Friday, November 20, 2009

Tiny Tip: Test Your Pressure Canner

Did you know that if you live in the US and use a pressure canner, you can probably have the accuracy of the pressure gauge tested for free? Neither did I until I read Sharon Astyk's latest work, Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation. Like her earlier works, this one is excellent and contains tons of useful information for those who preserve their own foods. That's how I found out there's another way I can make good use of the state taxes we pay. The Cooperative Extension offices in most counties of the US will have someone on staff with the equipment and know-how to test a pressure canner. And they'll do this for you for free.

I got my pressure canners for free through craigslist, and they are obviously old and well used. Though I replaced some of the rubber parts that came with the canners, I had no way of testing how accurate the pressure gauges were for myself. Having now had them tested, I know that both of them read a little high around the 10 and 15 pound mark. That means I've been canning my foods at pressures that are slightly lower than recommended.

The woman who tested the canner gauges for me said that if I followed all other canning instructions to the T, I'm probably fine eating those foods. My gauges were only off by one half to one pound. (I know that with almost every canning batch I've had trouble not overshooting the recommended pressure at some point during the canning process anyway.) She said it's fine to keep using the pressure canners so long as I correct for the slightly faulty readings on my gauges.

It's good to know this about my pressure canners. If you use a pressure canner to store food for your family, I recommend you take advantage of this free testing service. After all, there's no point in preserving your own food if you can't be confident you can do so safely. With the gardening season mostly done for the year, this would be a good time have the testing done. Just so you know, you probably only need to take the lid to the Extension office, not the entire canner. But check with the person who does the testing to make sure.

More tiny tips.


Unknown said...

A Pressure Canner is an item that I have on my want list before next summer. Never thought to check Craig's List for FREE! What a deal. I'd have been nervous using them too, so having a place to test the pressure gauge is great! I'll keep this in mind for the future.

ThiftedBliss said...

Kate, great info-I have my Gram's pressure cooker and have been afraid to use it but could not let it go! Have a great Thanksgiving, really enjoy your blog.
Karen from CT

Kate said...

Amy, you never can tell what can turn up through craigslist. I would expect that you can rely pretty well on the gauge if you buy a new canner. Mine were at *least* 20 years old when I got them, and the errors in the gauge readings were pretty minimal. But yes, if it would reassure you, then by all means have the gauge tested.

Karen, thanks so much and glad I could help. You have a great Thanksgiving too.

Deb said...

I bought an All American canner from ebay. I replaced the petcock with a weight. It still has the gauge, but I never have to have the gauge tested again, which is a good thing as here in Canada we have no such thing as an extension office, so I had no idea where to get it tested. It is also metal on metal so I don't need to replace any gaskets. I just love it. I would love to know where it came from and how old it is and the family it belonged to. Wish it could talk.