Canning Basics: Tools of the Trade – Pressure Canning

Whenever you start something new, there are tools. Canning’s the same.

Let’s start with my favorite – Pressure Canning. 

I know that plenty of people are scared of pressure canning or feel that it’s harder than Boiling Water Bath canning. It’s not. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s practical.

Practical? Yup. How often do you eat jam? Okay. How often do you eat meat, broth, vegetables, beans, soups and stew? That’s what I thought.

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See that big pot with the funny lid? It’s a PRESSURE CANNER. Not a pressure cooker, although you can use it as a cooker.

You can use a pressure CANNER to pressure cook, but you can’t use a pressure COOKER to can. Pressure cookers are constructed differently so that they don’t hold the heat for the time necessary for pressure canning.

Unfortunately, you can’t just buy the canner and be done. First, the Presto pressure canner comes with a pressure gauge and a 15 pound weight, and you will drive yourself batty trying to keep the pressure steady. It really should have come packaged with the 3 piece regulator weights, so add one of those to your shopping list.

Trust me, this little piece is vital. I’ll get into why in another post, but if you buy the Presto 23-quart canner, please buy this regulator, too. How important is it? I ended up paying a total of $35 to have one of this shipped to me once I realized how much I needed it, and I’m glad I did. I would have paid twice that amount.

Yes, it’s that important.

Now, while you’re at it, add a second canning rack to your list. You might think that you’ll never double rack jars, but of course you will. Why? Because it takes almost the same amount of time and energy to do 18 pints as it does to do 9 pints. And since you’re smart, you’ll want to quickly learn how to use your canner as efficiently as possible.

Doesn’t look like much, I know. I tried various ways to improvise a top rack and none of them worked well.

Now if you’re using plastics, you can pick up a 5 piece canning kit with most of the goodies that you need. 

If you’re avoiding plastic (and did NOT get the red 5 piece set as a Christmas present) you could pick up a stainless steel funnel but if you tell me about it, I’ll cry. 

For joy. Because I love you.

Another necessity, which is part of the 5 piece set, is a Jar Lifter. This is a necessity. Don’t even think about using kitchen tongs or your oven-mittened hands to take jars out of the canner. As near as I can tell, all jar lifters are exactly the same, so get the cheapest.

The five piece kit also comes with a magnetic lid lifter – the magnet is weak and the handle is plastic. My kitchen tongs work better – the kind with the pointed tip, not the round looped ends. According to the reviews, the Norpro lifter is much better. The red kit comes with a jar wrench, too, which I’ve never used because I can’t figure out what it’s for. The description says it’s to remove “sticky lids”. Huh?

Anyway, at this point, you pretty much have everything you need. Next up, you’ll need to have a stack of dishcloths, and some jars, rings and lids.

You will, however, need to replace the lids after the first use. The disposable lids are NOT made to be re-used (with some exceptions). You can buy re-usable lids and rubbers through Amazon or direct from the Tattler company. They work slightly differently than the disposable lids, but I’ve heard great stuff about them. I plan to buy some for myself by next year.

Okay, now let’s take a five minute break and talk about jars, shall we?

Commercially canned products are sold in glass jars that are NOT intended for re-use. 

Yes, I know that some Very Experienced Canners use them, but if you’re not a Very Experienced Canner who knows the rules and reasons, how and when to safely break/bend them, and what to do when It hits the fan, then please don’t re-use them.

At the very least, don’t re-use them for pressure canning. If you think you’re Experienced enough to try, then use them only for Boiling Water Bath canning. But expect more seal failures and jar breakage. Personally, I aim for 100% success and do everything I can to achieve that.

Only use MODERN mason jars for pressure canning. It takes about five minutes on my blog to realize that I love vintage Crown canning jars. But I don’t use them for canning.

Modern mason jars are built to last, and be re-used over and over again, for years. They come in two standardized sizes – regular and wide-mouth. I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but wide-mouth lids and rings are far more expensive than regular around here.

A kitchen timer is handy but not necessary. I just use my clock and jot down the times.

Is there anything else you need? Oh, yea, food! We’ll deal with that later, though.


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