I have canned several items using my 38 qt. stockpot instead of a water bath canner. Is there any problem with this? I am very new to canning so could any advice and thoughts! Thank you in advance, Amy
The pot must have a depth that can allow the largest canning jar used, to be covered by at least 2 inches of water. If this is a quart jar, the internal depth of the canner must be deep enough for the jar, with lid, and a rack at the bottom, as well as at least 2 inches of water, then some space above that to prevent splashing. Also, it needs to have a cover. Doing the math, the pot would need at least 11 inches of depth for a quart, and thats cutting it thin. A rack usually holds jars about an inch from the bottom. Never place jars directly on the bottom of the pot, as they can shatter.
Uh oh. A cover? You are supposed to use a lid on the canning bath? Since I do have a tall stockpot, I believe that the jars will fit, including a lid, but now I'm beginning to think that maybe I should be using a thermometer to see if I'm actually getting the correct temperature. It seems to me that if water boils at 212 degrees, that would be enough, lid or no? Have I missed something critical here? I sincerely appreciate your help! Amy
The lid keeps the water at a 212 degrees, as surface temperatues are usually a little lower, even if its a rapid boil (which it should always be at) and loses less to evaporation. Also, canning involves sometimes an hour or more of processing time, and without a cover on the pot the water boils out quickly. Here, I do some canning using a steam canner, but thats used only for high acid foods like tomatoes with the necessary added citric acid, as well as vinegar based pickles and most jellies and jams. Some may say that a steam canner is not recommended, but there has never been any actual indication or positive proof for it to be unsafe to use, if the foods that are canned using it are highly acidic. This acid helps to preserve the foods and protcts against botulism. For a beginner, a water bath canner is more appropriate. Some time ago, I satisfied my wn curiosity and did many temperature and time measurments and found that the steam canner used a lot less water, got back up to temperature quicker and was less messy and dangerous to deal with when dandling a big pot loaded with jars. As mentioned, a wire rack needs to be placed at the bottom of the pot, or a folded towel, or some other means to bring the jars up off the bottom. If you have no rack, be sure to get yourself a jar lifter. These are very cheap and are one of the most important tools in canning next to a canning funnel.
The stock pot is no problem as long as you maintain the proper water level, as Ken indicated.
A boil is a boil, so doing without a lid is not a safety issue, just less efficient. Be sure you don't start counting time until the boil is reached.
Do make sure you have a rack or canning rings wired together or a towel on the bottom of the stockpot to insulate the jars and prevent breakage.
Wow! Thank you both for your information. It must seem so basic, but I've done so much reading and not much "doing" that I forget much of what I've read. The main thing the reading has done for me is to intimidate me! I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the basics, though, and I appreciate both of your input. Now, back to the kitchen......
Yes, you need a lid. If you don't have one, use a pizza pan or something as a lid. That is the recommendation we give at the extension office.
The pizza pan is a good suggestion. But I still don't see it as a safety issue as long as you monitor and maintain the appropriate level of boiling water.
Personally I've never BWB'd without a lid and I wouldn't, not just because it would take forever to bring the kettle up to temperature but because I don't want to fill my kitchen with steam and water droplets. Not to mention the odds increase of too much water boiling off.
So there are definitely practical considerations for using a lid of some sort.
Linda Lou, yes, you are agreeing. At least we are on the same page once in a while..
I highly recommend "The Ball Blue Book Of Preserving" as a thorough primer and reference for the home canner. It covers all the basics and gives you a few tried-and-true recipes to work from. They also make a 'Complete Book Of Home Preserving' with many more starter recipes. The USDA website also has 'recommended safe practices' area for the home canner.
Btw, we use our pressure canner as a water bath for quarts and use a cookie sheet as a lid. It's not as heavy as the pressure canner lid (by a couple lbs!), so it's easier to take off when you've got boiling water.