Many people stray away from using pressure canners thanks to stories that they hear in the news – disclaimer: I was one of those people! Fortunately enough, I read (and re-read) my canning manuals cover to cover a good 20+ times before my first attempt. I even went as far as writing the directions so I could better understand them (whatever makes you comfortable!)
My very first pressure canning experience was Bell Peppers. Many people suggested canning water for Emergency Use but I decided I wanted to try something that would produce something that I could eat (even if I did screw them up).
First thing’s first, figure out what type of canner you use and is it safe tested for canning use. As I mentioned in The Necessities, there are a number of brands of canners (Presto, Mirro, All American, to name a few) as well as types (weighted or dial gauge). (Disclaimer, I own both a Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker which is a dial gauge, and a Presto 01745 16-Quart pressure Canner which is a weighted variety.)
Next, I would recommend going through your canner’s instruction manual to verify any special nuances it may have (i.e. they can only be used on gas ranges up to a certain BTU, if they are/n’t allowed to be used on glass top stoves, etc).
Presto: Presto Manuals
All American: All American Manuals
Mirro: Mirro Manuals
Alrighty, now that we know what we have, we may as well become familiar with all of the parts and pieces.
Pressure dial gauge (Note: to correctly assemble the dial gauge, first place white ring gasket on stem of gauge and place gauge through the hole on the top of the lid. Next, place metal washer followed by the nut on the bottom side of the lid. Tighten in place)
Weights (5 – 10- 15 lbs)
Over pressure plug (When pressure levels get too high, this plastic plug will pop up on its own to release the excess pressure.)
Make sure that the sealing ring/gasket is securely placed in the lid of the canner.
Try placing the lid on the canner and tighening (lining up the arrows on the lid and the handle) to verify that there is little-no resistance. If the lid is difficult to secure, carefully remove gasket and apply a very light layer of cooking oil to the gasket and tabs on the canner. Place gasket back in place and attempt to secure the lid again.
Check that the white gasket for the pressure dial gauge (if applicable) is seated properly and not cracked. Tighten nut if needed.
Hold the lid up to a light and view through the vent pipe to verify that there is no blockage. If needed, clean with a pipe cleaner.
Verify that both pieces of the lid lock are in place and secure.