Here's a very simple, inexpensive switch that can make pressure canning much easier and more reliable: My pressure canner came with a pressure dial steam gauge and a vent weight (see photo right) - but this winter, I switched to a rocker gauge (see photo below and to the left) - which completely takes the place of the steam gauge. I love it! Here's why:
* I find the canner needs far less babysitting with a rocker gauge. It simply regulates the pressure in the canner better.
* I've already ruined one gauge by dropping my canner lid on the floor. Steam dial gauges are delicate and if they start mis-reading, you'll either overcook the food you're canning (a taste and nutrition problem) or you'll undercook it (a safety issue).
* All experts (including pressure canner manufacturers and the U.S. government) say you need to have your steam dial gauge checked every canning season. The only place to do this is at a local extension office. I don't have one very close by and the whole idea of making a special trip just to make sure my gauge is correct sounds like a real pain. And because of funding problems, who knows how long my local extension office will even be open.
* The rocker gauge requires no maintenance. Ah, that's much easier!
So how did I make the switch? It's easy. Leave the dial gauge in place and remove the vent weight. Place the rocker gauge where the vent used to be. (It just sits on top.) It's that simple!
To use the rocker gauge, before placing the rocker on the canner, add or remove the weight pieces to obtain the correct amount of pressure. When the canner comes up to pressure, the rocker will literally start rocking back and forth, regulating the pressure. You no longer need to check the steam dial gauge.
For my Presto canner, the rocker was just $12. Check with your pressure canner's manufacturer for information on how to obtain the correct rocker gauge for your canner.