Canning is one of the best ways to preserve fruits, vegetables, and meats. Many people have been canning, or doing something similar, for a very long time. Whether they called it “putting up” or simply “processing,” canning allowed individuals to enjoy foods out of season, reduced waste, and kept enough food in the larder from one year to the next so families did not go hungry.
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While less critical than in the past, the practice is still employed (and enjoyed!) in rural and urban areas alike. Whether you want to save money and time by preparing meals in advance, give out canned treats as gifts, or even just do it out of pure entertainment, a pressure canner will allow you to can almost any food you can imagine!
Why can at home?
Home canning is back in vogue as a fun hobby that can be combined with home gardening and cooking. Growing, processing, and cooking our own food lets us feel a little more connected to what we eat.
Canning is also a healthy alternative to buying heavily processed foods from today’s supermarkets. It ditches the additives, preservatives, HFCS, GMOs, and other by-products in favor of more traditional methods of preservation and flavoring.
Besides the obvious health and financial benefits, canning serves a social function as well. You can make it a family night activity, where you create and preserve happy memories. If you live alone, but still want that sense of community, there are many canning magazines and online message boards through which you can share tips and tricks with other like-minded souls.
What is the canning process?
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At its simplest, canning is the heating of foods in a glass jar at a high enough temperature to kill any spoilage-causing micro-organisms. In the US, Mason jars—which are made from thicker glass than single-use jars—are typically used for this purpose.
The thicker glass causes two problems for regular kitchen pressure cookers. First, they tend to be too small for the bigger jars. Second, they can not get up to the very high pressures that are required to bring the jar’s contents to a high enough temperature.
In order to make the food safe for consumption, the middle of the jar must reach at least 250° F (121° C) for at least three minutes. To do this, you should use a dedicated pressure canner.
Which home pressure canner is the best?
The Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Cooker Canner is a well-made product from a well-known brand. Not only is it competitively-priced, but it also functions as a standard pressure cooker. You are getting two gadgets for the price of one!
This model’s short handles do a great job at keeping cool during cooking. The pressure regulator and temperature gauges are easy to read, so you can keep a close eye on what’s happening on the inside, allowing you to ensure the pressure doesn’t get so high as to damage the canner.
The All American 921 21-½ Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner is as good as it gets for home canning. It has a great capacity, holding up to 19 quart jars or 7 pint jars. Again, the pressure and temperature gauges are easy to read.
There is definitely a heavy-duty look and feel to the All American. The three different pressure levels you can set (5, 10, and 20 psi) give you a little more control when you are canning different foods. It is easy to use, safe for the non-expert, and can also be used to pressure cook. The All American comes in a range of sizes, ranging from the 10-quart mini to the big 41-quart, which is definitely sufficient for volumes you’ll be working with at home.
Canning your own food? Make your own bone broth too. Here are my favorite slow cookers for bone broth.
You can do it!
Both of these canners are ideal for home canning, whether it’s for meat, veggies, or seasonal fruits like pitted cherries. The All American edges it on versatility and build quality, but The Presto is less than half the price. Pick up one of these models and you’ll be wearing gingham and canning away like a 19th century housewife in no time! (Gingham optional.)
For a discussion about pressure canners for canning meat and the best pressure canner for beginners, click the links! And, for more food preservation options, see my article on the best containers for freezing and the best vacuum sealer for fish and game.
And for those times that you go store-bought for your canned goods, check out this post on the best can opener for large cans.