It has become fashionable in some “Safe Canning Groups” to slag all manuals that come with all pressure canners, and often with good reason. However, the Presto pressure canner manual (since at least 2012 onwards) comes in for this disregard unfairly.
This falls into the category of “a little knowledge can be misleading.”
- 1 What the National Center thinks
- 2 The recipes are all actually Ball and the USDA recipes
- 3 Presto is respected by other reputable sources
- 4 Presto French Manual
- 5 Use only recent versions of the Presto manual
- 6 Sample of an historical Presto canner manual
- 7 Page updates
- 8 Presto Pressure Canner Topics
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.”  Andress, Elizabeth. “History, Science and Current Practice in Home Food Preservation.” Webinar. 27 February 2013. At 1:31:45. Accessed January 2015 at https://nchfp.uga.edu/multimedia/video/nchfp.wmv
The recipes are all actually Ball and the USDA recipes
Well this is embarrassing. The recipes in the Presto pressure canning manual that people are urging caution over are actually all USDA and Ball Blue Book recipes.
This is not even hidden, secret information. Presto gives this credit: “Recipes provided by Jarden [Ed: now Newell] Home Brands, marketers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products.”
The Blue Book supplies Presto’s water bathing recipes.
The USDA Complete Guide 2009 supplies the pressure canning operational directions and recipes. [Note: Presto does leave out some of the raw pack and 5 lb pressure choices for fruit — but that’s a judgement call that some others make such as Ball, Bernardin and University Extensions 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.  Bernardin FAQ. Accessed July 2016.
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.”  Hertzberg, Ruth; Greene, Janet; Vaughan, Beatrice (2010-05-25). Putting Food By: Fifth Edition (p. 438). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
So, if you see criticism of the current Presto manual’s reliability, it is uninformed.
- Presto 16 quart manual (dated 2016)
- Presto 23 quart manual (dated 2019)
- Presto 23 quart induction compatible manual (dated 2019)
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.” [Ed: presumably unless of course you don’t speak English, which would be the reason you’re using the French one in the first place…] Julie at Presto Customer Service to Randal Oulton, 8 October 2015.
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 anytime in the 1900s.
And to be fair, that could be a reason to suggest caution when advising people. You don’t know how old a version of the manual people might have. To know what version you have, look for the copyright information.
Up to 2016 / 2017, the current manuals were those released in 2012 with “Copyright 2012” on the very first page.
After 2016 , the current manuals have had “Copyright 2016” on the very last page.
As of spring 2019, 2016 appeared to be the most recent date for the Presto canner manuals.
The following changes seem to have occurred with the 2016 manual release:
- the separate manual for the 16-quart weighted gauge canner seems to have disappeared;
- the French manual seems to have disappeared.
Sample of an historical Presto canner manual
We are providing this for intellectual interest only. Do NOT use for anything other than to satisfy brazen curiosity.
This page was last reviewed spring 2019.
Presto Pressure Canner Topics
|↑1||Andress, Elizabeth. “History, Science and Current Practice in Home Food Preservation.” Webinar. 27 February 2013. At 1:31:45. Accessed January 2015 at https://nchfp.uga.edu/multimedia/video/nchfp.wmv|
|↑2||Bernardin FAQ. Accessed July 2016.|
|↑3||Hertzberg, Ruth; Greene, Janet; Vaughan, Beatrice (2010-05-25). Putting Food By: Fifth Edition (p. 438). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.|
|↑4||Julie at Presto Customer Service to Randal Oulton, 8 October 2015.|