Thinking of buying a pressure canner? There are 4 types of canners that people buy; 2 should be avoided and 2 should be considered.
Here’s a quick overview of each:
Avoid – Pressure Cooker
We’ve talked about this before but it’s important to know that a pressure cooker and a pressure canner are different things. Though similar, you should not use a cooker to can (the cooling and heating periods vary from a canner and can affect processing time).
Avoid – The Heritage Hand-Me-Down
Buying a pressure canner from a thrift store or dusting off Grannie’s 1950’s canning equipment might sound like a good idea (and save a few pennies) but avoid the temptation. Modern canners (which have improved incrementally since the 1970s) have a significant amount of safety features built into them that were lacking in the past. People were often hesitant to use pressure canners after hearing stories of pieces ‘flying off’; newer technology and venting makes this virtually impossible.
Consider – Dial Gauge Pressure Canners
When you can food under pressure you need to increase the pressure to a desired amount, measured in pounds per square inch. 5 or 10 pounds of pressure are most common. A dial gauge canner has a dial on the top (similar to the dashboard in your car) which tells you the amount of pressure in the canner. Many people prefer this system as it feels familiar/ accessible – just watch the dial raise to the number you want and keep it at that pressure (by adjusting heat).
The comfort that a gauge provides is offset by two disadvantages:
- Annual inspection. You need to have the gauge inspected every year in order to determine that it’s accurate. While it’s not expensive, it can be difficult to find someone to test it (in the US most extension offices will do so but I’ve heard from readers that they are struggling to find anyone to test them in Ontario).
- They require closer watching. A dial gauge has vents but, unlike a weighted gauge canner, it doesn’t vent unless there’s excess pressure. This means that you have to monitor things closer or you could be canning at a higher pressure than desired (which will soften the final product and, under extreme circumstances, turn it to mush).
Consider – Weighted Gauge Pressure Canners
A weighted gauge canned is just as it sounds; small weights sit on top of a vent. We have one of these and it came with 3 weights – 5, 10 and 15 pounds. The weights are only a few ounces each (and progressively heavier) and they cover the vent until enough pressure builds to jiggle them (the heavier the weight, the more pressure it takes to jiggle the weight). Some people are intimidated by them because they are noisy and, for some, are less confident-inducing than a dial.
I prefer a weighted-gauge canner as it requires less maintenance (you don’t need the annual checkup) and there’s less parts to break/ wear down.
There’s a great article on the types of canners at the National Center for Home Food Preservation and we’ll be sharing more about it this week as well as featuring a big round-up on pressure canning in the weekly newsletter this weekend (you can sign up here).