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When I first started canning, I had no idea that altitude impacts canning. This is true for both pressure canning, and water bath canning. In this article I dive into why altitude impacts canning, how to adapt canning instructions based on your altitude, and finally, how to find out your altitude.
How Altitude Impacts Canning | How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Your Altitude
Canning recipes are typically based on an altitude of less than 1000 feet (305 meters) above sea level. So, if you live in a lower altitude, you don’t need to adapt canning recipes. However, many people are unaware that they are in an elevation above 1,000 feet. I’ll dive deeper into that topic in a bit. For now, I just want to explain how altitude impacts canning.
As elevation (or altitude) increases, water boils at lower and lower temperatures. This impacts the amount of processing time in water bath canning, and the amount of pressure in pressure canning.
Adjustments must be made so that the food you’re processing is exposed to enough heat long enough to kill microorganisms.
Adapting Water Bath Canning Recipes Based on Altitude | How Altitude Impacts the Canning of High-Acid Foods
First, let’s look at how altitude impacts the canning of high acid foods such as most fruits.
If you’re water bath canning 1,000 feet or higher, you need to adapt canning recipes by increasing time based on the following chart:
So, what this means is if you use a water bath recipe that calls for a 20-minute processing time, and you live at an elevation of 1650 feet, you will process the recipe for 25 minutes.
Adapting Pressure Canning Recipes Based on Altitude | How Altitude Impacts the Canning of Low-Acid Foods
Before I dive into this topic, I want to make it clear that in spite of what some people claim (including that their granddaddy did something for 50 years and never died), you cannot safely water bath can low-acid foods such as beans, meat, and most vegetables. This is a topic for another day, but I just wanted to put that out there in case you’re ever tempted to water bath can low-acid foods. Your family’s health is simply not worth risking using a water bath canner to can low-acid foods.
Now that I have that out of the way, let’s look at how to adapt pressure canning recipes when you live in an elevation 1,000 feet (306 meters) or higher.
As mentioned above, with water bath canning, in higher altitudes, you increase the amount of time you process your food. With pressure canning, instead of increasing time, you increase pressure. Note that the amount of pressure that you use depends not just on altitude, but on your type of canner. In the chart below you can see the variations between whether you’re using a pressure canner with a weighted gauge, or a dial gauge.
I personally use a weighted gauge pressure canner and am at an elevation of approximately 1650 feet, so I use a 15 pound weight when pressure canning. If I was using a dial gauge, at my elevation, I’d use 11 pounds of pressure.
How to Determine Your Altitude
Before I moved to where I currently live (Hemet, California), I assumed that Hemet, being in Southern California was a low elevation. I was born and raised in Long Beach, that has an elevation of 52 feet above sea level.
Thankfully, I checked the elevation here before I stated canning here and was surprised to learn that Hemet is a relatively high-altitude of 1631 feet.
When I moved to Hemet, had I just assumed that I was still in a low elevation, I would be canning unsafely. However, knowing my altitude helped me to know that I needed to water bath can recipes an additional 5 minutes, and when pressure canning, I need to use 15 pounds of pressure instead of 10.
The good news is, it’s super easy to determine your elevation. The easiest way is to do a simple Google or Bing search.
Here are screenshots of what I searched in Bing, and the results:
So, you can see that a simple search that includes the name of your city and state (or province, etc.), and the word, “elevation” gives you a clear answer to the question regarding your elevation.
Refer to the Elevation Charts as Needed
Once you know your elevation, simply refer to the elevation charts provided above, and adapt canning recipes as needed.
That’s all there is to it!
I’m all about canning safety. If you check out other articles on my site, you’ll see that I often use the Nesco Smart Canner. Some have concerns about this canner safety. Check out my article, Is the Nesco Smart Canner Safe? to learn more about the safety features in this canner.
Another thing related to canning safety is the topic of reusing canning lids. Read my article, Can Canning Lids be Reused? to learn the ins and outs of this important topic.
Here are some of my favorite canning tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-canned food! Here are some tools that I use as a canner that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!
Nesco Smart Canner: You can see that many of the posts on my site show me using the Nesco canner. This is by far my favorite canner to use, and because of that, it’s the one that I recommend. Note that the Nesco and Carey Smart Canners are the exact same thing. So, if you go to Amazon and see that Nesco canners are out of stock, but the Carey is available (or cheaper!), then by all means buy a Carey. As long as you have either a Nesco or Carey, you can follow along with what I demonstrate on this blog.
Tattler Reusable Lids: I use both Tattler and Harvest Guard reusable canning lids. They are both American made, made by the same family. I prefer to buy my Tattler lids from Lehman’s, since they are a small, family-owned company. You can get Tattler lids from Lehman’s here, but if you prefer to buy from Amazon, you can get them here.
Metal Canning Lids: I have always been a fan of Ball canning lids. However, due to cheap knock offs on Amazon that claim to be Ball lids, I no longer purchase them from Amazon. You can get them from Lehman’s here. Another solid brand that Lehman’s sells is Superb. They are thicker and seem to have better quality gaskets. Here are the regular mouth lids and here are the wide mouth lids.
Norpo Canning Tools Boxed Set: I love this set of canning tools because it truly includes all the basics that you need, whether you’re water bath or pressure canning. Occasionally I’ve lost one of the items in the set and to replace it, had to buy it separately. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy the entire set.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: This is the first canning book that I purchased, and it’s still the one that I refer to most often. Especially when you’re first learning to can, it’s important to use trusted recipes and instructions that you know are safe. This book provides some great canning recipes to get you started, and also gives a lot of great “how to” canning information. When in doubt, look it up in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving!