Canning season is almost here, and every year I get a ton of questions about what kind of canner to use, and the differences between them. I also get a ton of questions about how to can certain foods, and then when I give an answer and specify using a certain canner, it’s almost always followed by more questions about that canner.
So let’s go through some of the more common types of canners and how they work.
I did a show on Canning Basics where I went into great detail about the benefits of canning and what foods you can can and which foods you can’t can. So I won't spend too much time on that here but let’s review the difference between two different canning methods.
Water Bath Canning
Water Bath Canning is a method of canning where you process jars filled with food in boiling water for a certain amount of time, depending on the food. You should use this method for high acid foods like fruits, and foods that have added acid (like vinegar pickles). The boiling water kills molds, yeasts, and other bacteria. The bacteria that causes botulisum cannot live in high acid foods.
In order to kill the bacteria that causes botulisum you need to raise the food temperature to at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit (at sea level). Under normal conditions water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, so you see the problem here. Boiling is not enough to get the food to 240 degrees. We have to add pressure to the food to raise the temperature so that the bacteria that causes botulisum is killed. This is the only safe canning method for low acid foods.
Note: Do not try to pressure can in a pressure cooker.
Water Bath Canners
You can actually use any large pot to water bath can. You don’t need a pot that was specifically designed for canning. However, most people who can will eventually invest in one because they fit a specific amount of jars inside, and that’s super convenient when planning out what you’re going to can. If you do decide to can in a pot that was not designed for canning then you’ll need to place a towel or a rack in the bottom. You don’t want your glass jars to touch the bottom of the pot.
Graniteware--These are relatively inexpensive and they last a good long while. They don’t however last forever because they are thin and often the racks that come with them rust overtime. They are generally not safe for glass top stoves. They make a great starter canner if you’re not sure if canning is for you.
Stainless Steel Multi-Use Canner--The one I have is from a Victorio and has a temperature indicator. I can’t say that I use the temperature indicator a lot but I might if I didn’t live so close to sea level. I love the stainless steel pot and rack. I’ve never had any rust problems and I can use it for other things like making large batches of applesauce or soup.
You are able to can most things that you would normally can in a water bath canner in a pressure canner, and you can also use pressure canners as water bath canners, provided your stove is strong enough to support the weight of the canner when it’s filled with water.
I have the 23 qt dial gauge only Presto.
Presto makes two kinds of pressure canners. One is a dial gauge only and then the other uses a weighted gauge only. Currently the weighted gauge is only in the 16 quart version. The gauge is what tells you that the pressure inside the canner. Most of Presto’s canners are dial gauge only. Presto doesn’t make a canner with both a dial and a weight. You need to have your gauge checked regularly if you use a dial gauge. Since this is often not easy to do, you can buy a weighted gauge (pressure regulator) for your dial only pressure cooker. The dial gauge does come with a weight or a pressure regulator but it’s a fixed weight that will cook at 15 pounds of pressure.
Sealing Ring--Presto canners have a sealing ring that allows the pressure to build inside the canner. These sealing rings work well but they do have to be replaced from year to year depending on use.
Safety--The Presto has an air vent (or pressure lock) that indicates that the canner has pressure inside. The Presto also has an over-pressure plug to make sure there are no explosions. This plug will pop open if the vent pipe is blocked.
Rack--The Presto comes with a rack for the bottom, but you’ll have to buy an additional rack to help stack pint jars. You don’t technically need a rack to stack jars, but it makes it much easier.
Handles/Lid--The handles are plastic and need to be tightened sometimes. Also the location of the handles forces your hands into the hot steam coming from the bottom of the canner and can cause burns more easily when removing the lid.
Cost--All Presto pressure canners are very affordable and are great starter canners. You can also use your canner as a water bath canner. You just would not use the sealing ring or gasket so it would not come up to pressure.
23 quart Presto Will Hold:
- Regular mouth--24 half pints, 20 pints, and 7 quarts
- Wide mouth--16 pints and 7 quarts
Pros--Works well and the dial gauge will allow you to can odd increments such as 11, 12, 13, or 14 pounds pressure. They are lightweight and might be better suited for someone who can not lift heavy things. They can be used with some glass top stoves.
Cons--Only having a dial gauge could be a problem after a while since it seems less and less people can, so it may be harder and harder to have the gauge checked. I would invest in the weighted regulator. They are not heavy duty and might dent or bend easy, and the handles may warp or come loose easily. The rubber seal/gasket needs to be replaced after use. The largest model only holds 7 quarts.
I have the 30 quart All American Canner
Dial and Weighted Gauge (Pressure Regulator)--The All American Canners come with both weighted gauge and dial gauge. The dial gauge is there for reference and you should learn to depend on the weighted gauge for accuracy.
Sealing Ring--The All American pressure canner doesn’t have a sealing ring. So there are no parts to replace. It’s a metal on metal seal. You do have to lubricate it from time to time with olive oil.
Safety--The All American also has a over-pressure plug. This plug will pop open if the vent pipe is blocked.
Rack--The 30 quart comes with two racks. One for the bottom and one for stacking.
Handles/Lid--The lid is heavy but the handle stays cool throughout the canning process. The handle location is on top of the lid and not on the sides like the Presto.
Cost--This canner is an investment, but it will probably outlive you if you take care of it. It’s so heavy duty it might outlive your children too.
30 quart All American Will Hold:
- Mason Jars--14 pints, 19 quarts
- Metal cans--No.1--44, No.2--25, No.3--10
Pros--This will be the last pressure canner you ever buy. There are instructions for canning tin cans if you have a tin can lid sealer. No parts need to be replaced.
Cons--These pressure canners are heavy. If you have a hard time lifting heavy things you might want to go with a smaller model. These canners are not approved for glass tops stoves. They are one of the most expensive pressure canners.
Note: If you want to get a bigger model All American be sure to measure the space above your stove if you have a microwave or second oven above your stove as the 30 quart and 44.1 quart might not fit (they may be too tall).
I like all my canners for different reasons. The Graniteware water bath canner I have no problem using outside. My stainless steel Victorio is a great multi-purpose pot. My Presto is light weight and I use it when I have small batches. Finally, my All American is my workhorse. I know I can load it up time and time again and it will deliver the best canned food I’ve ever tasted.
Do you have a favorite canner? Tell me what you like about it!
We teach a canning eCourse inside Self Reliant School, along with other classes that will help you grow, cook and preserve your own food.