Home Canning – Water Bath Versus Pressure Canner

Home canning has seen an increase in enthusiasm lately and many people are wondering if they really need a pressure canner to successfully can food from their garden or the market. It really depends on the type of foods a person wishes to store. Water bath canning is an option for a small selection of fruits and preserves that have a high acidic content. In order to store foods safely in canning jars, the food within must be heated to kill off any spores. Improperly canned food can result in several dangerous foodborne illnesses, including botulism.

The water bath canning method is only recommended for foods that have a high acidic content. The boiling point of about 212 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to kill off the spores in acidic foods. Things like fruits, preserves and some pickled vegetables can be canned this way safely. Water bath canning is typically quicker than using a pressure canner which is often favored over a long canning cycle. A person can buy a special pot designed just for water bath canning.

A standard cooking or stock pot can be used as well. The pot will need to be deep enough to allow a couple of inches of boiling water to cover the tallest jar. It is a good idea to have a wire rack on the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from directly sitting on the hot burner. Some racks include dividers to keep the jars from touching each other. If a rack is not available, dishcloths work just as well. The boiling water method tends to move the jars around a bit, and they can crack or shatter in the pot.

All vegetables will need to be canned with a pressure canner. A pressure canner uses steam to heat the contents of the jar to at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressure canners will have a steam vent and a pressure gauge on the lid. The lid seals tight enough to prevent any steam from escaping thus keeping the pressure high enough to heat the contents of the jars thoroughly. The vent is closed with a weighted lid during the canning process.

Each pressure canner will indicate the amount of pressure needed and how long each particular type of vegetable will need to remain in the canner. A pressure canner can take up to 30 minutes to achieve the desired amount of pressure within the pot. Once the ideal pressure is obtained, the jars will need to remain in the canner anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes. Pressure canners require a great deal of attention to ensure the pressure does not rise too high or drop too low. Typically, once the ideal pressure is reached the burner can be turned down to a low heat setting. It can take another 30 to 60 minutes for the pressure to decrease enough in the pot before the lid can be opened. One batch of jars can take 2 to 3 hours to can.

Pressure canners are a good investment for anybody who plans on doing any canning, whether it is fruits or vegetables. Pressure canners can be used as water bath canners as well. A pressure canner provides an extra layer of food safety and can help extend the life of home canned foods.