Do I really need a canner to do my canning?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Even more specifically, Do I really need a pressure canner to cook meat, or soups?
Some might wonder, why would anyone want to try canning without a canner?
Oftentimes, people don’t want to (or can’t afford to) spend the extra money on a new piece of kitchen equipment. Many do-it-yourself type of folks would rather rig something together with what they have than buy something new.
Another reason for wanting to know if it’s possible to can without a canner is in a survival situation where perhaps you’ve left your home and are bugging out somewhere long term, and the canning equipment just wasn’t on your list of priority items to grab to bring with you.
Maybe you were visiting relatives out of town when the SHTF, and now you’re stuck without any of your preps.
The scenarios are plenty. Considering alternative options to a traditional canner isn’t a bad idea, if you ask me.
So, can it be done?
The answer is a little complicated. It’s Yes, and No.
Yes, you can do your canning without a “canner”. But no, you cannot can meat, beans, veggies, or any combination of these such as you would find in meals-in-a-jar, without a true pressure canner. Not without risking botulism- and death.
The only canning you can do without a “canner” is water bath canning.
With a water bath canner, you can preserve fruits, pickles, and jellies. You can also can plain tomatoes if you add some lemon juice to increase the acidity.
What Do I Need?
Canning high acid foods without a traditional canner is simple. You probably already have what you need in your kitchen now. The addition of a few basic canning tools will help the process go a lot smoother.
Here’s what you need:
- An enamel or stainless steel pot large enough to cover your jars with 2 inches of water.
- A lid to cover the pot.
- A rack or a dish cloth, to put in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from resting directly on the heat source.
- A wide mouth funnel.
- A jar lifter (makes removing the jars from the hot water much easier).
That’s it! You now have everything you need to start water bath canning.
Really, you don’t even need a standard pot to water bath can. If it’ll hold water, has a lid and a flat bottom, and can withstand temperatures high enough to boil water, it can be used as a canner. You don’t even need a stove to do your canning. I’ve seen people can over a propane grill and even an open flame. As long as you can keep your water at a rolling boil for the recommended amount of time (which depends upon what you’re canning and the size of your jars- consult The Ball Blue Book of Canning), it’s perfectly suitable. See Canning Without Electricity for more information.
To give you an example of viable improvising, I’ve seen people can tomatoes in galvanized washtubs full of water, brought to a boil over an outdoor fire. All you need is a piece of sheet metal cut to size for a lid, and you’re good to go! Don’t be afraid to get creative, especially in an emergency situation.
If you have a large stock pot, or something similar, don’t waste your money buying a water bath canner. You already have one!
Don’t forget to be stocking up on canning jars and lids. I’d highly recommend Tattler Reusable Canning Lids for your preps, as they can be used indefinitely (unlike standard metal canning lids which are a one-time use item).
For preserving your dry goods long term (such as dried beans, grains, and baking mixes), you’ll also want to learn how to do Oven Canning– a simple yet effective way to keep your food fresh and bug-free for years.
Speaking of canning, check out my new DVD, At Home Canning For Beginners & Beyond!
In this DVD, you’ll get almost 2 full hours of step-by-step instructions, demonstrating how to can everything from fruits and juices, to beans, meats, and meals-in-a-jar.
Whether you’re new to canning, or have been canning for years, there’s something for everyone to learn!