How to Start Steam Canning
By Jenny Gomes
Steam 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.
They run out of water after 45-50 minutes of processing. SO, if you live at a higher elevation and thus have to add 25+ minutes to your normal process time, you may find the steam canner is limited. The recipes that you’d soonest find limited would be for tomato sauce or whole fruit like peach halves, as those have longer processing times. I live at 3000 feet elevation, and thus add 15 minutes to every recipe’s process time, and use the steam canner truly 99% of the time. I cannot think of the last time I used my water bath for anything other than a demonstration.
You cannot fit a half gallon in the pot, or rather, under the cute lid. So, if you exclusively can jugs of juice in half gallon jars, the steam canner won’t be right for you.
Worried you’ll need a bunch of equipment to try out a steam canner? Nope! The same if not fewer items are needed to can with a steam canner.
I can’t recommend them enough, to either an experienced canner (Get two! Holy cow you’ll really be in business then!) or a brand new beginner (truly, they are so simple to use!). Now that they’ve been tested and approved by the USDA, I’m so happy to share them with others.
Ready to dive in? Grab the Steam Canning for Beginners Ebook that will have you canning 25 minutes faster per batch, every batch. You’ll never wonder if you’re doing it right; get started on the right foot today!
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