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A Bit About Pressure Canners
We have three pressure canners in our kitchen. We also have a pressure cooker, but that is a whole 'nother appliance. You can cook in a pressure canner; but you cannot "can" in a pressure cooker - they just don't get hot enough to keep food safe. Pressure canners come in two basic types; one type has a weighted gauge, while the other has a dial gauge. Both are capable of canning at different pressures.
These canners are generally made from aluminum and hold up to 7 quarts of food. The weighted gauge has three different values; 5, 10 and 15 pounds pressure. The amount of pressure achieved is determined by which pressure hole is mounted over the vent tube of the canner lid. The canner lid is secured onto the canner body by twisting in a clockwise movement one the jars are loaded into the canner. Be sure the rubber gasket in the canner lid is in place and pliable. Worn out gaskets should be replaced. During canning season, you can easily find replacement gaskets at your local supercenter.
The weighted gauge canners are relatively simple to use. You wait for the weight to start jiggling, turn down the heat a bit and start timing the processing according to what you are canning.
Dial gauge canners are made of either aluminum or stainless steel. They may or may not have a rubber gasket. One brand of stainless steel canner seals metal to metal, but be forewarned, you'll pay about three times the price for this feature.
Dial canners can have the twist on lid, or the lid may be tightened to the canner using screw clamps. When using the screw clamp type, tighten the screws on opposite sides of the canner, in groups of two, in order to allow the lid to tighten evenly.
Dial gauges have to be watched closely during the canning process. Once you've achieved the pressure needed for food processing (usually 10 pounds), you will need to adjust the heat as needed to maintain that pressure.
With either type of canner, once the processing period is over, remove the canner from the heat source and allow it to cool down until all pressure has escaped. Do not try to open the lid until the gauge reads "0" or the top can be easily twisted away from the locking position.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ is the top place on the web to find information on canning rules and processing times for everything from fruit to meat. It is the place that should be permanently bookmarked by everyone who is thinking about or actually canning the summer harvest.