Gardening season is here, and I have exciting news to share, so I’m interrupting this month of cheese posts to put canning on your radar. One of my goals for this year has been to start writing about food for places other than this blog, and I’ve become a regular contributor to The Spruce Eats. If you’re not familiar with the website, I suggest checking it out: It’s loaded with everything from recipes to videos to cooking tips to buying guides. I’m working with a great editor there and having a lot of fun writing for the site.
My first project was a roundup of the year’s best pressure canners, and I spent last month testing some of my favorites. The first reviews went live this week. My writing for The Spruce Eats focuses on products, so I’ll be sharing a little about what I canned and cooked here.
I started out by choosing 6 pressure canners that fit various lifestyles, kitchens, and needs. You can read about them here. All of these are specifically designed for pressure canning, but some can also be used for water-bath canning, pressure cooking, and/or steaming. The roundup has bonus info on Presto’s new digital pressure canner, the latest innovation in home canning. Many these canners were still backordered when I researched them, but in recent weeks they’ve started shipping again. So if you’re in need of a new canner, now’s the time.
My full reviews after testing some of these pressure canners started to appear this week. Check them out here:
- All American 10.5-Quart Pressure Canner Review
- Presto Precise Digital Pressure Canner Review
- Presto 16-Quart Pressure Canner Review
- Presto 23-Quart Pressure Canner Review
- Mirro 22-Quart Pressure Canner Review
2022 update: When I wrote my review of the Presto Precise Digital Pressure Canner, it had not undergone independent safety testing. The unit appeared to function as needed during my home-testing, but previous attempts at digital canning features by multicooker manufacturers had failed safety tests in an independent lab.
Presto does have a long history of making safe stovetop pressure canners and says its digital canner “meets USDA home canning guidelines for safely processing meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and other low acid foods.” When I contacted the National Center for Home Food Preservation, it could not independently verify Presto’s statement, saying that “If someone wants to use this canner, they have to be willing to trust the manufacturer at this time.” Many experienced home canners are waiting to see the results of independent testing; Oregon State University calls Presto’s data “promising” and is planning to test the device, but results have not yet been released. Stay tuned.
Other Canning Supplies
Canning supplies are starting to return to shelves. Boxes of just lids are still in short supply in my area, but my local Ace hardware had fully stocked shelves of jars with lids and rings last week, and jars are starting to trickle into other stores. So start popping into those departments when you’re out and about. It’s too early to tell whether last year’s shortages will continue this year, but the supply chain looks promising. At this point, I wouldn’t panic and buy online from anyone who’s price gouging: 1 box of 12 lids should cost less than $5, and cases of jars should be between $8 and $15, depending on the size.
Don’t forget about the lids, rings, and jars that you (or friends and family) may have squirreled away. These reminders were just emphasized by OSU Extension Service Food Preservation on its Facebook page:
- Unprocessed jar lids will still seal after 4–5 years if stored somewhere cool and dry. Canning lids that look like flat, tin-plated discs are single-use products. This type of lid cannot be safely reused for canning.
- Jar rings can be used repeatedly and last the longest when removed from cooled jars, washed and dried, and stored separately.
- Canning jars can last many, many seasons. When empty, wash and dry before storing; when you want to use them again, check the rims and bottoms for chips or cracks.
- Unused pectin is good for 3–4 years if stored somewhere cool and dry.
If you need additional canning tools, from kitchen scale to jar lifter, check out my recommendations for The Spruce Eats here.
In the Jars
If you’ve followed the blog from the early days, you may realize that I rarely choose pressure canning when I want to preserve food. So in testing these canners, I had to dig deep to find jar contents that I’d want to put on my shelves. The added challenge was testing in March, well before my garden was ready to pump out bumper crops. Here are some of the foods I tested:
- Potatoes. My remaining stored potatoes had started to sprout, so I bought 9 pounds of petite potatoes for testing. They need to be peeled for canning per National Center for Home Food Preservation guidelines. Canned whole, they filled far more jars than I anticipated; I now have 2 wide-mouth quarts, 6 wide-mouth pints, and a bonus narrow-mouth pint on my shelves and plan to skewer most of them onto Shish Kebabs with Garlic–Soy Marinade.
- Winter Squash. Winter squash needs to be cubed and packed in water when pressure canning, according to NCHFP guidelines. About 9 pounds of whole squash that I’d stored over winter filled 5 narrow-mouth quarts. I’ll be using them in soup, Thai Squash Curry, and other quick meals.
- Vegetable Stock. The NCHFP only gives guidelines for meat stocks, so I turned to the University of California Cooperative Extension for a safe recipe. I doubled the recipe, thinking that would let me process a full batch of quart jars in the 16-quart stovetop canner, but I ended up with 13 quart-sized jars of stock. That’s 13 quarts I don’t have to find room for in the freezer, which may make pressure canning worthwhile after all.
The canners I tested do double or triple duty as water-bath canners and/or pressure cookers, so I played with those uses as well. Frozen sweet and tart cherries and rhubarb became mixed cherry preserves and Rhubarb–Earl Grey Jam. I also adapted Seasoned Pot Beans and Broccoli Cheese Soup for pressure cooking. Everything turned out beautifully.
Twice as Tasty
I’ll be writing a lot more about preserving and pickling over the next few months, so get your tools ready! And don’t forget to order my new pickling cookbook.
Keep your eye out for more of my articles on The Spruce Eats. Other projects are also in the works; I’ll share those here and on Facebook as they go live. And there’s still one more week in April, so join me next week for more cheesy goodness.
Get a signed copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling to fill your shelves and fridge with vinegar and fermented pickles, chutneys, hot sauces, salsa, and more. At the same time, pick up the The Pickled Picnic to learn how to use pickles and leftover brine in a range of recipes. Click here to order.