I’ve gotten a few questions about steam canners recently, and so I thought I’d take a little time to share what I know about this style of canner.
For those of you who don’t know, a steam canner is a devise that looks similar to an old fashioned cake carrier. It consists of a shallow pan, a fitted rack and a high domed cover. It is typically advertised as an alternative to the boiling water bath canner (it is not the same as a pressure canner).
Currently, steam canners are not recommended for home use by either the USDA or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Their reasoning is that steam isn’t as effective at transmitting heat through to the center of the jars as boiling water is. It’s this heat penetration that ensures both the safety of your product (it kills off any possible contaminants) and the efficacy of your seal.
What’s more, the vast majority of canning recipes just haven’t been written for steam canning. While it may actually be an effective method for canning, the bulk of canning research has been done with a boiling water bath canner. This means that we just don’t know how long it takes to process jars in a steam canner for safe storage.
As I did the research necessary to write this, I came across a post on the Utah State Extension Service website on the topic of steam canners. While it doesn’t go so far to endorse them, it does offer a great deal of useful information on best practices if you have determined to use one.
My feelings about steam canners are fairly simple. I don’t use one and I have no intention to seek one out in the future. I like the fact that boiling water bath canning can be done without any special equipment (my favorite canning pot is my all-purpose stock pot with a cake cooling rack in the bottom). Additionally, I believe there are enough risks in life without introducing extra variables into my preserving practice. I know boiling water bath canning is effective and dependable. Why deviate?
How about the rest of you? Ever used a steam canner?