What’s Your Favorite Canning Recipe?

— Written By Crystal Smith
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How exciting…..Farmers Markets are OPEN! With the months getting warmer and the vegetables and fruits starting to grow, it’s now time to think about preparing for the upcoming canning season!

Many myths exist about safe ways to can foods. The reality is that food must be processed using the right equipment and the right recipes to ensure safety. The type of canner you need depends on the food you want to preserve.

A water bath canner is used to preserve acid foods like fruits and pickled foods. Low-acid foods, like vegetables and meats, must be canned in a pressure canner. Tomatoes can be processed in either type of canner, but always add lemon juice to be sure they are acid enough.

Boiling Water Bath Canner

A boiling water bath canner is simply a big pot with a removable rack to hold the jars and a fitted lid. It must be big enough to cover the jars with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water.

Pressure Canner—NOT Pressure Cooker

Use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker. A pressure canner must be able to hold at least 4 quart-size jars. Most 16-quart or larger canners are big enough. All pressure canners have a removable rack, an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent port (steam vent), and a safety fuse. Only use canners that show the Underwriters Laboratories approval of safety symbols (UL).

Dial-gauge or Weighted-gauge Canners

Dial-gauge canners have a dial that shows the pressure. These canners must be watched during processing to be sure the pressure does not fall below the required level, and they must be tested every year to make sure the dial is registering correctly. A dial-gauge canner is a good choice for those that live at higher altitudes because precise pressure adjustments are easy to make.

Weighted-gauge canners have weights for 5, 10 or 15 pounds of pressure that is placed over the vent and rock or jiggles when the correct pressure is reached. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how often the gauge should rock or jiggle. The sound of the weight rocking or jiggling indicates that the correct pressure is being maintained, so these canners do not need to be watched during processing. Weighted gauges do not have to be checked each year. A disadvantage for those living at higher altitudes is that precise pressure adjustments cannot be made since the canner is limited to 5, 10, or 15-pound weights with the use of a weighted gauge canner.

Check Your Pressure Canner for Safety

Whether your pressure canner is brand new, a family heirloom or a yard sale find, be sure all parts are in good condition.

  • Rubber gaskets must be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky, or cracked. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care of your gasket. (Note: Not all pressure canners have gaskets.)
  • Vent ports and openings must be clean and not clogged.
  • The lid must not be warped and must fit properly and lock into place.
  • The dial on a dial-gauge canner should be tested each year for accuracy.
  • Do a test run on your canner if it is new, or at the beginning of the season.
  • Put several inches of water in your canner.
  • Secure the lid and seal the vent.
  • Turn on the heat and make sure the canner will get to the needed pressure and maintain it without leaking.
  • Practice the correct way to depressurize the canner and remove the lid.

If this is your first time canning, read the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Hands placing jars of green beans into a pressure canner.