It has become fashionable in some “Safe Canning Groups” to slag all manuals that come with all pressure canners. The Presto manual comes in for this disregard.
This falls into the category of “a little knowledge can be misleading.”
The Presto canner manual is not a huge collection of recipes, just some basic ones, and you will definitely want to expand your repertoire with books from other reputable sources. But given its small size — easy to stash in a nook or cranny right by the stove for easy reach — it’s absolutely fine to use to refresh your memory (as you should each time) on processing times for beans, mushrooms, meats, etc.
What the National Center thinks
When asked what she feels about the Presto manuals, Elizabeth Andress, head of the National Center for Home Food preservation said:
I will say that I do know that Presto has current home economics expertise on staff and really supports their home canning efforts really well and they really want to stay in line with USDA and come up with the right thermal processing before they add anything new to their recommendations so to me that’s a good sign there. It has become increasingly difficult to find on staff expertise that really knows and understands home canning with some of the other even major manufacturers so that might raise a little red flag there with you for some of the others that have now been reorganized and changed a little bit about how they do things.” 1
The recipes are all actually Ball and the USDA recipes
Well this is embarrassing. The recipes that people are urging caution over, are actually all USDA and Ball Blue Book recipes.
Presto actually doesn’t try to hide this: they give the credit of, “Recipes provided by Jarden [Ed: now Newell] Home Brands, marketers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products.”
The pressure canning directions come from the USDA 2009 Complete Guide. [Note: Presto does leave out some of the raw pack and 5lb choices for fruit — but that’s a quality judgement call that some others make, too.]
If there’s a problem with the Ball and USDA recipes that Presto reprints, then we are all in a lot of trouble. You don’t have to take our word for it: call up the USDA guide on your screen, have the Presto manual in front of you, and see for yourself. The same for the Ball Blue book recipes.
Presto is respected by other reputable sources
Presto is a responsible, private sector partner in the home canning world. They were on the advisory board that oversaw the founding of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Bernardin provides this information about Presto:
There is a Home Economist on staff. They offer canners, booklets, manuals, repairs and replacement parts. For consumer questions, write to “Home Economics Dept, National Presto Industries, etc”. Canners have either “Presto” or “National” (older) brand name. Consumer questions should go to P.O. Box address –it’s faster.2
The authors of Putting Food By respect Presto as well: “The Presto people have helped fund much research, including the 15-psig research at the University of Minnesota, and work in home-canning of seafood.” 3
So, if you see criticism of the current Presto manual’s reliability, it is uninformed.
Presto French Manual
The Presto French Manual is here: Guide pour Presto-Autoclave-et-Autocuiseur (français)
Presto customer service informs us, “This [French] book is from 2003 and some of the information will be outdated. So you should follow all times listed in the current English version.”4
Healthy Canning compared the French version from 2003 with the English version (current as of 2015), recipe by recipe, paying attention to times. We found:
- All times and pressures were the same for all water-bath canning and pressure-canning recipes;
- All times and pressures were the same for all pressure cooking recipes.
The French 2003 manual was missing the following:
- missing canning directions for nectarines (page 28 Eng);
- missing canning directions for tomatoes whole or halved in water (page 31 Eng);
- missing recipes for spaghetti sauce (page 33 and 34 eng).
In compensation, perhaps, the French manual has many interesting looking pressure cooking recipes that the English doesn’t, including many for lamb.
But, we didn’t find the time variances that the Presto customer service thought were there. (Note: it can be tricky for people whose mother tongue is English to look at canning directions in French, because “pintes” in French means “quarts”, not “pints.” Perhaps someone at Presto got caught by that confusion and thought the processing times were wrong.)
Use only recent versions of the Presto manual
To be clear, this article is referring to recent versions of the Presto manual — those shipping with the canners from about 2012 onwards. As opposed to Presto manuals from the 1940s.
And to be fair, that could be a reason to suggest caution. You don’t know how old a version of the manual people might have. To know what version you have, look at the very first page, at the copyright information. As of 2017, manuals are still saying 2012 on them.
Andress, Elizabeth. “History, Science and Current Practice in Home Food Preservation.” Webinar. 27 February 2013. At 1:31:45. Accessed January 2015 at http://nchfp.uga.edu/multimedia/video/nchfp.wmv ↩
Hertzberg, Ruth; Greene, Janet; Vaughan, Beatrice (2010-05-25). Putting Food By: Fifth Edition (p. 438). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. ↩
Julie at Presto Customer Service to Randal Oulton, 8 October 2015. ↩