For about four years now, I have used and recommended the 21 quart Presto pressure canner. It has saved me money and has seen an incredible amount of use. But it is time for the relationship to end.
Here’s what I should have bought in the first place for home canning – and so should you.
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I have canned thousands of jars with my Presto 21 quart pressure canner, and I have loved it.
Technically, it’s a Pressure Cooker/Canner although I’m not really inclined to do much pressure cooking in a huge pot made of cast aluminum. That’s not a concern when it’s used as a pressure canner, though, since the food is safely sealed inside glass mason jars.
The Presto Pressure Cooker/Canner works – it works well, in fact – and I have happily recommended it to many people. It not only works for pressure canning, but it can be used to water bath fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and other high-acid foods because, when the lid is off, it’s essentially a large, heavy bottomed pot.
As a note – many people ask me about the safest method for home canning. The truth is that there are two safe methods of canning food – water bathing canning high acid foods and pressure canning for low acid foods. Do not use a pressure canner for preserving fruits, jams, jellies and other high-acid foods because it will ruin them.
A lot of my readers are using a Presto pressure canner on my advice, and I still stand behind that for most people. It’s a good canner, and if you want to get started with pressure canning without spending a lot of money, it is a great pressure canner to buy.
However, as we pursue self-sufficiency (and yes, that’s a bit of misnomer), and as we adjust to live on our off-grid homestead, we have realized that some things just don’t work for us anymore.
The Presto pressure canner is one of those things. It’s really hard for me to admit that, but it is time for me to break up with my Presto cooker/canner.
The problem isn’t with the canner itself. As I said, it works, and it works well.
The Presto 21 quart pressure canner is lightweight, easy to use and inexpensive to purchase. There is no serious learning curve and, once you have an extra canning rack and a weighted gauge, it is extremely easy to use.
There is no doubt that the Presto pressure canner is the absolute perfect pressure canner for beginners and it can be darn useful for experienced canners, too.
And Presto’s customer service is amazing.
When I dropped my lid and was concerned about safety, they checked it out with their engineering department and assured me I was safe. When there was a problem with my pressure lock, they sent me a new one free of charge. I thought that that was awesome.
Oh, there are so many reasons to love my old canner.
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The problem is that pesky rubber gasket and overpressure plug … and our location.
They say it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine, the minor problems that ruin a good relationship, and that’s so very true here.
Yes, it’s you, Presto, but it’s also me.
Presto pressure canner parts were never easy to get, not even when I lived in a large city. I generally needed to call the hardware store, let them know that I was going to need a part, and then wait the week or so until it arrived.
I replaced the current rubber gasket and overpressure plug in September. Just as the corn was ripening, the gasket started leaking air. A pressure canner will not come up to pressure if it’s leaking air.
I ordered a new one and replaced it. The one I removed was only a year old.
No one wants to have their canner stop working in early September. Although “canning season” is all year round, there are some times that are more intense than others, and September is one of those intense times.
That’s when you start making calls and order from the company that can get it to you fastest.
If you’re wondering why I only order one at a time, it is because I asked Presto about it and they were clear that the gaskets are not intended to be stored more than six months. They do NOT store well on the shelves. It was a long conversation. In the end, they convinced me.
Don’t buy more than one gasket/plug set at a time because they break down in storage.
So the problem is that this canner, which I love using and rely on for our food storage, is made with a part that needs replacing fairly often and with no warning.
(Note: some people report gaskets and plugs working for years.)
Worse, the part must be ordered when needed since it is not intended for storage. Place the order, wait … and then go pick it up.
That can be a problem for us since we frequently have times when we can’t get off the mountain.
Like right now – with well over four feet of snow piled up in February and March, it is now melting and causing terrifying sinkholes to form along our dirt road. We aren’t going anywhere for the next little bit until things dry up. So even if I ordered a gasket/plug today and it was rushed to our post office, I have no idea when I’d be able to pick it up. Getting one from Home Hardware would be no better because we’d need to drive the hour into town.
Today I was getting ready to write a post on canning homemade chicken soup.
The chickens were killed and cleaned and cooked.
The soup was made.
I put it in my half-pint canning jars and had everything ready to go.
And when I tried to bring the canner up to pressure, the overpressure plug was leaking steam at a ferocious rate. EJ looked and said, “It’s not supposed to do that, is it? It’s never done that before.”
No, it’s not. It HAS done it before, but he hasn’t seen it.
We had soup for lunch. And dinner. Lots of soup.
Although I will likely order another gasket, we are making plans to purchase an All-American pressure canner as soon as possible.
Why? Well, unlike the Presto pressure canner, the All-American pressure canner has no replacement parts. Instead of a gasket, this heavy duty workhorse of a canner has a metal-on-metal seal. The All-American also comes in various sizes, and the biggest one is HUGE.
Now that I’ve seen the All-American in action, I’m even more impressed with it. (Is there an All American pressure cooker, too, I wonder?)
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