Today I really want to share my own Ball FreshTech Automatic Canner Review with you. I purchased a Ball FreshTech Automatic Canner about a year ago. They had just come out and there wasn’t much in the way of reviews for them. The woman at the store I bought it from said they were a really hot item at the time. I was still on the fence, and since she had a display model available she offered it to me at a discount, so I decided to take the plunge.
Since then I’ve seen a lot of reviews and talked to a lot of people about the FreshTech Automatic Canner. I recently decided to write my own review, hoping to help anyone who may be considering this purchase. Before I start I want to say that I would consider myself a pretty serious canner. I don’t do this as a business and I don’t can on a large production scale, but I can a couple times a week during the spring, summer and fall – enough to have a supply of jams, jellies and canned goods to give as gifts and to provide enough vegetables, fruits and jam for my own family that we rarely have to purchase any store bought.
I want to start by covering the things I’ve seen most often complained about. The first is that the canner has a small capacity. It can accommodate up to three quarts or four pint jars at a time (Ball has some recipes online that use up to six 8 oz jars in the auto canner as well). The second is that the canner is somewhat limited recipe wise. Because you are canning by preset options it is difficult to use your own recipes, as you cannot adjust the boiling times. The canner does come with a book that has a great set of basic recipes as well as additional recipes online, and I have been able to use some of my own when they are similar enough to ones suggested in the book, but if you are the kind of person who wants to can large batches of your own recipes and have control over the time your jars are boiling, this is definitely not the way to do it. These may seem like pretty severe limitations, but as I’ve discovered in the last few months, these complaints are actually really useful features.
When I first purchased the canner I tried a few recipes, quickly ran into these limitations and wound up going back to my standard water bath canning method (a stock pot and some very basic tools). Typically, when I am canning I try to do as much as possible in one sitting. This allows me to take advantage of the fruit or vegetable being in season, and ensures I make enough to last the whole year. When I make my Peach basil jam, which is one of my most requested recipes, I’m using 10 or 20 lbs of peaches at once. Using the automatic canner would take me far too long for such a large batch. So, for some time my FreshTech canner sat unused.
Then I moved, and in the house now we have a small garden out back and we belong to two local CSA programs. The first thing you’ll realize when you start your own garden or join a CSA is that you’re never dealing with 10 pounds of something. I may get a pound of beans from out back or 2 pounds of cucumbers from the CSA, and I’m suddenly finding that I need to scale back many recipes to accommodate the smaller batches.
I quickly realized this is what the FreshTech Canner was designed for. When I want to make just a quart of pickles or two pints of jam I don’t have to go through all the trouble of pulling out a giant stock pot and various accessories, heating water and so on. The FreshTech canner works with only a fraction of the water you would normally use for waterbath canning. It has a feature to preheat the jars, which really comes in handy – I’ll turn on the preheating setting and pop all of my jars in, then just go about preparing whatever it is that I’m canning. By the time I’m ready to fill my jars they are hot and waiting. After filling them I just pop them back in the FreshTech Canner, set the options for whatever recipe I am using and walk away. I don’t need to stand over a pot to make sure the water is boiling or simmering and I don’t need to set timers, because the FreshTech canner automatically heats the water and shuts off at the end of the cycle. Now, instead of lots of pots and utensils to wash, I only have to worry about sticking the inner pot and jar rack in my dishwasher later on. Again, when making large batches this is not an option because you would have to run too many cycles, making large batches frustrating and time consuming. But when only have a small amount of food to process this Automatic Canner does a whole lot to simplify the work. And this is basically exactly what I need, because I often find myself procrastinated over those small batches. Do I really want to go through all the trouble for just one pint of pickled beets or a jar of spiced peaches?
I also find it great for days when I have a few different recipes to use, as I often do after a CSA pickup. For example, this week I had a couple pounds of cucumbers to pickle. I also had a head of cauliflower, some carrots and a few beets to pickle and just enough blueberries for a pint of Blueberries with Lavender in Vanilla Bean Syrup. The FreshTech Automatic Canner is perfect for exactly this. I can put my pickles in first, then start on preparing the beets while the pickles are preserving. I don’t have to watch the clock because the Automatic Canner will beep when it’s finished, allowing me to be distracted by a new recipe. Once the pickles are done I’ll use the canner to preheat the next batch of jars while I finish up with the beets. The I’ll jar them and put them right back in to preserve while I start on the blueberries. In this way it makes working through a number of small recipes extremely easy. Using a traditional waterbath canner I would probably not attempt so many different recipes in one day, especially not in such small quantities.
In short, the Ball FreshTech Automatic Canner was designed to be a backyard garden or farmer’s market canner. Is it good for beginners? Yes, absolutely. It simplifies a lot of the more tedious parts of canning, and I think for someone just starting out and making a few batches of jam here and there it will work really well. But I certainly won’t say that seasoned users should stay away. You’ll still want to hold on to your traditional waterbath canners for those times when you find 20 pounds of tomaotoes just perfect for sauce, but any avid Farm Stand shopper or backyard gardener will absolutely find the FreshTech Automatic Canner to be a versatile and handy canning tool.
If you already own a FreshTech Automatic Canner, weigh in down in the comments. What do you love or hate about it?