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Let me insert this statement from the beginning; (when I first started canning I was very green and naïve and did not realize there were parts that needed to be replaced from time to time. But after reading and going to a few canning classes I realized these parts needed to be cared for and replaced from time to time. I do not use my pressure canners as so many people do. I do not can seasonally I use my pressure canners all the time. I wash them well and store them in a cabinet that is within my kitchen, where I keep cases of empty jars, lids and extra rings and other canning items.)
I wish I had a picture of the safety pressure plug that I threw away several years ago, from one of the pressure canners of a friend that attended a canning class.
The particular safety plug that I threw away was literally crumbling. The rubber was aged and eaten away from the edges. This friend of mine said that when started a load of jars to pressure can that steam kept escaping around the plug. He said he tried to pack a towel over it and weight it down, but it just soaked the towel with steam and never would build the proper pressure. He said it would build up to 7 or 8 pounds of pressure, and he did not know what the problem was.
I took him to the Hardware store and showed them the old plug. They sold me a plug for around $3.00. We oiled the plug and properly installed it we also oiled the gasket on his pressure canner. This changed my friends canning life for the good. For the first time ever there was no leaking steam while he pressure canned his jars.
Even though it seems like the canner is up to pressure and the weight eventually jiggles as it should and everything seems to be going right, it is possible those old seals or plugs are not really letting the canner reach the proper pressure, and without that, the contents of the jars may not reach a high enough temperature to safely preserve the food in the mason jars.
Using Common Sense I take my canning so serious. As a canner each one of us should always have spare parts stored away for those times that we have need of them. This is a note for each and everyone that uses pressure canners it is a smart idea to have spare parts on hand when you need them. If we stock up on spare parts we will be prepared, then we will not have to stop in the middle of canning a batch of some food product to find a local store to go buy the part that is needed. And you will not mess up a batch of some good food products or even loose the food all together. By having these spare parts you save time, money and the food.
I have 2 Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and 1 All American 921 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Canner they each have the model number stamped on them, therefore it is easy to buy extra parts for them.
Amazon is the easy source for me to go and buy canner parts for both Presto and All-American. I find so many neat utensils that I use for canning on Amazon. Amazon is often cheaper than the local hardware store, and more likely to have the part or utensil that you need in stock.
It is a good idea to check your safety plugs, and canner seals on a regular bases and also keep up with the fact as to whether you need to order any replacement parts. I assure you it is a good idea to order extra parts and to keep them in stock so you will always have extra parts on hand.
Personally for me when my extras arrive I check to see that I have the right ones, then I put them back in their wrappers or boxes and seal them in food saver bags to slow down oxidation. Then, just like the food that I work hard to preserve, I store these spare parts in cool, dark drawer near my canning utensils. Both heat and light have the ability to break down the material these parts are made of just like they break down our food.
Some newer seals are made of silicone or plastic and doe not need as much care to maintain them. But many of you still have older pressure canners and the parts they use can dry out and crack quicker it seems than the newer pressure canner parts of today.
There is an old wives tale, of soaking them in water but that is not really effective. Rubber does not absorb water. If you feel the need to "soften" or preserve these parts, I recommend spreading a thin layer of cooking oil on them. Wipe excess oil off with a paper towel before you use. I also suggest that you do not over-do the oiling of the rubber seals and gaskets.
My personal standard practice for storing my canners each time of canning is to put a light layer of oil on the seal and the safety plug, so they remain pliable, flexible and durable so the pressure canners perform at their peak performance every time that I use them to preserve quality food products.
I do not recommend storing my pressure canners with the lids on them, sealed and tight. I turn my lids upside down on each canner. My reasoning is that you give the seals a time of relaxation or rest if I can call it that, so they are ready for the work they were made to perform. I honestly believe this time of rest and relaxation gives them longer life.
I personally store the pressure weights for my pressure canners in the cabinet drawer next to my stove where I use them to preserve the food. I do not ever want to be without my pressure weights, nor do I want them lost, because they are too expensive for us to replace.
I have now been canning with my 2 Presto Canners since late 2009 (almost 7 years) I have never had to replace a gasket or a safety pressure seal in these 2 Presto pressure canners. I have been using the All-American Pressure Canner since 2012 and have never replaced the safety pressure seal. But I have kept all of these parts well oiled. You see Canning is more than just a hobby to me, or a necessary activity for food preservation or survival. Pressure canning or preserving food is a serious issue of safety and proper food management for me.
One thing that I do and I suggest that you do it also is to make sure you include extra parts for your pressure canners in your storage area. Store these parts properly so that you can get the longest shelf life possible and you will have them when needed.