Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the capacity of the Ball FreshTech Electric Water Bath Canner and Multi-Cooker. This version has been corrected.
This spring, my desire to start canning has been stronger than ever. Maybe it was the seemingly interminable winter. Perhaps it was my depleted pantry shelves. Or maybe it was the arrival of a remarkable piece of equipment: an electric water-bath canner.
I long ago set up my suite of equipment for frequent, regular preservation projects. But I realize that not everyone is as dedicated as I am. If you’ve been holding back because of canning concerns, this appliance should eliminate every one of them.
Afraid you’ll poison someone? Make high-acid, low-pH recipes without fear, and process the jams, jellies, pickles, relishes and some tomato products in the canner. Sanitizing jars is too scary? Put the jars in the device for a bath, remove and fill the jars, return the filled jars (lids and rings in place) to the canner and process. Canning just heats up the kitchen? Not with this little appliance. Stove too small, or it has a glass top that can’t handle the weight of a huge canning pot filled with water and jars? This plugs in on the countertop instead. Hate wasting water? This method uses less of it (and its spigot makes it a breeze to drain).
Released last month by Jarden Home Brands (the people behind the Ball jar) and available at discount and hardware stores across the country, the FreshTech Electric Waterbath Canner (which retails for $150 at Freshpreservingstore.com) was three years in the making. Oddly reminiscent of the coffee urn at a potluck, the electric canner holds up to seven quarts (or seven pints, or 12 half-pints) at a time, processing at a consistent boil just like a canning kettle on the stove.
Jarden brand manager Janine Moore says the company’s goal for the new device was simply to make canning more accessible. Both the research and development and marketing teams put the canner through three years of consumer testing: They wanted a machine that not only answers the needs of the experienced canner but also helps the new home food preserver feel confident.
To get a sense of the marketplace, Moore tuned in to messages on the company’s Facebook page, one she describes as an “active community of younger consumers that turn online” for canning information. They watch videos demonstrating techniques, link to recipes and confirm safe practices for home food preservation.“We’re always looking to introduce new people to canning,” she said. “There is growing interest from the millennials, who tend to live in smaller spaces. The countertop convenience was important to them.”
This isn’t Jarden’s first foray into automation: In late 2012, the company unveiled an automatic jam and jelly maker that stirs together fruit, sugar and pectin but doesn’t process the jars. In 2013, the company introduced a smaller steam-canning machine that holds up to three one-quart jars and features pre-programmed settings for more than 75 approved recipes (though it doesn’t allow for any others). But it’s the new electric water bath canner that, based on my experience, can truly replace a stove-top canner.
Whether you use it or not, the question remains: What to put up right now? Asparagus may be in the stores, but those stalks aren’t being pulled from the ground around here. It’s far too chilly. And strawberries? Weeks away.
There’s only one logical answer. I turn to tropical fruits to satisfy the need to make jam and stretch my canning muscles. This is the peak of the tropical fruit season, heralded by the arrival of an apricot-tinted mango: the Ataulfo, the fruit’s gold standard. I await this late-spring abundance with great anticipation, sure to eat at least one mango a day, as if it might keep the doctor away.
Mango chutney (Major Grey’s, of course) was my childhood introduction to this fruit, followed by a trip to Mexico, where I indulged in sun-warmed mangoes plucked off a tree. In the United States, we see only a couple of the many types of mango. The Tommy Atkins, greenish with a rosy pink blush, is around all year. The Ataulfo, sometimes called Champagne, is available for only a month or so. It is less fibrous, incredibly juicy, a bit easier to dice and loaded with sweet, tangy flavors that evoke umbrella drinks and warm sea breezes.
The mango is such a satisfying fruit after these past few months of storage apples. The color alone is exotic and promising. I am so mad for mango that this year I was determined to make enough condiments to enjoy after the season has passed, but the reality is different. I can’t seem to stop eating mango jam now, so you’ll find me back in the kitchen soon, stirring up another batch before the fruit is gone until next year.