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. Did you get the Big Boy? I have the same one and used it successfully once I overcame my fear of pressure cookers. Wonderful to be able to preserve meat and soups. Would love to hear how you have got on.

  2. William M. Warwick

    Just a curious American, how did the Still Room Maid put up all the jams, marmalades, & preserves without a large pressure cooker/canner, in an old country house?

    As a post script: I have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado Elevation 6,000 ft. When I first Arrived I couldn’t boil an egg! Water boils at something like 185 degrees, baking is a treat also. As for below sea level I’ve spent about six months in Death Valley, I don’t recall off hand, but it’s at least 150 ft. below sea level, that didn’t affect cooking much, but 6,000 ft. up in the Foot Hills of The Rockies sure did! I’m back in Minnesota Elevation around 400 ft. please allow a hundred or two feet of leeway if you check an Atlas; Colorado & Death Valley are both 30 years ago, so memory gets kind of hazy. But I remain interested in how the poor Still Room Maid was supposed to put up a years worth of preserves!

    • Bridget

      No idea what a still room maid is, but our cooks would use jars and bottles with lids! In the UK we don’t have canners as a general rule, this seems to be peculiar to the USA; too much time wasting and cost when all you need to do is chuck stuff in a large pan and boil. Boiling is marvellous, it does a good job of sterilisation. Pickling in vinegar as also another way of preserving that has been used for centuries to ensure food is kept in good condition. Our methods of preserving are old fashioned but tried and tested and sometimes the simplest things are the best.

      • Unfortunately some foods are low acidic and boiling sometimes will NOT kill all pathogens, botulinum spores can survive normal boiling.

  3. peter holmes

    Very interesting!
    I would be very interested to hear about your results with the big boy pressure cooker for canning as I want to buy something for canning here.



  4. Bought an all american pressure canner and cant use it on my ceramic stove, also nowhere to check the valve thingy-expensive white elephant

    • Richard Maggs

      Hi Jen

      What size is your All American pressure canner?

      If it is for sale, how much do you want for it?



    • no need to have gauge checked better to use the weight anyway ,I teach preserving in Australia and have the AA and presto canners my altitude I need to use 10lb weight

    • I would also be interested in buying it if you don’t want it. How much would you want, and where are you based?

  5. derek watson

    if you imort a used canner you dont pay any import charges or vat, most sellers are happy to use ebay global posting ive impoeted 2 presto 16 quart and a 23 quart, always get the largest as you can double stack

  6. marty chamberlain

    Just an aside, a pressure cooker is not the same thing as a pressure cooker canner.

  7. Hello there Fiona,
    I came upon your site, by accident, as I was ‘googling’ for a UK sourced Pressure Canner.
    Your blog mentioned the
    “Hawkins 22 Litre Big Boy Aluminium Pressure Cooker”
    But the Amazon link says that its not available anymore.
    However, I located what i think is the same model/version on UK Ebay

    Do you know if this is the correct version, you refer too in your blog?
    Also, are you sure that it can be used for canning, as a comment on the USA Amazon site, mentioned that “Hawkins’ dont make canners?

    Sorry for the technical nature of the questions – but I wouldnt want to end up with a 22 Litre white-elephant.

    Many thanks in anticipation

  8. Hi Bev
    When I first started out making jam etc I read all sorts of info on websites here and in the US and I was very confused as to why they ‘can’ everything in the US and Canada. It would seem they have Or had a problem with Botulism and therefore they advised on very strict guidelines for the processing of homemade preserves etc. This practice continues today – better to be safe than sorry is there thoughts as people have died in the past. Botulism is very reare here in the UK and we don’t normally process our preerves in a water bath as they do in the US. There are some exceptions to this – apple sauce for example. If you Google Water bath method and maybe Botulism in homemade preserves you will find so much information you could easily get bogged down in it all. I think I am right in saying that virtually all homemade jams, marmalades, jellies, and chutneys made by ‘most’ folk in the UK are not processed in water baths or pressure canning. If you go to the forums and put your queries on there you will get lots of help and answers and much quicker than here on the blog. Look out for Martin (username is The Liquineer) he is so knowledgeable – and can answer any technical queries you might have. Hope this helps!

    • glynda pardue

      I agree, I don’t process preserves either. I “think” if plenty of sugar,pectin and boiling the required time will produce a safe product without using a pressure cooker.

  9. Bev, sea level is sea level wherever you are in the world. It doesn’t change. In the North East of England it is very, very unlikely that you are below sea level. There are very few places on land in the world that are. So if you can’t see bubbles when you breathe, you’re definitely above sea level 😀

  10. Hi, I’m interested in canning but I’m confused about the altitudes I have read US blogs about being above or below sea level does it apply to the uk when pressure canning I’m beside the sea in the North East of england and I have no idea if I’m above or below sea level I would much appreciate any feedback on this for me to start canning safely x

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