Once you have decide to give pressure canning a try there comes the question of what equipment you will need as well as what to do. While most canners come with instructions, many of the instruction booklets are not very clear, especially if you are a beginning canner who has never done any canning before. This article is intended for beginners and is a step by step tutorial on choosing a canner, getting ready to can and canning for your first time.
What You Use a Pressure Canner For
Since this article is written for beginners I think it is important to take a moment to explain what you would need a pressure canner for and what types of foods it is used for. There is some confusion and misinformation on the internet about using the right type of canner, which can result in unsafe food.
Pressure canning is a method of preserving food that uses a higher heat than boiling water, which is what water bath canning methods use. While water bath canning is safe for certain high acid foods such as fruits and pickling, certain foods such as vegetables and meats are lower in acid and need a high temperature that can only be achieve with a pressure canner, in order to make them safe. Pressure canning also removes excess air that bacteria need in order to grow.
Without using a pressure canner you can risk food born bacteria such as botulism, making your foods unsafe to use.
Be sure to check a reliable source to see whether the food that you are processing should be processed in a water bath or in a pressure canner. As a safety precaution if I am ever in doubt I will pressure can something at the time listed for the ingredient that takes the longest in the food I am processing.
Choosing the Right Pressure Canner
Taking the steps to choose the best canner can make all the difference in how your canning will go. Canners start at around $60 and can go to $500 or more for a large home pressure canner. If you have been canning for some time, and are making the step to pressure can knowing that you will be using your canner on a regular basis, then it definitely makes sense to invest in a good quality canner now, for a variety of reasons. A bigger canner will allow you to can more at one time and a good quality canner will take much of the guess work out of pressure canning and leave you feeling more confident about food and pressure canning safety, as well as leave you with fewer parts that can break or cause problems with your canning.
If you are just starting out you may be unwilling to spend that much money on a canner, and you may not be canning enough to justify spending that much. There are good canners that can suit your needs for under $100 if that is the case. All canners must meet certain standards for safety and if used properly will work just fine for the small amounts of canning you are going to do. Should you decided later to move up to a better canner then you will be able to do so and pass your canner on to someone else that needs it.
Brands vary in what they offer, the All American at the top of the scale offers 4 sizes of canners, with their largest canner having enough room for 19 quarts or 32 pints of food, making it ideal for those that have a large garden. The All American has several Features that make it the canner of choice, from the lack of a rubber seal to a geared pressure system. This canner uses a metal to metal seal that is more consistent and does not require the need to replace the seal every few years like other canners do. This ensures consistent sealing which means better safety for your canned goods. The geared pressure system, has an automatic overpressure release which allows you to walk away while your canner is cooking secure in the knowledge that it will keep consistent pressure. While canners should never be left completely unattended, this allows you to be doing other things and not requiring you to watch your canner at every second to ensure it is maintaining the proper pressure.
Presto and Mirro canners offer 2 models, the 21 quart model which holds 7 quarts or 14 pints or the 16 quart model that holds 7 quarts or 7 pints. These smaller models are the most budget friendly canners on the market; you can get a Presto or Mirro 16 quart canner for under 75 dollars. Both of these canners have weights for the pressure regulators, so you won’t have to get them checked every year, but they still have rubber seals which need to be inspected every so often and replaced when they become rigid, damaged or brittle.
The 21 quart models offer more room, and if you prefer you can get a Presto that has a dial pressure regulator, but it is important to keep in mind that these regulators much be taken someplace to be tested every year. They do offer a more precise measurement of pressure which some people prefer, but they must be watched more carefully. The weighted pressure regulators on the other hand release excess pressure so simply placing the right weight on your canner and adjusting the heat so they jiggle at a certain interval is all you need to do.
In the end when it comes to choosing a canner, choose the one that best suits what you will use it for, as well as the one that best suits your comfort level. I find the All American is well worth the extra money spent to ensure consistent pressure canning without a lot of extra effort on your part.
I hope this helps you to make a decision on which pressure canner is right for you, if you are still on the fence about whether you want to try pressure canning please take a look at my article 10 Reasons to Give Pressure Canning a Try.
On Monday I will have part 2 of Pressure Canning Basics, which will include safety tips for safe canning, then part 3 of this series will offer a step by step overview of your first canning session.