There have been several requests lately for more info about canners so I’m going to do a post. This post will be mostly for folks who have never canned. Skip over this one if you have no interest in canning.
The first thing to think about is your stove. If you have a glass top, many recommend that you do not can on them. The loaded canner is quite heavy! See what the manufacturer of your stove recommends and make your decision. I canned for 9 years on a glass top in Kentucky and for 4-1/2 years on one in Missouri and never did any damage but I honestly hoped I would ruin them so I could replace them. Use your judgment with your stove. Some folks set up what we call a crawfish burner — the gas setup that you use outside with a propane burner and put a big pot on, and they have success using a canner with that. Another advantage is that if you’re doing your canning in the summer, you’re not heating up the house. I’ve tried that method and find it’s a lot easier to do my canning in the kitchen, near the sink and countertop where I can place the jars. But, if you have a glass top stove, and it is recommended that you do not can on it, you can come up with a setup for outside with a propane tank and burner of some kind where you can do your canning.
Next you’ll have to make a decision about a canner. I suggest that for your first canner, you go with a new canner. Used and older canners can have some issues, which are easily fixed — anything from a gasket that needs replacing to a pressure regulator that isn’t registering properly. It’s so much easier to start with a new canner and then it’s fairly safe to assume that if you follow the directions, things should work right. Gaskets and pressure regulators are easy and fairly inexpensive to replace so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a used canner if a second canner is needed.
For an overall, stands up to lots of uses, not terribly expensive canner, I recommend the 23 quart Presto. I’ve had mine for about 15 years and I’ve canned thousands of jars in it. I still use it. It holds 7 quarts or 20 pints. I’ve seen this canner at Wal-Mart, Target and similar type stores. I bought mine at a store similar to Tractor Supply. The Presto has the pressure gauge and an overpressure plug, which should blow before the lid flies off and decapitates bystanders and sprays tomato sauce all over the ceiling.
With the Presto, I have to do a little more “babysitting” than I do with my All American. This is the model All American I have. It will hold 14 quarts or 19 pints. Don’t ask me why it holds more quarts but less pints than the Presto. Haven’t figured that out yet. It’s obviously quite a bit more expensive than the Presto but since I can do twice as many quarts in it, it saves me time and propane. The All American has the pressure gauge as well as the pressure regulator . . two ways to make sure you have the pressure correct. This one also has an automatic overpressure release to hopefully keep accidents from happening. I absolutely love this canner and have also purchased a smaller one. This one holds 7 quarts and 10 pints. It will pretty much replace the Presto.
The Presto has a rubber gasket, which will eventually need to be changed. I think I’ve changed the gasket in my Presto twice in 15 years. The All American has no gaskets that need changing.
From time to time, the pressure gauges need to be checked. Some home extension or county agents will do that for you.
The Presto is fine for starting out, and like I said, I’ve used it for years and years but, the All American is the dream canner. When canning with the Presto, I watch it constantly and have to adjust the burner, sometimes even turn the burner off completely because the pressure gets too high. With the All American, once I find the right stove setting, the pressure never fluctuates. Still, I wouldn’t recommend spending the $$ for the All American until you know for sure canning is something you want to do.
If you buy a new canner, there will be an instruction booklet with it. Read it! Read it again! If you follow the directions, there’s nothing to be afraid of. And I’ll tell you a little secret . . I had the All American for eight months before I was brave enough to try it. I had the instruction booklet memorized but I was scared of it! Once I used it, I again said to myself . . what took me so long? You will do the same if you’ve been wanting to can and putting it off because you were afraid.
So . . don’t feel bad about being intimidated. Truly, if you read the instruction booklet and you follow the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems! And, know that feeling intimidated and a bit scared is perfectly normal. Be careful. Never walk away from the canner. You’ll learn that you can hear it and know if something is getting out of control. Once I’m confident that the canner is holding at the right pressure, I’ll go sit down and knit or read but never far from the canner.
One last tip — there’s a starter kit. You absolutely need everything in this kit. It’s impossible to get the jars out of the boiling water without the jar lifter. It’s impossible to get the lids and rings out of the boiling water without the magnetic lid lifter. It’s impossible to get all the food in the jars without the funnel. You’ll need to get the air bubbles out of your jars of food and you shouldn’t use metal (like a knife) because it can crack the glass so you need the little plastic bubble remover.
You may have heard me say that when I was wanting to knit socks and couldn’t remember how to cast on, I hung out in the knitting section of Hobby Lobby. Every lady that came in looking at yarn, I would ask them if they could show me how to cast on. With canning, I think your confidence would be boosted tremendously by watching someone do it. You might hang out in the Mason jar section of Wal-Mart and see if a lady who looks nice is buying a lot of jars. She might help you. You might post a note on a bulletin board at a grocery store that you’re looking for someone you can “shadow” while canning. Or, if you’re active in a church, maybe ask some of the older ladies if they would be willing to do a canning demo. Most churches have nice, big, clean kitchens.
See? Simple as can be! All you need now are jars and food to put in those jars. Be cautious and be careful but don’t be afraid.