The Cottage Smallholder

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You can buy a pressure canner in the UK!

Summer runner beans

Summer runner beans

I’d been thinking about importing a pressure canner from America for some time. I already bottle/can fruit and tomatoes each year but a pressure canner would enable us to bottle lots of other home grown vegetables for use during the winter. And of course the thought of being able to can spaghetti sauce, cassolet, confit of duck, patès and pesto to name but a few delicacies would be amazing. No need to pay electricty for freezer space, everything nicely on view on our shelves.

Water bath canning and the oven method takes some time and is only safe for fruit and tomatoes (if you add salt and lemon juice to the latter). Pressure canning is fast – so it’s much cheaper and energy efficient. And it’s safe. No chance of poisoning Danny or the Min Pins. OK you have to pay for the jars – Kilner (made by Ravenswood) or Le Parfait style but once you have invested in the jars only the top seals need replacing. Le Parfait seals seem to be a bit more economical and the used rubber seals can be reused as airtight seals on jars of dry goods.

A lot of people in the UK would like to invest in a pressure canner but no one appeared to supply one. As it happens, back in mid July I got an email from Jean D pointing me to a website that sells a pressure cooker large enough for canning. I rushed off to take a peek. As they didn’t actually mention canning so I was a bit uncertain. However this afternoon I decided to investigate the Hawkins Big Boy 22 litre pressure cooker further. I discovered that in America this is sold as a pressure cooker/canner – check it out on! You will have to invest in a rack for the bottom if this is not included. But these can be picked up quite cheaply in the UK.

I also discovered that you can buy the Hawkins 22 Litre Big Boy on Amazon UK! Also an 18 litre one. The 22 litre Big Boy on Amazon UK is slightly cheaper than the one on the website that Jean D found.

There is a seller on Ebay UK that will send a Mirro canner to the UK – this seems like quitw a good deal as it includes the best rated canning book in America – The Blue Ball Book (see below). However if you import from the USA you not only pay for the international delivery but also the VAT when it comes into the country and sometimes extra Post Office charges too. I had to pay nearly £100 tax when I imported a collection of lead toys from America several years ago, which was a bit of a shock as it was on top of humungous delivery charges.

You do need to check that your stove is suitable for a pressure canner. Ours has a ceramic hob that is unsuitable for most canners. But we also have a small table top gas cooker and we’ll use this for canning.

There is also one final point to consider. And this is very important. During my research I found out the canner with the nifty circukar dial can be a bit of a nightmare. This was a bit of a dissapointment as I liked the idea of checking this guage from time to time. This type of guage has to be recalibrated regularly and apparently you have to stay with your eyes glued to the dial. This is fine if you are just dealing with vegetables but if you care canning a tasty chicken casserole this can take up to 90 mins. The ones with the simple top like the Hawkins Big Boy and the Mirro are strongly recommended by many Americans as they automatically control temperature. You can hear if something goes wrong.

I read a lot of American websites with regard to preserving – canning is BIG over there. If you are going to invest in a pressure canner you would be wise to buy a good, highly recommended book. Ball Blue Book of Preserving seems to be the ultimate bible. A canner is a big investment – this book would help you to guarantee that it’s put it through its paces.

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  1. skybluepinkish

    After your last post I added pressure canner to my birthday list. I remembered the summer production lines too and longed to be able to can up our produce for the winter. But I didn’t get much further than that. Now I see there is a lot more research to be done in how I get it over the pond to me. I have had my father buy locally and then post over which has often proved cheaper than buying direct but it is a bit of an imposition. Hmm, will have words with the other half and see what he thinks.

  2. The Liquineer

    When I was working in a test kitchen in the 1970’s we always used a pressure cooker to process cans of experimental recipes. (We had a manual can seamer) until the day when yours truly forgot to set a timer and boiled it to dryness. The cans inside exploded along their side seam (which is the weakest point of the can) and the pressure release valve melted (as it was supposed to do) and the contents of the cans were forced at great speed out of the small hole left by the valve and sprayed all over the ceiling and the liquid landed about 30 feet way. Luckily we had high ceilings,so when the liquid landed it had cooled down. After that, using the pressure cooker was banned, and we bought a steam operated equivalent so that it never was able to boil dry- it cost us £1000, about half a years salary, but luckily I did not have to foot the bill myself

  3. Reusing the rubber seals of Le Parfait jars – I find they tend to absorb and concentrate the smell of whatever was in the jar, so I always throw them away.

    How do you get them clean?

  4. George Wilson

    If possible I would avoid the dial gauge canners and get one with a set of weights, or one that has both. The dials do have to be recalibrated from time to time and you do have to keep an eye on them. It is much easier to just listen to the slow rocking and hissing of the weights. You can do that from anywhere you can hear the canner.

    There is a good canning group on Facebook, if you all are interested. They have folks from all over the world on there and they are all very friendly. If you search for canning on FB you’ll find the group.

    As far as books go, I don’t know what is available in the UK. Here in the US a lot of folks rely on the Ball Blue Book, but there are a lot of good canning books out there. Ball also puts out the Complete Book of Home Preserving. Stocking Up, is also a good book, as is Putting Food By.

    If you folks have any questions please let me know. I’ve been canning for many years, and watched my aunts and grandmother for years before that.

    By the way, they no longer recommend the oven method here in the US because it isn’t as safe as the water bath method.

  5. Helen Chisholm

    Good luck with your canning adventures I look forward to reading how you get on. Last year I imported a canner from the US, my cooker is ceramic so no good and the camping stove solution seemed to be under powered for this vast vessel. I tried a caramel onions recipe as onions are cheap but the result was poor so the great thing has been confined to barraks since last year. However you inspire me to try again.

  6. If enough of you lived in the same area you could buy a huge one between you and have time shares in it. Also where do you can cans from and how do they seal??? being metal ??? or would you just use bottles and jars not real tins???

  7. Fiona i have a pressure canner i paid for delivery from us all in it cost about £130 inc delivery and the tax etc its a presto 22qt one and i love that we can have home grown carrots and beans out of season

    we dont can much meat mainly because all the recipes require vast quantities …………..ideal if you have your own meat, but not for store shoppers

    the blue ball book is avialable free online somewhere and this is a very useful website too

    if you buy one make sure you buy a jar lifter too
    Jars over here are expensive but we reuse jam jars (the type with a dimple) for veggies

  8. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Thanks for the tip! You can often find them in garage sales and second hand shops in the US but they’re practically non-existent here. I do use my UK pressure cooker to can 500ml jars though – you can use any pressure cooker just so long as the jars fit inside ok. Will need to save my pennies for this big one though 🙂

  9. Michelle from Oregon

    Do you have a copy of the Blue Book Fiona? I can bring you one if you don’t have a copy….

  10. I grew up in Canada and my brother, sister and I used to help my mom can cherries, peaches, pears, tomatoes, pickles, antipasto and carrots. (She had quite the processing line going with the three of us alongside her!) My grandmother used to pressure can salmon and chicken and it was SO tasty.

    Sadly, I had to leave all my jars and my canner behind when we moved to England, but it’s nice to see that it’s starting to get easier to buy the necessary equipment to get back into it. Hmmm. Maybe I can convince my hubby that a pressure canner is a good investment for us! 🙂 Especially when I get our raised beds finished and have bountiful veg crops next summer!

    If you’re looking for a good combination, try peach and ginger (Just put a thin slice of ginger in with your peaches to give them a little kick) and I’m dying to do a test run of elderflower and pear next year. I have a feeling the subtle flavours should marry nicely.

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