by Vickie from Frugal Canning
Hot water bath canners are fairly simple to examine. Hot water bath canners are meant to can high acid foods like fruits, jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, relish, and tomatoes. Hold the canner up to the light. Can you see any light peaking through? Is it extremely rusted? Is it dented?
Test a used water bath canner by filling it with water to ensure it does not have any leaks. Leave it in the sink for a while. Then put it on the stove and heat the water to boiling. If there aren’t any leaks and if the lid fits so that the steam does not escape and if the handles are sufficient so that you can lift it safely, you may have scored a useful find.
When you are finished canning, always dry out the canner and put it safely away in a dry place.
Pressure canners need careful examination and decision making before buying. Pressure canners are used to can low acid foods like vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, soups, stews. Don’t think because the pressure canner is being sold that it is safe.
Let’s be more specific. Does the age matter? Yes. If the cooker was made prior to 1960 it was probably manufactured using a process called die-casting. Molten metal, most likely aluminum, was poured into a mold to create the pot.
Cast metal is brittle and it is subject to tiny, microscopic cracks or thin spots that weaken the container. Pots and pans take a lot of abuse, they get banged around and they get dropped and may result in cracks in the metal.
The only way to be sure if an old pressure cooker or canner (MD Creekmore adds – this is the one that I use at Amazon.com) is safe is to send it back to the factory for testing. The original manufacturer – although sometimes other manufacturers may be willing or have the special equipment to test other brands.
Also, check with your country or university extension office. Often they will provide this service, although it may only be offered at certain times by appointment as the testing equipment travels from place to place.
Check for the brand name. If it is not a common name then it might be difficult to get parts or be able to send it back to the manufacturer for inspection. Stick with an American brand name like Presto, All American, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry or Mirro. Foreign brands may be difficult to track down and more difficult to get parts from.
If it is a weighted canner is the original weight with it? It is important to use the same kind of weight designed for that model. I collect old weights and there are subtle differences that could affect being able to calculate the correct pressure.
Are the handles in good condition? Older canners had wooden handles and over the years they become brittle and crack. Check with the manufacturer to see if the handles can be replaced and at what cost. I had the handles break on an older canner once while canning and it was extremely difficult to get the lid off and remove the jars.
Are there signs of staining around the seal? If so possibly this canner leaked and did not seal tightly. Always get a new gasket for a used pressure canner. No matter what story the seller tells you always be on the safe side. Improperly canned foods can be fatal or at best make you sick as a dog.
Have I frightened you away from buying a used pressure canner? Good, that is what this article was meant to do. Study up or better yet do not buy an old pressure canner. Invest the money in a new model and save yourself time, money and most importantly your safety. New models are technologically safer and will inherently have fewer problems.
Please go to http://missvickie.com to read all about pressure canning. Miss Vickie is the Queen of pressure canning and pressure cooking information. When I grow up I want to be just like her! Thank you, Miss Vickie, from the Frugal Fraulein at Frugal Canning.