foods while when appropriate to retain the freshest possible taste and character. My initial thoughts have been that needing to increase time to compensate for lower boiling point in a water bath will over process some items losing more of the fresh character than I would prefer. Pressure canning just needs pressure up a notch to get then same temp as sea level, but, as someone who has always water bath canned, does the higher temps used in pressure canning really keep items as crisp and fresh tasting as water bath?

Thoughts and experiences appreciated as my freezer space will be limited and nee to make the call before my hard work in the garden starts coming to harvest.

  • Commenting rather than an answer as I have no references to back it up and I've got some things I need to do soon so no time to look it up. Pressure cooker will allow the food to be processed in less time therefore preserving flavour changes to food. Doesn't matter how long you increase the time in a boiling water bath, food won't become sufficiently hot enough to guard against botulism bacteria. The food will be firmer and taste better using a pressure cooker and much safer. – Jude Jul 2 '17 at 1:54
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Nothing opinion-based about it. If you are canning anything that's "low-acid" you need a pressure canner, regardless of altitude.

That's "higher pressure than at sea level."

Boiling water bath does not kill botulism spores, so you either need an acidic environment or you need to process under pressure to get sufficient temperature to kill the spores.

For "acid" products you can go either way, but you'll definitely see an advantage at altitude with a pressure canner.

Example for an acid food: 30-40 minutes .vs. 10 minutes http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/selecting_correct_process_time.html

Temperature ranges:

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/food_pres_temps.html

  • It's not just safety (and thank you for references I didn't have time to find!) but the taste and texture of the canned food. I didn't think of it yesterday in my comment but I remember my mother's canned peaches that she did in a boiling water bath. They were okay and as a kid, I was happy to have them. But their colour wasn't as intense as pressure cooker preserved peaches and they were distinctly softer - some almost mushy. Perhaps she overdid how long she kept them in the boiling water. All I know is as I grew up, I preferred store canned peaches to hers. – Jude Jul 2 '17 at 20:29
  • As noted, 1/4-1/3 the processing time. And of course, virtually all "store canned" products are canned at 250°F/15psi steam. And for a user looking to store lots of food without using much freezer space, pressure canning allows canning pretty much anything that can be canned, – Ecnerwal Jul 3 '17 at 4:09
  • Thanks, I let the low acid aspect completely slip my mind I grew up with water bath tradition, so did it in the past was as well. Re-establishing my supplies, and with my GF having never canned before, I wanted to think options, but my family always promoted the higher temps as being more degrading to the produce. When you combine shorter times, no increase in time for altitude, and the ability to do low acid items (looking at the number of pie pumpkins I may get), it seems to point in one direction. Add pressure-canners are a lot more common and safer that when my mom was learning too. – dlb Jul 3 '17 at 15:20
  • if you like that sort of thing (I do, some don't) consider also fermented pickling as a preservation technique (sauerkraut, fermented pickles, etc.) – Ecnerwal Jul 3 '17 at 15:43
  • P.S., my minor comment on pressure canners being safer now the when I was a kid, I was referring to canners, not the process. The seem more user friendly regarding accidental scandlings of sudden pressure releases than the things which scared my mom off them when I was a kid with improved designs. And it appears that most will also work just fine for water bath if you had something you really wanted to go in that direct with. – dlb Jul 3 '17 at 18:42

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