When I snagged a bag of perfectly ripe peaches at the local farmers market, I knew just what to do: invite my fellow MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors over to try out the new Ball freshTECH electric water bath canner.
Five editors crammed into my kitchen one evening to cook up a batch of low-sugar peach ginger jam (for advice on canning jam with reduced sugar, see Make Delicious, Low-Sugar Jams and Jellies). We mashed 4 cups of peeled peaches in a saucepan and stirred in crystallized ginger, calcium water and lemon juice, then brought the mixture to a boil before adding some honey and pectin powder. While we stirred the jam mixture to dissolve the pectin, the Ball electric canner sterilized the jars on my back porch. I’m all about keeping the house cool in summer and, happily, this Ball canning equipment can be used anywhere there’s an electrical outlet. The heat and steam dissipated into the backyard instead of my crowded kitchen.
When the jam was ready, we removed the heated jars from the electric canner and ladled in the jam. We topped the jars with canning lids that had been heating gently in a bowl of hot water, and finger-tightened rings onto the tops. I turned the electric canner’s dial up to the “Canning” setting and returned the jars to the water, settling them on top of the rack accessory that allows water to circulate beneath them. The Ball canner will hold up to a dozen small jelly jars or half-pint jars. Its glass lid makes it easy to see when the water has come to a rolling boil, at which point you begin counting down the processing time required by the recipe. After the timer rang, we pulled the jars out of the boiling water and almost immediately heard the satisfying pings made by sealing lids. I let the Ball canner cool slightly and then opened the handy spigot. The water drained out quickly and, because I’d placed the canner on the edge of the porch, I didn’t have to wrestle with a heavy, dangerous pot of boiling water. For indoor use, Ball suggests positioning the spigot over the kitchen sink before filling the canner, which makes it super-handy. Emptied, the canner is lightweight. The pot lifts off the detachable base (with heating element) for compact storage. There’s also a steaming rack, which I used a few days later to steam potatoes for potato salad — again, outdoors. Ball has designed the multi-cooker so it can be used for other tasks beyond canning, including cooking soups, keeping drinks warm, and blanching vegetables.
Our editorial consensus on the Ball electric water-bath canner is that it’s convenient and easy to use. People who are new to water-bath canning will find the operating instructions straightforward. My favorite parts are the spigot for draining water, and that I can set up an outdoor canning kitchen with the electric canner (some people also use propane camp stoves for outdoor water-bath canning). Plus, Ball claims the canner uses less energy than the average stove, and the freshTECH would be a great option for people with smooth-top stoves on which canning is not recommended. The price point is higher than a stovetop water-bath canning kit — $149.95 compared with $30 to $40 for most other 7-quart canners. To lessen the impact of the cost, a group of friends could chip in to buy the Ball electric canner and pass it around as needed.
Want to learn more about canning? Visit MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ Food Preservation headquarters for extensive how-to information on canning, drying, fermenting, freezing, curing and more. Our Home Canning Guide offers instructions and recipes on canning jams and many other foods. See the Ball website for more information on the freshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner + Multi-Cooker. Remember that water-bath canners are for preserving acidic foods, such as jams, jellies, fruits and pickles, while a pressure canner is required for putting up vegetables, meats and non-acidic foods.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like.