If you are into canning your own fruit or food, then you most likely know that there are several different ways you can go about canning. The three main canning methods available are water bath canning, steam canning and pressure canning. Each of these different methods has their own advantages and disadvantages. You are about to see that they aren't all equal and in actual fact water bath canning can be used for only a small variety of foods, whereas pressure and steam canning is suited to a much wider variety of foods. Knowing this in advance will ensure that you don't end up buying the wrong canner in the near future.
Water bath canning is perhaps the most basic and limited of all the canning methods. Water bath canners are only able to can food that has high acidic levels. This includes things like acidic fruits and vegetables, such as jams, jelly and tomatoes. Only a very select few vegetables are very acidic and the remaining have very low acidic levels. Another limitation of water batch canners is that they are limited in terms of how hot they get. The maximum temperature possible with a water canner is 212F. This isn't a problem if you are canning high-acid fruits, but to effectively can other fruits and vegetables you will need a canner that can reach much higher levels. Why is the temperature important? You canner needs to reach a certain level in order to kill all the bacteria in the food you are canning. If you don't then the bacteria will remain and this can be a danger to your health.
Steam and pressure canners can reach a maximum temperature of 250F, which is more than enough to kill all bacteria in low acid vegetables and meat. This is the main advantage of using a steam or pressure canner over a water bath canner; being able to reach such a high temperature means that canning just about every kind of fruit or vegetable or even meat isn't a problem with these canners. The difference between a pressure canner and a steam canner is minimal. They are almost identical with the only major difference between them being that pressure canners are much larger and usually have some kind of tray or additional devices which makes canning easier and faster. Other than this they have the ability to can the exact kinds of fruits, vegetables and meat.
Which canner you buy really depends on how serious you are about canning. If you are just starting out then a water bath canner might be just right for you, but anyone who is experienced or plans on taking up canning full-time should consider purchasing either a steam or pressure canner. The ability to reach much higher temperatures makes it possible for steam and pressure canners to can almost every kind of fruit, vegetable and even meat out there. The downside is that these canners are a little more complex and more expensive. If you are still unsure as to which one you should buy, try making a list of all the kinds of things you plan to can and if you find that the bulk of them are fruits, then a water bath canner is right for you; however, if your list consists of both fruits, vegetables and meat, then only a pressure or steam canner will fit your needs.
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