We always recommend “using what you’ve got” - often the basic equipment will already be in a standard home kitchen for starting home food preservation, including water bath canning. Water bath canning involves filling jars with a prepared high acid preserve. The jars are submerged in boiling water and boiled for a certain time, then cooled on a towel for 12-24 hours before labelling and storing in the pantry. The vessel used to boil the jars is called a water bath canner. Water bath canners are either manual (used on a cooktop) or electric. Manual models can be as simple as a pot with a lid, or custom manufactured to heat a larger number of jars in one batch. Water bath canners can be lightweight or heavy duty. You can buy water bath canners new or secondhand, online, or at your local hardware store or kitchen supply store. They vary in price, according to their size and what they are made from.

The first main consideration: check your cooktop requirements. A flat-bottom water bath canner is used on electric cooktops, a magnetic canner base for induction and a flat/ridged canner base for gas cooktops. The second consideration when selecting a boiling water bath canner is the size you would like. Are you going to do small batches of jams, in small jars? Then use a small water bath that fits the jars in a single tier (including space above the jars for the boiling water too). Are you going to use tall or wide jars? Then choose a larger water bath canner. A larger water bath might also be suitable to double stack (with a second rack in between layers) small or medium jam jars too.  
Our favourite stock pot, with a tea towel or round cake rack in the bottom, jars placed on top, was what we used for many years when we first started water bath canning. Aluminium, steel, copper, or porcelain – as long as the pot is suitable for your cooktop, fits the jars (and space for water on top of the jars) it can be used as a water bath canner.
If jars were placed directly into a water bath canner, without a rack, they could become very hot, very fast as they would be closest to the heat source (cooktop element), which could cause thermal shock. If loose on the base of a canner, jars might move/vibrate as they are processed, possibly cracking one another. Therefore it’s recommended to use a canning rack: they have handles on either side, to hold the rack onto the edge of the canner. Load rack with jars of preserves and then lower gently into the water to submerge the jars and process as per the recipe.
Alternatives: a round cake rack or a tea towel, or a pressure canning rack (use jar tongs too).
This was the first style of pressure canner we purchased online. Powder coated pots are large, lightweight, and low to medium cost (especially considering shipping to Australia if purchasing online). They may be “camping pots” requiring a rack bought separately or come with a rack as pictured.
Large solid water bath canner with high quality (better fitting) canning rack, able to process jars up to 1 litre (1 quart) in size. Filled with water and jars of preserves, it can be heavy and hard to move/lift. Check it is compatible to your cooktop. Price wise, it’s only a little more than the power coated pot above and we’ve used our one for about 10 years and still using it nowadays.
Fairly new onto the market, electric water bath canners are simple to use – especially helpful if your cooktop is unsuitable (or you’re busy prepping ingredients on the cooktop) – just plug into the power point! A 19.8 litre (21 quart) electric canner like the one pictured can process 7 x 1 litre (7 x quart) jars at once, or 8 x 500ml (8 x pint) jars. TIP: Set up next to the sink if safe to do so, as the drain spout on the outside can be used to drain water out of the canner (after processing) into the sink for washing up, or cool water to room temperature and put on the garden. Electric water bath canners can also be used as an urn to serve hot water, tea, coffee, cocoa or even hot apple cider at social events, or used to heat/blanch/boil vegetables, pasta, soup and/or stews. Ensure it is cleaned after each use (before storage). NOTE: if bought overseas, this product may require a conversion plug for use – check requirements before purchase.

A pressure canner, with the lid unlocked, is basically a large water bath canner that can do large jars (or several layers of small or medium sized jars). Ensure there is a jar rack between each tier of jars, the cooktop can handle the heat (and size of the canner) and the pressure canner lid is left unlocked at all times to be used as a water bath canner.
Whichever water bath canner you use/choose, ensure your cooktop is suitable, the canner is the right size, weight and height - jars must be covered by 3-5cm (1-2 inches) of water whilst processing (boiling), plus extra space for the water to boil without water spilling out of the top of the canner. Always check individual recipes for step-by-step instructions on food preparation, jar sizes and processing time.
Author: Megan Radaich           
Image Credit: Google Images           
Publication: www.foodpreserving.org

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