Ah, canning season is upon us! And while we’re in the middle of a pandemic, to boot! I imagine many of you are trying to wade through a slew of information regarding canning and canning equipment. I’m here to offer a small bit of help from my personal experience as you consider and research the different types of canners available to you.
You have probably noticed by now that there are canners available for a variety of price ranges. You have the top of the line All American brand that is currently retailing for close to $800 on Amazon, and you have more affordable options like Barton, Presto, and Mirro which will set you back between $80 and $200, depending on the size of your appliance.
You will also have to take into consideration the type of cooktop you own as you come to your decision. Some canners are only compatible with gas or coil-type electric ranges because of the shape of their base or they become too heavy with water and filled jars to sit on a glass cooktop.
Why Did I Initially Choose the Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner?
When I purchased my canner, it was around $90 on Amazon. I’m seeing higher prices these days with the pandemic and canning supply shortages, but it seems to be in the $120 – $140 price range, which is on the lower end of the spectrum.
- Compatible with a Glass Top Range
I have a glass smooth top electric range, so a pressure canner isn’t going to do me much good if I can’t use it without fear of damaging my cooktop.
- Dual Purpose
When you remove the pressure gauge, this canner doubles as a water bath canner. This saves me from purchasing a second kitchen gadget that is stored away for the greater part of the year!
- Availability of Parts
Parts like the rubber gasket occasionally need to be replaced, and pressure gauges and vent covers can fall on the floor and break (guess who has done this already). You can easily find these parts on Amazon for low prices, or you can look up the part on Presto’s website. Since Presto is already a fairly popular brand, many brick and mortar stores that sell pressure canners will have replacement parts on hand, as well.
I went with the 23 quart size because I really like food and knew I would probably be processing large batches once I established my garden, so opted for the larger size. The canner only comes with 1 canning rack, but if you purchase a second rack so you can double stack, the full capacity is 26 half pints, 20 pints, and 7 quarts (quarts cannot be double stacked, though, they’re too tall). For water bath canning, double stacking isn’t recommended, however, just because of how heavy the canner becomes with water and filled jars.
What are the Pros?
This was my first pressure canner, so I wanted something uncomplicated. Setting it up is simple. Just attach the pressure gauge with a nut and washer, and the steam vent cover pops on and off without fuss. The only other moving part is the lid itself, which you drop on by lining up the arrows on the lid and the canner’s handles and twisting to lock. There’s only 3 parts you have to worry about.
The instruction manual is clear on how to operate the canner. I would suggest reading it before you get started, and keep it handy as you process for a quick reference if the steps get muddled. If you misplace the instruction manual, a quick google search will bring up Presto’s instruction manual lookup page.
Once you have read the manual, operation is easy. On my electric cooktop, bringing it up to pressure takes around ten minutes using my largest burner, on which the canner fits with a tiny overlap. Some people using electric ranges complain that they struggle to keep the pressure where it needs to be for the entire processing time, but so far I haven’t had issues with this. Generally, I bring the canner up to pressure on high, and when it is one to two pounds below where I need it to be, I turn the burner to as low as it will go. From there I only need to make small adjustments to keep it at the correct pressure.
I should note, I have a new Whirlpool range that was purchased less than a year ago. Older electric range models might not be able to heat as consistently as newer models. You can test your range by boiling a pot of water and see if it maintains a steady, roiling boil for a common processing time…say 30-40 minutes. If the pot of water frequently stops boiling, you might have trouble maintaining pressure. You should also make sure your glass top can handle the weight of the canner by contacting your manufacturer or looking up the model number online.
What are the Cons?
So far, very little about this pressure canner has bothered me. I should mention, however, that because it is aluminum, the inside turns dark and shows water lines. This isn’t a big deal to me. It’s the price of having a canner light enough to can on a smooth top range. It’s a little over ten pounds, empty.
It’s also large and ungainly, which can make it difficult to clean if you have a shallow kitchen sink. You can…well, deal with it for the advantage of being able to can large amounts of food at one time, or choose a smaller size.
Whether you’re a new or experienced canner, the Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner is a great option, especially if you’re on a budget or use a smooth top range. It performs the same task as higher end and more expensive models, but at a quarter of the cost.