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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Jackie Clay

Q and A: pressure canner trouble and planting heirloom vegetables

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Pressure canner trouble

I ordered a Presto canner and tried it out first to make sure I could keep the pressure at 10 lbs as required. I didn’t have much luck. I did more research and read that someone purchased a 5/10/15 lb. rocker that maintains the correct pressure by using the right weight of rocker. You just disregarded the gauge. Is this info correct? Also, if I can above the 10 lbs. on the gauge (11-14 lbs.) will I have problems with the outcome of my canned goods?

One more thing, I purchased lids that look like a commercial canning lid. It has the rubber ring on the inside and is one piece as opposed to the regular tin lid and ring we usually use on a mason jar. Will these be ok?

Walters Falls, Ontario

I’m glad to hear you bought a pressure canner. But was sorry you couldn’t maintain the pressure. I don’t know what model you bought. If yours didn’t come with instructions, you can get them at Some have adjustable weight pressure regulators that you remove rings to lessen the pressure. Others have a weight and gauge. With the weight and gauge, you can either use the 15-pound weight and just adjust the heat to keep the gauge at the correct pressure or remove a ring giving the weight regulator the correct 10 pounds you need. Then adjust the heat so the weight rocks a few times a minute, spitting out bursts of steam to keep the pressure perfect. No, You don’t disregard the gauge. Eleven pounds will have no effect on your canning, nor will 12 pounds, but I’d avoid 13-14 pounds as it may overcook your food, softening it.

I know the type of lids you refer to. They work fine as they will indent when sealed like the two-piece lids do. Two-piece lids require both a lid and ring and are usually cheaper as you only need to buy new lids each year, reusing the rings over and over where the one piece lids require you to buy the whole thing each year.
I’m always glad to help. Once you get the hang of your canner, you’ll be amazed at how easy it really is. — Jackie

Planting heirloom vegetables

Can you recommend a book or guide that tells me how far apart to plant various heirloom seeds such as tomatoes, beans etc. I have never grown heirlooms before and am trying to figure what I can squeeze into my garden area. I also am wanting to save the seeds for future years. We have decided to grow only heirlooms not only to save money but want to get away from the gmo stuff.

Judy Hiatt
Marysville, Kansas

Heirloom seeds are planted the same distance apart as are hybrid seeds. Some seeds need to be started indoors in most climates, such as tomatoes, peppers, and many herbs. Indeterminate tomatoes are generally planted about 2-3 feet apart and staked and caged up so they don’t sprawl. Determinate tomatoes (non-vining) can be planted 18-24 inches apart and staked. Beans are usually planted about 3-4 inches apart, often in double rows eight inches apart. Corn is usually planted about 4 inches apart in rows two feet apart for ease of walking between and cultivating. There is a lot of this type of information in my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, available through the magazine or the blog right here.

I’m dead set against GMO foods but very few garden seeds are genetically modified (with the exception of commercially grown sweet corn seed which is often contaminated by windblown pollen from large cornfields). Don’t mistake the word “hybrid” with GMO. They are entirely different. Hybrids result in a cross between two plants of the same species either on purpose or by accident. GMOs are crosses between different species, say a bacteria and corn or insect and corn. — Jackie

5 Responses to “Q and A: pressure canner trouble and planting heirloom vegetables”

  1. Steve Says:

    Regarding Judy’s question about how far apart to plant Heirloom seeds, I think she wanted to know how far apart she needs to plant them to avoid cross pollination. She mentioned wanting to save seeds. The book I have found to be very helpful in this regard is, “Saving Seeds” by Marc Rogers.

  2. Judy Says:

    Judy, go to your county extension agent and get all the pamphlets that the K- State Extension Service has published for growing gardens in the State of Kansas. I haven’t meet an agent yet that didn’t cheerful spend the time that was necessary to help me understand what it took to grow what I was asking questions about. They also have a lot of information about organic gardening in our state. You can also go to the their web site and download all the pamphlets: Good Luck in your garden!

  3. Judy Hiatt Says:

    Thank you Jackie that will be the next book i purchase

  4. Judy Hiatt Says:

    Also thank the other Judy in our wonderful state of KANSAS I will be at the extension office ASAP.

  5. jackie clay atkinson Says:


    Duh! Thanks for the insight! What was I thinking???


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