hospital steam autoclave for canning?????

mayfly-1970November 2, 2008

I have made the decision to start using pressure canning instead of water bath for obvious reasons. But before buying the canner I want (All American for $200+) I wanted to check with everyone if they have ever used a hospital based steam autoclave which I have access to at the hospital I work.

It's temp. is 270- it is under pressure- and has shelves that you would otherwise put the instruments to be sterilized. Seems like a GREAT set-up to me- I could process 25 quarts or so at a time. The processing time can be set to any specifics I want.

Has anyone used a large hospital autoclave in this fashion before? They are connected to a central steam generator so it is instant on and off. We also have 1 unit that generates it own steam. Can you think of any reason this would NOT work? Please help a newbie out here.- thanks

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Well as I'm sure you already know, sterilization and pressure canning are 2 different things so one concern I would have is that volume of capacity can affect processing times. You would have no way of knowing what the processing times would have to be changed to.

All the tested and approved recipes are done on pressure canners of much smaller size and the times and pressures required determined accordingly. So you would just be guessing at the times.

Something of that size and even if you can keep the temps at 212 degrees and the pressure at 10 lbs. pressure, processed for the established times, would most likely be waaayyy over-processed - soupy, mushy, etc.

I would also wonder if the jars would stand up to it. I can picture the inside of the autoclave after a few jars of tomatoes exploded in it. ;)

Lastly, how would you transport the filled jars, keeping them properly hot the entire time, to it? I know that some here use local professional canning facilities to do theirs but they do the entire preparation, cooking, jar filling, etc. right there, not at home and then off to the hospital to pressure can.

Just some points to consider. ;)


    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 10:57AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

There was a discussion a long time back that someone was planning on modifying an autoclave to be used as a home pressure canner. The same issues there about what internal temps and pressures are. I would doubt if any of the hospital staff would allow the use of an autoclave to process home canning, unless it was used outside a hospital and was never returned to that somewhat more sterile environment within a hospital. A decent pressure canner doesn't have to cost a big bundle of $$. The 23 quart Presto is priced at about $85 now. A few people have also had sealing problems with the 'gasketless' models, but that seems to go away after a few uses. May be wise to stay away from an autoclave for home canning purposes unless you have specific and accurate control and measurement of internal pressures.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 11:55AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Here's a previous thread on modifying an All-American autoclave for pressure canning. It's pretty thorough.


Here is a link that might be useful: All-American Sterilizer Conversion

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 7:13PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

I think the OP is talking about an autoclave, similar to the one shown in the link below. This is a considerably larger piece of equipment than a sterilizer such as the All-American. The one I show is a small one, ours for example are even larger than that.

I wouldn't think it would be legal to bring food from home to "sterilize" in the hospital autoclave. Not to mention, if that autoclave has had anything in it similar to what we have had in ours, there is a fairly unpleasant odor associated with it. Do you really want to put your food in it?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:15AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

My fault. I misread and thought the OP was interested in modifying a small sterilizer as per the earlier thread.

It's hard for me imagine a hospital being OK with using an on-site autoclave with food product transported from outside.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:20PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

It's hard for me to imagine from both sides ... I just can't believe the hospital would be okay with it, and I certainly wouldn't want to put MY food in a hospital autoclave, I don't care if it's sterile. Frankly, the idea is a bit repulsive to me.

Unfortunately we may never know the situation as the OP seems to have gone away.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:40AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Years ago, I worked for a company that made special electronic products. One of the items was a thing called a triggered spark gap. These were supposed to electrically short out at a specific high voltage. They were 'doped' with a radioactive component called Nickel 63. This radioactive component was an irradiated liquid nickel salt mixture and was dried in a small oven. The person who did this job of doping was also putting her lunch in the same oven when she wanted to heat it up. The two instances (radiation, and lunch) where never in there at the same time. But even for that, I would have thought twice about this issue. Luckily, the radiation was not strong, and left no residuals inside the oven, but what about the organics in her lunch that might leak and burn? Needless to say if the boss had seen this, he would have been very upset to say the least!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 12:27PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yeah I was kind of hoping we'd hear back from the original poster with some more details. Like already said by prairie_love, the idea wouldn't appeal to me personally but then hospitals are always looking for new ways to make money. They may want to consider Saturday rentals of the autoclaves to home canners. ;)


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 2:56PM
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I haven't gone away- when I posted I clicked the item to have follow-up posts sent to my e-mail- I never got any, so I did not think anyone replied-

As stated, sterilzers are "sterile"- obviously, the food itself would not be touching anything inside- and- personally I would prefer the thought of a sealed jar being put in there instead of an instrument you use to cut on my body that has been used on someone else,- or as in my profession place directly in your mouth (I do anesthesia, and yes when we intubate you- the blade comes fresh out of an autoclave)- sorry if this is "repulsive" but necessary. Again a sealed jar is a much more palatable idea to me.

As for the issue of whether the hospital was OK with it- well that is the reason for my question- if jars are going to explode- obviously that would not be good. If they were run on a 15-20 minute cycle and all I used was a little steam- why would they care? As we have already pointed out- it is sterile, and would be sterile upon finishing the cycle.

Thank you digdirt for your response- I do not want "mushy" food. And you present some issues I had not considered.

As a follow-up, the autoclave I was actually considering using (an older one not in full time service)- you can set the pressure, temp, and time of the steam processing. This is why I posted to some more experienced people than I. The OR staff, and I could not come up with a reason this would NOT work, that is what I was looking for here.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 3:23PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

About the only issue then is transporting jars to, and from the hospital. Usually, most canned products get the filled jars with hot or boiling products just prior to the pressure canning, and if its cooled down and then reheated in the sterilizer, it can take longer to reach the same temps. Also consider mass size. A bunch of tools used in an OR is quite different in size compared to a big canning jar(s). If all the canning is of high acid foods, this device isn't needed and would also affect the finished texture.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 3:46PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

As Ken says - transport is still a question and I wonder how long since the gauges on this old unit have been checked? We have a chronic problem with the gauges on regular pressure canners being accurate but there is no comparison in the quality of the equipment so I'd think the hospital ones are tested regularly.

There is a steam canner made for home processing but it has never been approved for home use since it hasn't been tested. So you'd still be in the same boat - no testing for safety has ever been done on the method you are describing so no tested approval can be given you. You'd be the guinea pig. ;) Even if you could solve all the other problems, that risk would still be there. Is it really worth it?


PS: on the answers - Check your junk mail box as they usually get routed there unless you have GW listed as approved in your in-box. ;)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 4:09PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

why would they care?

Maybe you should ask them instead of asking us. I would be very surprised if hospital policy allows the use of the autoclave for anything than its intended use. The hospital assumes huge liabilities for anything that is done on its premises and especially for anything that might, in any way, affect the health of its patients.

The reason I find the idea repulsive is because I use an autoclave on an almost daily basis. I know very well that it sterilizes the contents. However, many of those contents, once autoclaved, produce a foul odor that I would simply not want my food exposed to. Also, is the area outside of the autoclave sterile? I wouldn't think so. I would not want to bring my food jars in, even closed, and put them on the counter. Or even expose them to the air in the hospital autoclave room. Pathogens, many antibiotic resistant, are extremely prevalent in a hospital setting. Why would you want to take any chance of your food, even the jars, being exposed to those pathogens?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 5:11PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

I should correct what I said. I no longer use an autoclave daily, but over the last 20 years there have been periods of time that I use them that much.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 5:32PM
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I have checked with hospital mgt. and they do not have an issue with it, but that is not my reason for posting. As stated by digdirt there are other variables to consider that I had not taken into account- primarily processing time and reliable end product. I guess I will stick with what is tried and true- that is the reason I asked, if this was something others had done before- great, but I am not near knowledgeable (or brave) to be a pioneer in this field.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and replies. I look forward to gleaning a lot of information from this site.

Now if someone can direct me to information on my next endeavor- I want to take a couple acres in the front of my land and make a sunflower field, I have had little success with internet searches for the process of starting a field and tips for successful growing and harvesting of sunflowers. Thanks again,

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 7:08PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Growing sunflowers for commercial bloom/seed sale or just for landscaping?

Most of the sunflower discussions on growing and varieties are found over on the Annuals Forum here at GW so you will want to check them out.

Also check out:

All are info packed sites to explore for a start.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 8:44PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

a big rototiller is helful for getting that soil broken up. It would take several months to 'condition' it for use in growing sunflowers or anthing else for that matter. The shrubs, trees, grass, weeds all need to be removed or destroyed somehow, but I wouldn't use commercial weed killers there. A weed whacker and a propane flame burner at 500,000 BTU will fry most weeds and their seeds. Tilling shallow and then deep is usually the way to get the soil turned over. Having the soil tested is also very necessary so you will know what its lacking. You do this once the soil has been cleared of any vegetation and has been tilled a little.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2008 at 2:42PM
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Thanks a bunch for the links, and I will spend some time on the other forum. I have already been working the soil- I used a turning plow for the initial work, and plan on going over it with my disk every month or so this winter (obviously when the ground is workable) to wipe out the remainding grass before planting in the Spring. Again many thanks-

    Bookmark   November 7, 2008 at 6:14PM
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Hmmm....had to post a comment on this. The hospital mgmt may want to take a look at their liability insurance policies....cuz, they would have to have very generous insurance coverage for a claim based on canning food using medical equipment in a hospital to be covered :-)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 7:33PM
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I've grown some great sunflowers using something like lasagna gardening methods. Basically, I covered the area with cardboard and held that down with some mulch. Then we got a load of mushroom compost and piled it on thick. After that I planted a cover crop of oats or buckwheat. The next season I planted sunflowers. The sunflowers got really tall since I planted giant gray stripe. I probably could have planted sunflowers in those beds the first season but the cardboard might have restricted the root growth and stunted the plants.

I'm lazy and don't own a tiller. And the weed grasses here would only take the excuse of a tiller to spread instead of die.

Good luck with the sunflowers. I saddly didn't get much seeds from mine as the squirrels kept steeling the heads before even the birds could get to them. Ever seen a giant sunflower head drop 20 feet out of a tree? I wish I had seen or even video taped the squirrel getting the head up there. : )

Here is a link that might be useful: TCLynx

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:00AM
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Well, I don't know about a hospital, but my mother used to do all her canning in the biology autoclave at her lab. Transportation is not an issue here folks. An autoclave is designed to kill microbes, including endospores. It is designed to take stuff that is at room temp or lower and bring it up to the appropriate temp and pressure (sort of like using a pressure cooker at home, but less dangerous.

Her stuff left the autoclave smelling much nicer than it was to start with, but we never noticed that the food got very mushy or changed color. I guess that you just have to grow up with this. . .

As for exploding, that never happens (but it is why you autoclave on liquid and put a pan underneath). The jars might crack and that isn't so good, but again -- you are supposed to stick a pan underneath.

If you had refridgerated beforehand I would suggest doing liquid 20 or even 30.

As I said, we never had any problems with this and the nice thing is that you never ever have to worry about botulism.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:48AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

A very old thread to be resurrected after 4 years but the bottom line is still the fact that no testing has ever been done on the safety, or lack thereof, of this method. Not to mention that few have access to using one so it is essentially a moot point.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 5:58PM
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