Country Living Series

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Canning question

A reader posted a question on a temporary blog post I took down, but I didn't want her question deleted because I thought it was a good one. She wrote:

Speaking of canning (you're my 'go-to gal for all things canning), I have wanted to email you, but couldn't find an address on your blog. I did the unthinkable....my fizzle fazzeled before my canner's pfhitting finished, i.e. I fell asleep while canning chicken in the pressure canner!!!! Thank goodness nothing exploded, BUT, the bottom of my canner is now rounded rather than flat (boohoo). Can I still use this canner, or should I bite the bullet and get a new one. PS: it's a Presto 16-quart (gosh, where did I first learn about that)? While I feel this is an inappropriate place to ask this question, I would love your input. Thanks.

Off-hand I'd say the canner is ruined, but since I've never encountered this kind of problem, I can't say for certain. I would absolutely contact the manufacturer and explain the problem (though understand it's in their best interest to suggest you purchase a new canner). Has anyone else experienced this issue? Is her canner ruined?

This reader's experience underscores the importance of vigilance during canning. Once -- only once -- did I get close to blowing the roof off our house because I forgot to check the pressure canner. Foolish me, I got involved in writing on the computer. By the time I remember and scrambled into the kitchen, the canner pressure was in the screaming red zone. I turned off the heat and got the hell out of there. Thankfully nothing happened but it taught me a harsh lesson: pay attention. Now whenever I use the pressure canner, I clip a kitchen timer to my collar and set it to beep every five or six minutes to remind me to go check the pressure. I haven't had a near-accident since.

20 comments:

  1. I use a timer as well. I am SO the person who would type a blog post or read a while and space the canner. So I always set a timer to go check it.

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  2. My house is small enough that you can hear the canner from just about everywhere. My backyard neighbor can even hear the chattering if our windows are open (and we're a good 100 yards away from each other), so I guess I'm lucky in the non-red-zone thing.

    I'd think the canner's ruined if it doesn't sit flat on the stove. Are the Prestos as solid as, say, an All American or Wisconsin Aluminum Foundary pressure canner though? Knowing me, I'd use the circumstances as a way to upgrade canners. :D

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  3. I would NOT use the canner again. The deformation has obviously stressed the metal substantially in ways you cannot assess (other than the obvious). In use, this thing is a "pressure vessel," and it MUST be in original as-manufactured condition to be safe. Almost any change whatsoever in a pressure vessel of any type is grounds for retirement. (HIGH-pressure vessels can't even be scratched!) Of we are talking about something substantially less, but it is impossible to compute odds for its possible failure - three more minutes, or three more decades - and the danger just isn't worth testing the theory. Not with children and other vital soft parts at stove-top level.

    And no, I don't work for a canner company. :)

    Jeff - Tucson

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  4. On a more personal, related note, a typical mid-day for me consists of putting some lunch on the stove, going into the office to catch up on Patrice's musings, and waiting for the smell of something burning to notify me that lunch is ready. (And that I was making it in the first place.) The power of ADD is not to be trifled with.

    Jeff - Tucson

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  5. I would not trust it as a canner. Even if it still seals properly and holds pressure, I would think the rounded bottom would make it hard for your jars to remain upright during processing. That being said, it is probably safe to still use as a pressure COOKER. I have my mother's pressure cooker (circa 1950's) which she used at least once a week when I was a kid. The bottom of it is rounded also, from use or over-use, I'm sure. But she only water bath canned and used a different pot.

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  6. I wouldn't use it again! You are running the risk of a deadly failure. You would likely fill your room(s) with several pounds of steam. If this ever happens hold your breath. You risk shutting your lungs down in a painful death. Remember, there is a stick of dynamite in a gallon of water. Aluminum is not like steel. Deflection in aluminum that allows it to return to the original shape will still weaken it and eventually cause it to fail. You have gone beyond this and impacted the structural integrity. Don't use it!!!!!

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  7. My first canner was given to me by someone who was moving. It had a warped (rounding) bottom. Since I'd never canned before, who knew?? However, I did have a gas stove. If I situated the canner so it didn't rock and was stable, it worked just fine. I'm not recommending this, but I never had a problem in maybe 20 years of using it. Her canner could be in far worse shape than mine
    so I'd recommend "testing" it if she can get it stable and staying right there to monitor it while it operates. It's the only way to actually know if it's ruined or not.

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  8. Gotta say even with vigilance, accidents can occur. We once had a load of BEETS explode because the valve on the top of the canner let go. Whew... beet juice alllllll over the kitchen, ceiling, cabnets, refrig, etc. etc. I was finding traces of that explosion for years afterwards.

    It doen't happen very often. We have canned for years and years and only had this happen one time. It's good to check the rubber gasket, valves... little rubber gizmo on some canner lids etc. If it's old and cracked then you can usually find a replacement part.

    As far as this poor misshapen canner... it's probably lost some of it's strength to hold pressure because of the bulge, plus I would think the jars might tend to "clack" together during the process and may cause damage to the jars.

    Thank you for your great blog!

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  9. I would definitely err on the side of caution. A new canner is a good thing :) Aluminum can have stress cracks not visible to the naked eye. So your safety is paramount here. Also think of it this way now you have an extra water bath canner or stew pot if needed.

    I also have to agree with Jeff, ADD is not my friend when it comes to canning. So my trusty watch timer helps as well as becoming familiar with the sound the canner makes at certain pressures.

    Patrice was also my go to canning guide when i first started and my canning savior by recommending the book "Putting Food By"
    Thanks Patrice :)

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  10. When I was a youngun, I went to a weekend visit to an Auntie's home. It was the first time I had ever seen a pressure canner in use.
    I was enthralled by the clacking of the pressure venting against the weight.

    We got busy playing games and enjoying each other's company, when KABOOM!
    It shook the whole house! When we all jumped up to run to look out the front door, my Auntie firmly instructed us to stay there.
    She went to the kitchen.
    When we were allowed to come take a look, it was
    unbelievable what I witnessed. The damage that can be done by a canner of boiling hot, red beans. The canner lid had blown a hole into the ceiling and there was red bean shrapnel covering every inch of the walls and cabinets and floor.
    To this day, I never leave a canner unattended, not even for a break.
    Knowing now after years of canning myself, what I believe occurred was that the vent hole had become clogged. The flanges of the pot where the lid partially screws on, were splayed where the lid normally sat, and the bottom of the pot was
    round like a ball!

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  11. Metal fatigue has set in. Get a new one.


    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

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  12. Call Presto. They are great. I have a wonderful Presto story I could tell, but won't. They will tell you if there is any saving it.

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  13. Patrice, I have another canning question.
    This one is in regards to RE-using tin cans and resealing them with the can sealer, with a new lid of course.
    Have you ever tried this or knew of anyone who tried recycling their tin cans this way?

    I can't figure out how to get that turned over edge OFF the used can,(or if it is even necessary to do so?), the smooth knurled over tin that is made when the can is opened by the can opener.
    Anyone have a clue?

    notutopia

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  14. Thanks, All. And thank you, Patrice, for posting this and getting the feedback. I think my biggest lesson learned is to not start canning at 11:30 p.m. after working a 14-hour day! That said, I'll bite the bullet and buy a new one. It just kills me, though, because I've only had the canner a few months and am still learning all about pressure canning. Ah well, the adage "A lesson learned hard is a lesson learned well" comes to mind. And Marcie, I will call Presto tomorrow...just to be sure.

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  15. patrice..thankyou for your quick reply on reprocessing veggies from those big humongous cans. i will be giving this a homemade try soon. i generally can alot of stuff but my dirt for gardening is very poor therefore gardening for fresh veggies is not an easy thing to do at all...and buying produce, even at the farmers market and veg. stands can be very expensive indeed.

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  16. First and foremost, every person canning should own a timer that makes a loud enough noise to get your notice when it goes off. Persistent and obnoxious has it's place in the world.

    Second, do NOTHING that takes you out of the kitchen while pressure canning. Save processing time for cleaning kitchen drawers, washing kitchen floors or planning menus in the kitchen.

    Third, that caner is now a planting pot for tomatoes outside. The integrity of the metal is compromised. Next time it's used it very well may crack.

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  17. @ Notutopia:you need a special can opener that cuts into the sealant on the side of the can. That would leave you with a smooth, straight up edge. Pampered Chef's can openers open this way. I don't know where else you can find them.

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  18. Thanks so much! I'll look for one.


    notutopia

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  19. Notutopia - have you checked out the Paratus Familia blog? Their link is on the top left of this page and I'm almost positive that they have posted about re-using metal cans. They might be able to offer additional info too. :0)

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  20. Cast iron can warp like that at high temperature, and once it's warped, there's no fixing it. And that's not even with pressure factored in.

    If it's aluminum, it could be sold for metal value. :)

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