There are numerous myths about safe canning practices. Food must be processed using the proper equipment and recipes to ensure food safety. The type of canner required depends on the kind of food being preserved. Acidic foods, such as fruits and pickled foods, are kept in a water bath canner. Vegetables and meats, which are low in acid, must be canned using a pressure canner. Tomatoes can be processed in either type of canner, but lemon juice must always be added to ensure they are sufficiently acidic.
Boiling Water Bath Canner
A boiling water bath canner is a large pot or vessel used for preserving foods by canning. It is specifically designed to create a safe and efficient environment for preserving high-acid foods, such as fruits, pickles, and jams, by using the heat of boiling water to sterilize jars and prevent bacterial growth.
To use a boiling water bath canner, first, prepare the food you want to preserve and pack it into clean, sterilized jars. Then, place the filled jars into the canner and add enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a full, rolling boil and maintain the boil for the required amount of time, which can vary depending on the type of food and altitude. Once the time is up, turn off the heat and remove the jars from the canner using jar tongs.
It is important to follow proper safety procedures when using a boiling water bath canner, including using only jars designed for canning, following recommended processing times and temperatures, and using jar tongs and other safety equipment to avoid burns and other injuries. Additionally, it is recommended to check the canner for damage before each use and to replace it if any cracks or other signs of wear are present.
A pressure canner is a specialized piece of equipment used for home canning of low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, and fish, which are not safely preserved using a boiling water bath canner. Unlike a pressure cooker, which is designed for cooking food quickly, a pressure canner is designed for safe and efficient canning by creating a high-pressure environment that sterilizes food and kills harmful bacteria.
To use a pressure canner, first, prepare the food you want to can and pack it into clean, sterilized jars. Then, place the filled jars into the canner and add enough water to cover the jars by at least 1-2 inches. Seal the canner according to the manufacturer’s instructions and place it on the stovetop over high heat. Once the pressure inside the canner reaches the recommended level, reduce the heat to maintain a steady pressure and process the jars for the recommended amount of time.
It is important to follow proper safety procedures when using a pressure canner, including using only jars designed for canning, following recommended processing times and pressures, and using the canner’s safety features, such as the pressure gauge and safety valve. Additionally, it is recommended to check the canner for damage before each use and to replace it if any cracks or other signs of wear are present.
Dial-gauge or Weighted-gauge Canners
There are two types of pressure canners: dial-gauge canners and weighted-gauge canners. The main difference between these two types of canners is the way they measure pressure.
Dial-gauge canners have a gauge on the top that displays the pressure inside the canner. The pressure is regulated by adjusting the heat on the stove. These canners are recommended for canning at altitudes below 2,000 feet.
Weighted-gauge canners have a weighted pressure regulator on the top that maintains a constant pressure during canning. These canners are recommended for canning at altitudes above 2,000 feet, as they are not affected by changes in atmospheric pressure.
Both types of canners have their advantages and disadvantages. Dial-gauge canners are more precise and can be used for a wider range of altitudes, but they require more attention to regulate the pressure. Weighted-gauge canners are easier to use, as the weight maintains a constant pressure, but they are less precise and can only be used at higher altitudes.
Regardless of the type of pressure canner used, it is important to follow proper safety procedures, including using only jars designed for canning, following recommended processing times and pressures, and using the canner’s safety features. It is also recommended to check the canner for damage before each use and to replace it if any cracks or other signs of wear are present.
How to choose the pressure cooker size for canning
Choosing the right size of pressure cooker for canning depends on the amount and type of food you want to can. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose the right size pressure cooker:
- Consider the size of your jars: Choose a pressure cooker that is large enough to hold the size and number of jars you want to can. For example, if you plan to can quart-sized jars, choose a pressure cooker that can hold at least 4-6 quart-sized jars.
- Consider the type of food you want to can: Different types of foods require different amounts of space in the pressure cooker. For example, vegetables require more space than fruits, and meats require even more space. Consider the amount of space needed for the type of food you plan to can and choose a pressure cooker that can accommodate it.
- Consider the size of your stovetop: Make sure the pressure cooker you choose can fit on your stovetop and can be heated evenly.
- Choose a reputable brand: Look for pressure cookers from reputable brands that are known for quality and safety.
In general, it is recommended to choose a pressure cooker that is slightly larger than you think you will need, to allow for flexibility and to avoid overfilling the pressure cooker. Overfilling can result in uneven cooking and can be dangerous.
It is important to follow recommended processing times and pressures for canning, regardless of the size of your pressure cooker. Additionally, always use the canner’s safety features, such as the pressure gauge and safety valve, to prevent accidents and ensure that your canned foods are safe to eat.
Check Your Pressure Canner for Safety
It is important to regularly check your pressure canner for safety to ensure that it is functioning properly and to prevent accidents or other hazards. Here are some steps to follow when checking your pressure canner for safety:
- Examine the canner for signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, dents, or rust. If any damage is present, replace the canner.
- Check the rubber gasket or sealing ring for cracks, tears, or other damage. Replace the gasket if necessary.
- Check the pressure gauge (if applicable) by testing it against a calibrated gauge. If the gauge is inaccurate, replace it.
- Check the vent pipe or steam vent for obstructions or clogs. Clean the vent pipe if necessary.
- Check the safety valve for proper operation by testing it with a small amount of water. If the valve does not release pressure, replace it.
- Check the pressure regulator (if applicable) for proper operation. The regulator should move freely and not be damaged or clogged.
- Clean the canner thoroughly before each use to remove any debris or buildup.
By following these steps to check your pressure canner for safety, you can ensure that it is functioning properly and prevent accidents or other hazards during the canning process. Additionally, always follow recommended processing times and pressures and use the canner’s safety features to prevent accidents and ensure that your canned foods are safe to eat.
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