Dial Gauge Testing Time! As the temperatures warm (or not so much) let that be a reminder it’s the time of year again to get your pressure canner dial gauge tested. Dial gauges need to be tested for accuracy before each canning season or after dropping or banging it.
The manufacturer of your pressure canner is best able to provide you with instruction for inspection/gauge testing. Some companies require that you mail it in to them. You may also ask at a local hardware store or contact your local Cooperative Extension office, as some of them will do gauge testing for some brands of dial gauge pressure canners if they have an agent at that location who is trained to do so. Select your state from the drop-down list on this search tool to locate your county office: Find Your Local Extension Office.
Also as part of an annual “check-up”, make sure all parts of your pressure canner are in good condition. If your canner has a rubber gasket, make sure it is flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. Check the openings on any small pipes or vent ports to be sure they are clean and clear of any debris.
If you don’t have a pressure canner and are thinking about getting one, then make sure you select a pressure canner that is capable of holding at least 4 quart-size jars upright, on the rack, with a lid that secures airtight. If it is smaller than that, we do not recommend it for home canning using USDA canning procedures.
Whether your pressure canner has not yet been used this season or is new out of the box, it is a good idea to make sure it is working properly before preparing a canner load of jars. Put several inches of water in your pressure canner, and pressurize it as if canning. Make sure it gets to the pressure needed and can be maintained there without leaking. This is a good time to practice de-pressurizing the canner as if it had jars in it and then go through the steps for opening your canner as desired. Read step-by-step procedures for using pressure canners on the NCHFP website.
This blog post contains a revision of Can Your Vegetables Safely by Dr. Elizabeth Andress.