How to Start Steam Canning


Jenny GomesSteam canning used to be reserved for those who didn’t abide by tested recipes or methods. Now, after being approved by the USDA in 2015, steam canners open up a world of possibilities for the home canner in terms of time savings and safety. I use a steam canner exclusively, and many of you will too when you read why they are so fantastic. 

If a traditional water bath is like a hot tub, I like to say that a steam canner is like a sauna. Both achieve the same result (a safely sealed jar) with slightly different, but still very similar means. Heat surrounding a jar for a set amount of time forces oxygen out of the jar, creating that vacuum and air tight seal, and also kills spoilers inside the jar. The heat of a steam canner is the same as the heat of a traditional water bath, and we know this because it’s been tested by the USDA and several Cooperative Extension office.

Steam canners use the exact same recipes as every other water bath canning recipe. The process is very similar except instead of submerging your jar in boiling water, you are simply setting it on the rack to warm. 

A steam canner boils only 2.5 quarts (or about 2 inches) of water, while a traditional water bath boils 8+ inches of water in about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of pot. The time saving is realized on the second and third batches, when the applesauce or salsa is already cooked and ready, but you would have to wait for a water bath to come back up to boil, but the steam canner is immediately ready to can a subsequent batch instantly. 

Not only do steam canners save hours in an afternoon of canning, but they are so much lighter. They are lightweight aluminum pots, with a simple rack and dial that’s easy to read, making them ideal for anyone who is tired of carrying a heavy pot of boiling water around the kitchen. A traditional canning pot can weigh over 35 pounds when full of water! This weight is impossible for some people with disabilities or after a surgery or as my Grandma says, “after a certain age.” A steam canner is ideal for someone wanting a lighter load (literally and metaphorically) or for someone who wants to use less water in their canning process; those living in an RV, tiny house, or sailboat, for example.

There’s a few limitations for steam canners, so read on before you get yourself a steam canner.

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