Welcome to canning season. Once the start of August hits, my pressure canner doesn’t leave my stovetop. It begins with pickles and ends some time at the end of September with bushels of tomatoes. I do realize that as someone who has a job and a fairly good sense of direction, I could just head to a grocery store and buy pickles and tomato sauce, but I don’t want to. I like to can. What about all those poor people who don’t can? The ones who are terrified or intimidated or just don’t know where to start?
I understand the hesitation some of you feel about bringing a piece of equipment into your house (a pressure canner) that, at one time, had the potential to kill you in several ways, including but not limited to blowing the roof off the place. But it’s not like that anymore. Honestly. Canners are incredibly reliable. Today’s pressure canners regulate their own pressure, so there isn’t the fear of them blowing up in your kitchen like there might have been in the olden days.
Even though canners are much more reliable now, if you plan to can, you still have to be careful about your canning recipes. Most canners use the Ball Blue Book of Preserving or the Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. If you’re thinking about canning, I recommend investing in at least one of these.
You’ll also have to choose a type of canner. And the word canner is important because a pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker. You can pressure cook in a pressure canner, but you cannot pressure can in a pressure cooker. Got it? Canners come in two types. There’s the weighted-gauge canner or the dial gauge. A weighted-gauge canner has little weights on top that control the pressure inside, while a dial-gauge canner has an actual dial that controls the pressure. The dial gauge is easier to read, but it needs to be checked every couple of years to make sure it’s still reading true. A weighted gauge needs no maintenance. I personally use a Mirro weighted-gauge pressure canner. But that’s only because no one has ever given me the Rolls-Royce of pressure canners, the All American, as a gift.
Now you’re going to hear the best advice you’ll ever hear about canning: buy the tools! For the first few years of canning, I had no idea the tools even existed. There are only a few things that you should buy, and they won’t cost a fortune, but they will make your life as a canner infinitely easier.
These essential tools for canning will make the process a lot easier.
These rubber-ended tongs are built to grab hot mason jars out of the oven. You also use them to pick up your filled jars to place them in the canner and remove them when they’re done processing.
Using the tongs to lift a jar out of a boiling canning pot.
I actually did own the funnel from the get-go of my canning career, but not everyone might know about the wide-necked funnel, so I’m showing it to you. Using a ladle to pour liquids through the funnel makes for a neater and safer pour.
Using a funnel makes for a neater and safer transfer of liquids.
The Magnetic Lid Lifter
This is just a plastic or metal stick with a magnet on the end, but it might as well be a magic wand. Trying to remove sealer lids from a pot of hot water and getting them onto a jar with tongs is a huge pain. Buy the magnetic lid lifter.
A magnetic lid lifter makes canning easier.
Go forth and can. You’ll be thanking me in the middle of January when you have a bowl of peaches before you.
Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen
Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. She started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff (www.theartofdoingstuff.com) as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.