Home canning used to be a necessary activity every summer, to preserve the bounty for the long winter. These days, home canners keep on canning for a simpler reason: the pleasure of making fresh-tasting jams, jellies and salsas.
As a hobby canner, my least favorite part of the process is the last step, processing the jars in a pot of boiling water to sterilize and seal. The water takes ages to boil and heats up the whole house, plus it feels wasteful. Turns out, there’s a new gadget out there meant to replace the water bath: steam canners. But are steam canners safe? Here’s the scoop.
What Is Steam Canning?
Traditional water bath canning requires jars to be submerged in a pot of boiling water—a fairly foolproof method that uses a huge quantity of water (and energy to keep the water boiling). Steam canning, as the name indicates, uses steam heat to sterilize and seal the jars. Jars are placed on a rack over a pan of water, and a lid seals in the steam. A dial on the exterior of the steam canner will track the temperature inside, including settings to adjust for altitude.
The steam environment will reach a temperature of 212ºF, the same temperature as boiling water.
Are Steam Canners Safe?
Yes! Recently, the University of Wisconsin extension system conducted research that determined steam canners are safe for use on specific high-acid recipes. Use your steam canner to process food for no longer than 45 minutes. (Use a water bath canner for recipes that go longer.)
Make sure to use a canning recipe from a trustworthy source. Resources like the National Center for Food Preservation meticulously test their recipes.
What to Preserve in a Steam Canner
High acid foods, like apples and peaches, and foods with added acid, like pickles and salsa, can be preserved in a steam canner. (Watch us use one to make sweet pickles and marinara.) Just make sure the pH is 4.6 or below and you’ll be good to go.
Want to get started? This steam canner has a high rating on Amazon, plus a reasonable price point.