We’ve had a series of questions about pressure canning lately and thought we’d share a few experiences on choosing a pressure canner. These are based on our experience and using ours for preserving for about 2 years.
- DO not buy an old one for a “deal.” The safety has improved drastically – even in the last 10 years. Save your pennies and invest in something new (we spent around $100 Canadian for ours). The ‘extra’ money compared to used will pay off through reassurance of your personal safety and repairs to your ceiling.
- DO not listen to the horror stories of a canner exploding 50 years ago to decide not to buy one. Ours has 3 different release valves where pressure will release from if it gets too high (preventing a blow out where the weighted or dial gauge ‘exploded’ off the lid).
- DO read the manual.
- DO know how much it will cost you (and how) to replace the seals. This is the likely point of fail and if they’re unavailable you will have obtained a pot (just no pressure)
- DO buy one for canning. It will save you money buying separate racks and components for it.
- DO buy as large as you can – but keep in mind that the larger the surface area of the bottom of the pot, the longer it will take to heat.
- DO practice before doing your first canning.
- Know that you can stack 2 levels high – if you are always using small jars you may not want a very large canner. If you’re doing pickles in 1-liter (2-pint) jars, you may want something tall. You are generally sealing with steam so don’t be afraid of size. We also use our pressure canner to sterilize jars as it’s our largest pot.
- DO research the differences between weighted and gauged canners. Many feel that the gauge is more accurate but I like that I can hear the weighted gauge to know it’s as hot as I want it to be.
- DO clean it well. A clogged canner is a dangerous canner (the pressure will continue to build).
- Read some recipes to know what you are getting in to (its often less work than hot water bathing). Check the National Center for Home Food Preservation here or see our recent experience with asparagus (it explains the fundamentals of how pressure canning works).
- Start small – it’s not difficult but it’s not the same as jam
- Watch out for head space – you will generally need a lot more (the temperature is much hotter) and it’s easy to forget to check (pickled asparagus can often handle 1/4-1/2 an inch of head space while pressure-canned asparagus in the same 1-pint jar would need a full inch or more.
- DO ask questions and we’d be pleased to try to help – also share your experiences if you can provide further insight!
Smiles; happy Monday!