Canning is so easy! Sometimes I feel like I make things seem harder because it takes me longer to write, and you longer to read it, than it takes to actually do it.
If you’re new to canning, or if you’re just wanting to start canning, get yourself some books, either from the library, Amazon, a friend . . just start reading. As with anything else, there are some crackpots out there so if something sounds a bit weird, get a second opinion.
One of the first things you’ll need is a canner. Decent canners can be found used and I’ll bet almost everyone knows someone who has a canner and they’d be happy to let you borrow it and probably quite a few people would give it away just to get it out of their house. My parents have several and I doubt they’ll ever do much canning and there are probably many folks in that boat. Unless you know without a doubt you’re going to love canning, I’d highly recommend trying to borrow a canner before making the investment.
Anything that is not a high acid food (tomatoes, pickles, jams & jellies) must be pressure canned. For the most part, at the average altitude, pints are canned under 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. Instant Pots should not be used for canning!
Depending on how much you think you may use it and how much you want to spend, I’d recommend a Presto 23 quart or an All American. The All American makes several sizes and you can see them on the link above. They are definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to canners. I canned for so many years using the Presto 23 quart and it’s a good canner. I didn’t get an All American until I got a gas stove, mainly because I was probably pushing my luck canning anything on the ceramic top stove but the All American canners are really heavy.
If you use a ceramic/glass top stove, you should probably read your owner’s manual or check with the manufacturer to see what they have to say about canning on it. I did it for 9 years at one house and for 4-1/2 at another, hoping I’d ruin the stove and get a gas stove. I didn’t ruin it but I’m sure if I hadn’t wanted to ruin it, I would have!
Everywhere we lived before moving to Texas, I tried to figure out a way to get gas to the stove so I could have a gas stove, mainly for canning, but also to be able to cook and boil water if the power was off. Never did I think about using a Camp Chef Stove, which is amazing. Even with my gas stove, I do most of my canning on the porch with the Camp Chef stove. The only time I bring the canning operations inside is when it’s too windy or too cold to be outside doing it.
Here’s my setup out on the porch. I feel really bad that my big All American canner looks so bad and I’ve thought of scrubbing it and cleaning it up because they’re nice and shiny when they’re clean, but using it out there with the propane on that outside burner, it’s just going to get sooty again so I haven’t bothered to clean it.
We use the small propane bottles and I can run four 90 minute canning cycles with one bottle. Vince fills these bottles from our big propane tank to keep the cost down. As soon as I empty two of them and he hooks up the third bottle, he’ll go fill the other two so I never run out of propane. Good Vince! 🙂
Of course, you need jars. No doubt, someone out there is going to say their granny saved mayonnaise jars and every other kind of jar and re-used them. Don’t! Just don’t do it! Buy good quality Ball or Kerr jars. My preference is wide mouth because they’re much easier to get things in and out of but for things like pickles and beets . . things you want to stay below the brine/liquid, the shoulders of a regular mouth jar work great so, get whatever you want to get but do get Ball or Kerr. There may be others but those are the only ones I’m confident using for pressure canning.
A few incidentals that are helpful: A canning funnel that goes down into the jar; a jar lifter (to get the jars out of boiling hot water), canning salt and white vinegar. I use vinegar to wipe down the tops of the jars before putting the lids on, and I add vinegar to the water in the canner because we have very hard water and it leaves lime deposits on my jars without the added vinegar. Also, when the jars are filled, it’s good to go around the inside with a “stick” in order to release any air bubbles trapped in the jar. A popsicle stick or a chopstick are useful. I do not use metal knives because they can break the jar.
I hope you see that other than the canner, it really isn’t expensive to get started canning.