In an earlier post, I mentioned that you don’t have to go bankrupt to preserve/can your food and make it shelf stable (a lot of people don’t have a ton of freezer space). You can only process/can high acid foods with a water bath canner – that would be dilled veggies, jams/jellies, fruits in a sugar syrup, salsa (provided there is acid introduced too) and tomatoes. “dilling” makes the environment acidic. Search “Water bath canning” and “High acid foods to can”. I have gotten by with my water canner for several years. I only graduated to the pressure canner this year due to the fact that my kids eat a lot and I’d like to grow and can beans, and possibly corn and soups/stews (maybe meat/fish in the future).
By the way, jams/jellies and such make GREAT gifts to anyone. Who wouldn’t love to receive something they can use and was hand crafted? Great teacher gifts, coworker gifts, hostess gifts, and especially family gifts.
Where I live, NOW is the time to goto Walmart and purhcase a canning pot. In the Boise and surrounding areas, lots of people can/preserve and the pots (which is a big enamel coated pot with a jar rack inside) costs $20. Here is the link for the 21.5 Quart, Granite Wear, Canner pot with Rack http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10543332&adid=bzv_fb_revshr_001 – Do not spend more than about $25 for a water bath type canner. You could also just order a separate canning rack to insert into your already owned deep stock pot (measure diameter and that pot has to be deep enough to have 1 1/2 inches of water over your tallest jar). You could also zip tie a bunch of “bands” that part that screws onto the lid of a jar. The important thing is to have the jars slightly elevated off the bottom of the pot. (I do recommend the canning rack though, it has handles).
It is also wise to get a funnel and a jar lifter (and obviously jars). Jars with lids/bands are a slight initial investment. Jars and bands may be reused year after year – you have to use a new lid/seal each time you process. Each year I have to go and purchase a few boxes of lids (pks of 12 for less than $3) and maybe a couple of cases of smaller jelly jars that I give away as gifts ($8 or less per case of 12).
Pressure Canners are much more expensive and I’d only recommend purchasing one if you have a larger family, don’t have a lot of freezer space and you really are going to can/preserve green beans, corn, meats, soups, etc., OR you are going to do high volume canning of many high acid fruits/vegetables (only water bath jams). The pressure canner takes up a lot less time during the canning/processing stage. However, if not doing some mass volume and you have the freezer space for those beans and corn, it is easier to freeze those. You must blanch the veggies before freezing though – look up process for each one separately.