Ask the Goats is a weekly feature in which we answer your questions about growing, making, preserving, and eating food. Got a question for us? Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Q. I just purchased my first pressure cooker; a 6 quart. Can I also use this to can small batches of bounty instead of investing in a large pressure canner?–Kerri.
A. Unfortunately, no. Although small pressure canners certainly get very hot, they’re not necessarily built for pressure canning. When you’re pressure canning, the goal is to get to 240ºF and to maintain that temperature for as long as the processing time requires. You need to achieve this high heat to kill the spores of the botulism bacillus, which can thrive in a low-acid, anaerobic environment. A small pressure cooker might get that hot at 10 pounds of pressure, but it might not—it’s hard to say. Pressure canners, on the other hand, are built with this specific goal in mind. They’re usually bigger (typically 16 or 23 quarts) and sometimes have thicker walls. You can use your pressure canner like a giant pressure cooker, but not vice versa.
Within the world of pressure canners, you have a choice. You can purchase a weighted-gauge model, like this one, or a dial-gauge model, like this one. The advantage of a dial-gauge model is that you always know exactly what pressure you’ve achieved; the downside is that the gauge needs to be evaluated once a year to make sure that it’s still calibrated. I use a Presto weighted-gauge model.
For more information (with pictures!) on how pressure cookers work in general, please see this introductory post on “Pressure Cooking Explained.” If you want to see step-by-step instructions for pressure canning, see this one on chicken broth.