Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Steam Canner Controversy

Well, I was all set to buy a steam canner when a friend of mine told me that they are not recommended. Have you guys heard this? Maybe some of you have but, being new to canning I had not. She recommended that I call the Utah State Extension office and ask them ( I had not heard of them either but now it's my new favorite place for all my canning questions).

They did say that they do not recommend them. I will quote now from a paper I got at their office.
" Steam canners are not recommended because processing times for use with current models have not been adequately researched . . . Due to the lack of definitive research into the safety of steam canning the Utah State University Extension program currently agrees with the USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation recommendation against using steam canners. For those who still wish to use steam canners we: firmly advise against steam canning any low acid (e.g. vegetable) or borderline acid foods (e.g. tomatoes). Under processing these foods can lead to botulism food poisoning. For acid foods like fruits, jams or jellies we recommend following Dr. Mendenhall's six steps to successful operation of a steam canner. "

Here are his steps :

1. Place appropriate amount of water in the base. Place the perforated
cover over the base and bring water to a low boil.

2. Pack and fill jars. Secure lids firmly, but not over tight. Set each full
jar on the base and allow it to warm up while packing and filling
enough jars for one batch.

3. When the last full jar has warmed up for 1-2 minutes, place the dome
on the base and slowly(4-5 minutes) increase temperature setting of the
stove untill a column of steam 8-10 inches is evident from the small
at the base of the dome.

4. Begin timing the process, maintaining the column of steam following the
water bath canning adjustments for your altitude. Do not reduce
temperature setting of the stove. The dome should not bounce from the
base during processing.

5. When processing time is complete, turn off the stove and wait 2-3
minutes before removing the dome. Remove the dome by turning it
away from your face and body to avoid burns.

6. Allow jars to cool and seal. Remove metal bands and store jars in a
cool dark place.

I know this is a lot of information. Like I said some of you may already know this, but it was new to me. If you have any questions about this you can call the Utah State University Extension office. The Provo office number is 801 851 8460. The web address is

They also teach classes about canning and lots of other things. You can even call about lawn questions. It's a really amazing source of information.


  1. It would REALLY be nice if the government agency would DO the necessary experiments/tests to tell us HOW to steam-can, rather than just condemn the process. It's GOT to be a good method, because heat is heat. It's not like boiling water has "more heat" than steam. They're BOTH 212 F!

    Typical, useless, doughnut-eating, government pieces-of-trash.

  2. I know I was thinking the same thing. Steam canning has been a controversy for more than 80 years(according to an article I read). They should do some proper testing. It would take awhile to see how the steam canned shelf life is,but they have had 80 years.

  3. I just came across your blog on a google search about canning with steam. I just barely found out yesterday that there even is a "controversy". I've always used my steam canner (I've been using it for about five years and my mother-in-law used it for years and years before that) and it's totally fine. I've never had a problem. Well, once I did: one of my jars of salsa didn't seal properly and when I opened it, it stunk like crazy. I figure if something's gone bad, you'll know it! Anyway, this link had some of the same info as yours, plus some research that has been done.

  4. Heather:

    There has not been enough testing on steam canning yet for consumers to have confidence that it is a SAFE and effective canning method.

    That you and your MIL have avoided illness and contamination thus far is NOT satisfactory evidence to declare steam canning "totally fine."

    There are acidity differences from recipe to recipe, so steam canning may be UNSAFE in many circumstances.

    Second, I agree that a failed seal will result in food spoilage, and that you'll definitely know it. Air will seep into the jar and spoil the food, resulting in a foul odor, taste, and look.

    However, the more serious concern is botulism; it should be differentiated from food spoilage in that botulism grows in an airless, low-acidic, moist environment.

    It is my understanding-- correct me if I am wrong-- that a jar of food tainted with the botulism toxin would not necessarily be identifiable by taste, smell, or appearance. A person could consume it without realizing it.

    Therefore, people get into trouble they use an untested recipe, process using an incorrect method, or process for an inappropriate amount of time.

    What is needed is adequate steam canning testing so that home food producers can know how and when to use them safely.