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Friday, February 4, 2011

Pressure Canners vs Pressure Cookers (Cooking Mysteries Solved!)

If you are a Facebook friend of ours you may have seen us posting occasionally about using our pressure cookers or canning meat. Inevitably the question gets asked “What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner?”
Don’t worry, two years ago we didn’t know either!!! I’ve answered a few of our most commonly asked questions in this short video that should help take the mystery out of pressure cooking and pressure canning for you.

In case you can’t view the video, try clicking here or read the summary below. (I go into more detail in the info below as well)

What is a pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker is a tightly sealed pot that uses steam under pressure to cook foods very quickly. It is extremely useful if you are trying to rotate through your long term food storage as it makes cooking beans, rice, and wheat very quick and easy. Once you start using it you will find that many of your slow-cooker meals and regular meals can be made in the pressure cooker and turn out even more delicious and cook so fast! Meat is very tender when pressure cooked, and vegetables can be steamed and retain more nutrients. It’s a fantastic kitchen appliance.

What is a pressure canner?

A pressure canner is used to can low-acid foods such as most vegetables, meats, and beans. Traditional water-bath canning only gets the foods as hot as boiled water, which is not hot enough to properly preserve these types of foods. By pressure canning you can increase the temperature it is processed at high enough to kill bacteria, etc. Learning to use canned meats can open up a whole new world of shelf stable recipes you can make using only your stored foods. And canning them yourself brings the price down dramatically. You will also find the convenience of having cooked meat straight out of a can is great for days you need a “quick dinner”. And home-canned meats are delicious!

Can a pot act as both a pressure cooker AND canner?

This info is from one of our facebook friends: According to USDA, a canner must be able to hold at least 4 quart jars, and have a gauge or weight to allow you to measure 5, 10, and 15 lbs. pressure. The size is important because a bigger canner takes longer to come to pressure and cool down again, and that time is factored into the processing time they give you. Complete USDA canning times and recipes are available at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, at www.uga.edu/nchfp. However, I believe that any pressure CANNER can also be used as a pressure COOKER, it is just a matter of whether or not you want to use such a huge pot to pressure cook something. My Presto Pressure Canner says right on the box “Pressure Cooker / Canner”.

What is the difference between an electric and a traditional pressure cooker?

An electric pressure cooker plugs into the wall, only has two pressure settings, and does not need to be attended to. You simply select high or low pressure, and the amount of time you want to process it for. Once the time is up, you either let the pressure come down naturally or do a quick pressure release. The method you use depends on your recipe. For day to day use an electric pressure cooker is AWESOME. A traditional pressure cooker sits on your stovetop like a regular pot. You must bring it up to pressure and keep it at the right pressure so it is not safe to leave your kitchen while it processes. One benefit of a traditional pressure cooker is that it can be used in a powerless emergency if you have a gas stove.

What Pressure Cooker and Pressure Canner Do We Recommend?

We love the Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker and the Presto Pressure Canners. You can read more about them both on our Pressure Cookers/Pressure Canners page. We have found the best prices to be at Amazon.com so definitely check them out if you are going to get one. (sometimes Costco has the electric pressure cooker on sale for cheaper, so if you see it there, grab it!)

Want to see our Pressure Cookers and Canners in action?

Check out the following helpful posts:

How to Pressure Can Ground Beef

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup in the Pressure Cooker

How to Make Baby Food With a Pressure Cooker

Using a Pressure Cooker to Eat a “Food Storage Diet”
AND, next week on the blog we are going to be covering “How to Pressure Can CHICKEN” and “How to Pressure Cook Fabulous Beans”

Wiping you know what without toilet paper

By Joseph Parish
In every survivalist mind we have the following question sitting and waiting an answer however in most cases the individual is too embarrassed to openly ask the question. I will save everyone the red face of mortification and bring the topic out into the open at this time. When preparing for emergency situations people are often curious as to what they would have to do about toilet paper usage when the infrastructure declines and possibly remains permanently disabled.

In the past we have covered articles which dealt appropriately with extended loss of electricity, the storage of sufficient food and water supplies and other miscellaneous emergency equipment however the topic of toilet paper rarely surfaces in survival conversations. Consider for a moment a situation where the nation simply runs out of this bathroom commodity. What would you use in it’s place? Would you use clothes and simply rewash them as you would baby diapers? Would you look to Mother Nature for assistance by utilizing her fallen leaves from a nearby tree? Perhaps you would think back a few hundred years at early American ingenuity and grab up on corn cobs while they are still available. If you did stockpile some toilet paper how could you ever save up enough to provide your continued needs? Think slightly as to how life must be changing for the people in countries such as Haiti that have been devastated and the “nice-to-have” supplies simply are not getting into the country.

I have in the past during an emergency used large leaves in the woods for the obvious purpose and discovered that although they were a discomfort to use the process really was not as bad as I would have expected. Being realist about the issue we find that toilet paper is a valuable resource when the balloon goes up and none is around. Alternatives could be rags which have the edges hemmed. If this seems like an option you might wish to consider be advised to prepare them now while you can. Make as many as you feel that you would need. With proper washing and sanitizing as you would a small toddler’s diapers they should be usable for a very long period of time. 

By laundering your toilet clothes by hand you will find that they last much longer than if they were washed in a modern washing machine. The same applies to drying them. If you hang your clothes on a line they will have an extended life expectancy as opposed to the electric dryer as well as additional sanitization as a result of the hot sun’s rays. 

When creating your toilet clothes use a dark color material preferably fleece or terry cloth. Make each cloth at least a four inch by four inch square. With using dark colors the cloths can be cleaned but none of the stains will show visibly on them. Now let’s offer some equal opportunity advice here. Everyone and I mean everyone assuming they are old enough, capable mentally and physically should assume the responsibility of laundering and drying their own toilet cloths. An interesting point to ponder may be that each family member should have a different color cloth. 

If cost seems to be a major factor a search on your local Freecycle will net you an unusually large abundance of old towels, wash cloths or clothing that can be used for this purpose and they are free of charge. Your other alternative is to use a sponge and a pail of water as the ancient Romans used to do.

Copyright @2011 Joseph Parish

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Review

For those looking for a great emergency heating source this winter, check out the Big Buddy Heater by Mr. Heater.
To give you some background, my house is currently heated by a pellet stove. Even though it’s very efficient and heats the house nicely, the obvious issue is that it doesn’t work if there’s a power outage. As a backup I do have a wood-burning stove that I could install if there were an extended grid-down situation, but I wanted to have something that could be set up quickly and easily for short-term emergencies as well as a temporary solution until I would need to install the wood stove.
There were four things I was looking for: 1. It had to be propane fueled. 2. It needed to be portable. 3. It had to put out at least 10,000 BTU and 4. It had to be safe enough to use indoors. What I found that met all these requirements was the Mr. Heater Big Buddy heater. Here’s my review:

Setting up the Big Buddy Heater

Out of the box, the Big Buddy sets up very easily. It’s a simple matter of hooking up two disposable 1lb propane bottles (the ones that are typically used for camping applications) on either side of the heater, turning on the pilot light and firing up the heater.

Fitting a 20lb propane tank

Along with the Big Buddy, I also purchased a propane-tank adapter and hose. It actually accommodates two hoses to be fitted to the heater, allowing you to hook up two 20lb (or larger) propane tanks. The obvious benefit is extended run time. For example, two 1lb bottles will give you around 3 to 12 hours of heat (depending on what setting it’s on), whereas the two 20lb propane tanks last for 50 to 220 hours (again depending on the setting).
If you’re considering purchasing one of these hoses be sure to read my recommendations below.

Testing the Heat Output

Since I haven’t had this heater for that long I haven’t been able do any extensive testing but my initial impression is that this heater seems to put out a good amount of heat. There are 3 heat settings — low, medium, and high — which give off 4000/9000/18000 BTUs respectively.
With last night being in the early 20s (Fahrenheit) I thought I’d test it out for a few hours; so I ran this in a medium sized room (around 200 square feet) and it kept the room at a comfortable 73 degrees.


  • Battery or A/C powered blower fan for versatility
  • Low, medium, and high heat level control knob for steady temperatures
  • Key-shaped rear mounting holes for wall mounting
  • Built-in Piezo starter for easy starts
  • Automatic shut off for accidental tip-over and fume safety

Likes and Dislikes

Here’s a list of the good and bad:


  • Propane Fueled: Propane is one of the most stable fuels around. The great benefit of that is that it will store for many years without degradation.
  • Portable: Since this heater is lightweight and can be carried quite easily, it makes for a great bug-out heater. Also, it simplifies moving it around in different areas of the house in an emergency situation.
  • High Heat Output: With a maximum output of 18000 BTUs, the Big Buddy puts out a lot of heat for such a small unit. It easily fits my requirements for an emergency heater.
  • Can Be Used Indoors: For the most part, this heater is safe to use indoors. Even though the heater comes with a low-oxygen sensor that will shut the unit off if the sensor is activated, I would still recommend using a Carbon Monoxide alarm in the area where you are running this heater.


  • No AC Adapter: I don’t understand why they don’t provide the power cord for the blower fan. Instead it’s another “accessory” that you have to shell out money for. What a waste.
  • Can Clog if Not Careful: See my comments under the advice section

Some Words of Advice

The most common issue I’ve read about that people have found with this heater is that the regulators and control valves get clogged when running a 20lb tank. As one reviewer mentioned, this can be avoided when you ensure that you always shut the tank off first, then let the heater run until it burns off all the fuel in the lines.
If this procedure is not followed, the high PSI coming from the propane tank will get trapped in the accessory hose causing it to chemically react with the rubber and leech out an oily residue. This oil will clog both the regulator and control valve essentially ruining your heater.
In case you happen to forget to follow the above procedure, I highly recommend you purchase either the gas line filter that will catch the oily substance or a hose that comes with a regulator which lowers the PSI and prevents the chemical leeching (this is what I did).

Related posts:

  1. How to Make a Candle Heater
  2. Survival Car Heater – Carbon Monoxide Testing Results
  3. Military Sleep System Review