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I would never buy an AA, nor would I recommend one. Funny, because three years ago, it was on my want list!
My mother had one, and I used it when I was younger, and I HATED pressure canning, it was so fussy and demanding. I thought it HAD to be that way. Imagine my surprise to learn that it doesn't.
I bought a Presto 23 qt. It has changed my opinion of pressure canners, irrevocably. It is so easy to use that it has opened a doorway for me, and I don't dread canning low acid foods. It is the only canner I own - I use it instead of a waterbath canner also (I steam can with it). I never put it away, it gets used so often.
Five reasons I won't buy an AA:
1. I cannot justify the cost. I have a Presto, 23 qt. It does everything I need, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I use it for WB, and Pressure canning. I use it on average a couple of times a week for one or the other. The cost of it is so much lower (about 1/4 the cost), and the quality is excellent. If my Presto canner gets damaged, replacement isn't going to wipe me out either!
2. An AA is just too heavy. The only advantage an AA has is that some models can have a larger capacity, but the larger capacity AA is so heavy loaded I cannot move it, even to slide it across the stove. I can move the Presto, and it is about as heavy as I can move. The AA is also so large that I would feel guilty doing smaller batches, don't feel that way with the Presto. My mother's AA was so heavy loaded that it damaged the burner on the stove. The largest AA is also tall enough that it will not easily fit under all stove hoods.
3. I live in a rental with a glass stove. The Presto is made for glass stoves. It has a drop plate in the bottom so the contact surface of the bottom of the canner does not overlap the burner edges. The AA is flat bottomed, and traps the heat on the burner, which can cause overheating and cracking in the stove top (theoretically - there are warnings about it).
4. The Presto has a gasket. If the gasket wears, I can replace it. The AA has a metal to metal seal, and it needs to be handled carefully to avoid denting the edges. If the sealing edges on the AA are dented significantly the canner is ruined. You can't repair it, and you can't replace a part to salvage it. You can replace the lid, but it costs as much as a Presto canner to do so. If you are worried about a damaged gasket interrupting your canning, just keep a spare on hand.
5. The AA has a gauge, and no weights, so you have to watch the thing through the whole cycle. The Presto has a gauge and a weight, and you can get a three piece weight for it if you need pressures other than 15 lbs (comes with a 15 lb weight, I'm at high altitude, so I'm good). I can HEAR this canner from any room in the upstairs of the house. I can hear when it starts to steam, the safety latch pops up - time to put on the weight. I drop the weight on, and then go back to my other work. When it is up to pressure, the weight starts rocking and makes a different noise, and I know it is right. I turn the heat down (I've learned just where to turn it), and set the timer. I can HEAR whether the pressure is steady or not, and if it starts to drop, or goes too high, I hear it. I NEVER have to sit and babysit a canner. It just works SOOOO easy.
6. If I end up needing larger capacity, I'll simply buy a second Presto canner. It is far more flexible than one huge one, and even with two, I'm still at only half the price of a single AA canner. You don't gain as much time as you'd think with a larger canner, since it takes so much longer to heat up, come up to pressure, and then cool down. I've timed this. Light loads in a large canner work almost the same as it does with a smaller canner - with a single layer of jars, the canner heats up in about 10 minutes, comes to pressure in about 8 minutes, and cools enough to remove the weight in about 15 minutes. With a full double decker of pint jars the same canner takes 20 minutes to heat up, 15 minutes to come up to pressure, and about 35 minutes to cool enough to remove the weight. So bigger canner, longer times involved. Might as well use two canners, and keep them both going for a smoother work load.
7. I never spend time fussing with getting the lid to seal with the Presto. AA metal to metal seal is fussier to get seated right, and to get an airtight bond. A rubber gasket just does the job more easily. To seal an AA, you have to get the lid level (not always easy to see), and tighten down the toggle bolts on opposite sides, and then proceed around the canner, one side, then the other. If it is not level to start, you will get steam escaping the edges, and you have to cool the canner, release the lid, and start over. A small annoyance. But one that just NEVER happens with canners that have gaskets! You just put the lid on and twist, and you are done!
I use this canner for waterbath canning also, except I use it as a steam canner for that. How to use a pressure canner as a steam canner.
Funny thing is, the only pressure canners I'd ever used were my mother's old Maid of Honor (an old Presto that was branded for Sears), and my mother's new AA. Both had gauges you had to watch. I was leery of a canner with a weight, silly me. So I had the AA on my list of "someday I really want".
I had decided that even though it was a hassle and I hated it, I needed to can meats. Growing your own, you just need to be able to preserve it in many ways. I simply RESIGNED myself to what I thought was the inevitability of watching a canner to ensure that the pressure stayed level for two hours at a time! (Time including coming up to heat, and coming up to pressure, and the meat cycle for quarts.)
I bought the Presto simply because I could not AFFORD an AA, and the Presto was the biggest canner with a gauge that I could afford at the time, and the AA is now permanently OFF my want list.
Best purchase EVER.
That canner has been the most amazing blessing to us. Three deer this year (one Kevin shot, and two were given to us, one wrapped, one not yet skinned), and most of the meat is going into jars. I did bone broth from the bones of the first one (won't from this current one, it is too gamey), and made soup and chili.
Last year my sister gave us extra garden produce and a lot of apples. This year I have a lot of squash, and had quite a bit of garden produce from various sources. It is either dehydrated, or canned, depending on what it is. I now have a storage room with a healthy food storage, where 2 years ago we had no food storage at all (long story, this was NOT usual for us), and the vast majority is home canned.
And all of the canning done when I was not even in the room while the canner did its thing. I put it on the burner, leave the room, and listen for the latch to pop so I can put the weight on. Then I ditch out again and just listen for the weight to start rocking so I can set the timer. Adjust the heat, leave the room and wait for the timer to go off. Turn off the burner, and walk away until the latch drops. My ears can monitor the whole process from another room in the house. I never thought it could be that easy!
For many years I could not handle canned foods, but I've healed enough that I can now, and canning has helped me avoid many processed foods, replacing them with my own quick meals in jars. Some meats I can digest better when pressure cooked, and I handle beans best when they are well cooked under high heat.
The Presto 23qt canner has taken pressure canning from a dreaded task for me, to something simple enough to use on a regular basis, throughout most of the year.
I was rather shocked to hear of lowering standards for AA canners. While I do not see the justification for the cost, according to the benefit for myself and the majority of home canners, I had no cause to believe that their quality was declining.
This article explains a situation I had not thought would occur: Buying and All American Canner - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
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