Food Preserving: canning

Asked May 1, 2020, 9:58 PM EDT

I'm a beginning canner. I'd like some advice on equipment. I used to use a large pot for hot water canning. When full, it was too heavy to lift. I want to can fruits, tomatoes, low-acid vegetables, and pickled and fermented vegetables. Reading instruction manuals, it seems I need three pieces of equipment: a steam canner (electric sounds good because it uses less water), plus a pressure cooker, plus a hot water bath canner. Is there one piece of equipment that will serve all my canning purposes? What do you recommend for someone starting out? Thank you!

Jackson County Oregon

1 Response

We love a beginner! You are asking some terrific questions. There are some really important distinctions to be made when selecting equipment.

  1. Water Bath Canner/Boiling Water Canner—these can ONLY be used to process naturally high acid or acidified foods; i.e., most fruits and acidified salsas.
  2. Steam Canner—similar to boiling water canners, they can only be used to process naturally high acid or acidified foods. Processing times MUST be less than 45 minutes and you must maintain a steady column of steam throughout the process or you have to start your processing time over.
  • Pressure Canners—not to be confused with pressure COOKERS, these are used for canning foods low in acid; i.e., meats, vegetables, tomatoes, seafood, broths.
    • The distinction between a canner and a cooker is VERY important. We have seen manufacturer claims that electric pressure cookers can be used for canning, but there is no evidence to support this. In fact, their heat up and cool down processes are too quick to support the very important process of killing pathogens/bacteria that can cause serious and even fatal health problems.
    • There are two types of pressure canners—weighted gauge and dial gauge. While the dial gauge offers a little more precision for higher altitudes, it must be checked for accuracy at purchase, every year, and if dropped. If it is off by more than 2 pounds of pressure is must be replaced or you again run the risk of processing issues that could be harmful if not fatal.
    Canners can be quite heavy when fully loaded, so some folks do prefer the steam canners for water bath canning for that exact reason. For pressure canning I'm afraid it is unavoidable. You might look at some of the smaller pressure canners. Although some of our local volunteers have noted that the time and effort involved in pressure canning tends to be one you don't want to have to repeat too often, so a larger canner means you don't have to do multiple batches. But a lot of that depends on your family size and how much you want to preserve.

    You can use a pressure canner as a water bath canner if you don't lock down the lid. You'll still be dealing with the weight issue. If you have a gas cooktop, you don't need to worry about moving the canner off the heat. So you can use pitchers to fill it and then ladle it out the water (after you have removed the jars) when you are done processing your jars.

    And last but not least, ONLY use tested recipes when canning. They have been thoroughly researched to assure a safe and quality product.
    Happy canning!