What equipment is needed for canning? We have been doing this for so long that I had forgotten how overwhelming it is to try to choose canning equipment. That is, until some friends asked us for recommendations on a pressure canner. I did a little research and I have to tell you, I was overwhelmed! I thought maybe a few recommendations would help a little.
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Mirro 16 Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner
Our pressure canner is one of our most important pieces of canning equipment. We bought our Mirro canner in 1992 and except for yearly replacement of the seal and washing it often, there has been no maintenance on it. It is suggested that the seal be replaced often. The seal is vital to the pressure canning process. If the seal fails, the water just boils out through the edges and no pressure builds up in the canner. We replace ours yearly. Our Ace Hardware store carries the seal for our pressure canner.
Don’t be afraid of using a pressure canner. The Mirro canner uses a weight to help you regulate pressure instead of a gauge. Either way works good. Just read the manual and follow the directions and everything will go just fine. Honestly, if I can do this without incident then anyone can.
Just make sure to stay near the pressure canner and moniter the gauge (or weight) the entire time it is on the stove. Don’t ever think it would be a great multitasking idea to get the canner regulated, set the timer and leave for a while. Like to go out and pack up a shed or something random like that. Use common sense and we will never have to have this discussion again. lol
A Little Science
A pressure canner is needed for the processing of low acid foods such as vegetables and meats or anything that contains them. Acid inhibits the growth of bacteria so pickles are less likely to grow bacteria than canned green beans are. While both products need to be sealed and processed, the process is different. That is the reason for using both a pressure canner and a hot water bath or steamer canner.
Your altitude affects your canning process. You need to know the altitude of your location and adjust the amount of pressure in the canner and the length of the water bath or steamer process accordingly.
Your local extension office has canning information that can help you quickly locate this information. Here is a link to a canning publication from the Montana Extension Service.
Kerr (or Ball) Home Canning and Freezing Book
I preserved food with my mom during the whole time that I was growing up. When I left home, it was to move 2000 miles away for several years and then to settle 500 miles away. I asked so many questions that one day Mom sent me my own copy of the Kerr Home Canning and Freezing Book. That copy is just about worn out. I really recommend getting your own copy and wearing it out as you go through season after season of canning. After all these years, I am still looking up something new. This amazing little piece of literature is still where I turn for several of the recipes that we use year after year in preserving our harvest!
Water Bath Canner
A water bath canner is a REALLY large pot with a removable rack inside and a lid. The theory behind its use, is to put enough water in it to cover the jars that you will load into the rack and put in it. The jars are filled with jam or jelly or fruit and each jar has a heated lid and a ring on it. The water in the pot/canner is boiling when the rack is lowered into the water.
You set the timer for the recommended amount of minutes and when that time is up, you lift out the rack. The jars are removed from the rack and set to cool (and seal ) on the counter and the rack is filled again with more jars. You don’t have to turn off the heat under the pot in order to lower or remove the rack. You do have to have enough BOILING water to cover the jars every time.
I really don’t like using a water bath canner. It is a long process fraught with disaster because I can’t ever judge whether I have enough water in the pot until I lower the basket in.
Equipment Needed for Canning: Victorio Steam Canner
A steam canner takes the place of a water bath canner. I was so excited when I learned about steam canners. The one that I have used for years has been discontinued by the company so I am recommending the Victorio steam canner. I use other products from this company and have found them to be very reliable. This one even has an indicator so you can see when to start timing.
The steam canner uses about 8 cups of water as opposed to the gallons used by the water bath canner. The jars of product set on a rack in a shallow pan over the water. The lid is large enough to cover all the jars and is vented to allow some steam to escape. The steam processes the product in the same way as the boiling water does only with a lot less frustration.
Victorio Deluxe Food Strainer and Sauce Maker
Speaking of Victorio…my Victorio strainer saves me so much time! Last fall, I loaned it to a friend who was making applesauce. She had been using a hand strainer with a wooden pusher. She had to cut, seed and peel all the apples before she cooked them down. After she borrowed my Victorio, she finished in one afternoon the same amount as she had in the 2 days previous. She still had to cut out the bad spots and cut the apples in half or quarters but that was it. After cooking, the apples could be put into the shoot. Once she turned the handle, the applesauce slid down the slide and the seeds, cores, and peels were spit out the end.
It makes wonderful tomato sauce and pumpkin puree the same way. I do scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin though. There are additional screens available to accommodate other kinds of produce.
I just wanted to share some handy canning tools that make the process go smoother for me. I really enjoy the preserving process, whether it is canning, freezing, or drying fresh food. Our own tastes so much better. I love the feeling of providing for my family. “Waste not want not” is a proverb that always comes to mind. I worked so hard in the garden to get this food, I want us to be able to enjoy it much longer. I really do use all these products and they have served me well for many years.
My knowledge is limited to what has worked for me. Do you find other things that work well or better for you than these? We would love some comments sharing your insights.