Thanks to a University of Wisconsin Madison study, we now know that steam canners are safe – under certain conditions.
For years we have been told not to use steam canners. Even though they can be found on store shelves and in gardening catalogs, they had never actually been deemed a safe way to process home canned goods. Which is why I drilled holes in my steam canner and turned it into a planter.
But now a new study has proven that steam canners are safe – when used following these guidelines.
- Only use with high acid foods, i.e. the same foods you would process in a water bath canner.
- Only use with recipes that have been approved for use with a water bath canner. Recipes that come with the steam canner instruction booklet may not be safe.
- Heat jars before filling, and don’t let the filled jars cool for very long before processing.
- Don’t use jars larger than 1 quart in size.
- Start the processing time once you have a steady stream of true steam (212 degrees).
- Don’t forget to adjust for altitude. The usual adjustment is to increase processing times by 5 minutes for each 1000 additional feet in elevation. However, it is always best to check safe processing times for elevations over 1000 ft with your local extension office.
- Only use canning recipes that call for a processing time of 45 minutes or less.
- As with other canned goods, processed jars should be cooled on a counter top in still air, not in the refrigerator.
As noted by Sean Timberlake, the About.com Food Preservation expert, using a steam canner may be very helpful in areas that are affected by extreme drought and water restrictions. Steam canners use much less water than water bath canners.
Personally, I find that to be the only benefit of using a steam canner. I use clean canning jars directly from the dishwasher, but they aren’t always still warm. And I have no interest in heating up another pot to keep the jars hot.
Since I live in a very dry area, steaming anything is often a lesson in frustration as I constantly have to add water to keep it from boiling dry. That means each time water is added to a steam canner the processing time would start over.
So while using a steam canner might be perfect for you, I guess mine will remain a planter.
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