Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning vs Counter Sealing
Unsurprisingly, the cultural differences between the US and the UK extend beyond which sport is football and whether you throw things in the rubbish or the garbage. Canning practice is a bit different depending on which side of the Atlantic you fall on.
Home canning simply isn’t as common in the UK as it is in North America. Homes are smaller and there is less space to store food, so you simply don’t see the racks upon racks of canned beans, carrots and jams.
For most people in the UK, when canning the process is as follows:
make the thing to be canned
while hot, ladle it into hot, sterilised jars
put the lids on and leave on the counter to seal
This method isn’t wrong. It works for many people and the things canned this way tend to be high acid/low risk foods.
However, for a longer lasting and more reliable way of canning, the official recommendation is actually to follow the Americans and use a water bath canner for canning pretty much everything.
Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is basically what it says on the tin. You place your cans in a pot of boiling water and boil them for 10-20 minutes. This helps the jars seal and adds an extra layer of sterilisation to the process. You can either buy a specialist water bath canner from somewhere like amazon or you can buy a basket that fits into your heavy stock pot to can.
Parts of a water bath canner:
Large pot - tall enough to cover your jars with 1-2inches/ 2.5-5cm of water
A mesh or wire base to set inside the canner so your jars don’t touch the bottom
Other helpful water bath canning equipment:
while not required, things like a lid wrench, wide-mouth funnel, tongs, jar lifter, and magnetic lid lifter are all super useful.
A pressure canner is a heavy-duty piece of equipment with a vent, a pressure gauge, and screw clamps. It is capable of heating the food in the jars to hotter than the temperature of boiling water. The reason for that is that although botulism bacteria is killed at the temperature of boiling water, botulism spores can survive that temperature. The spores can be eliminated by temperatures hotter than boiling water, which requires a pressure canner, or by creating an extreme pH (as is the case with vinegary pickled foods and sweet preserves).