I sure agree with alaskafarmer that canning meat makes even the toughest parts very tender. Since we don't have electricity, we can most of our meat. You could get by without one if you dried all your meat, though, but a canner is very nice.
When you're looking at canners, what they say for the size is usually not the amount of jars it will hold. For example, one of my canners is a 12 quart canner, but that refers to the amount of liquid it will hold. It will really only can 7 quart jars at one time, which is plenty for our family of 5. I think that's a good size for even one person since you will probably be canning bears and moose. We also have a smaller one, but even though it's the same brand as the larger one, I have to replace the gasket more often, and it doesn't hold the heat/pressure as well even at it's best. A larger one would be good, too --- one that is tall enough to stack pints, but if I had one of the really large ones I'd want a smaller one, too, so you didn't have to fill it with water-filled jars just to do those last few pounds of meat. So, all that said, I think the best size in general for anyone is a 12 quart canner that holds 7 quart jars at a time.
I've known lots of folks who have bought used ones that worked great. I would love to find one at a garage sale or something. If you can find one at a good price, grab it! I would, however, use it a few times before getting to the bush and having to depend on it. If it's used, it may need a new gasket or other parts. Those are nice to have on hand anyway so it doesn't slow you down (or completely stop you) if you're in the bush and the gasket cracks or something. If you end up with the gage kind instead of the type with the weight, have it checked at your local extension service before you use it. I've never heard of the kind with the auto pressure control, but that sounds great! I love the quiet ones, but I do forget about them. So for me, the weight works better even though I could do without the noise. Oh, and if you get a used one, make sure the bottom is flat. After using my smaller one several times on an electric stove, the bottom warped and it won't set flat on my cookstove anymore. It's just about impossible to get the pressure up in that little canner, but once it's there it does all right. I don't know why the electric stove did that since it didn't seem to get any hotter than on any other stove. Oh well.
I've used a wood stove, Coleman propane camp stove, electric and gas stoves, and I think the absolute easiest
to use for canning is my woodburning cookstove. When I had to use the Coleman for a few loads, it took a very long time to get the pressure up and seemed harder to control. Used up a ton of propane, too. We have some friends who have one of those 2 or 3 burner propane cookers from Lehman's (not a camp stove like the Coleman). We canned fish together on it once and it works very well. I wouldn't buy one just for canning, though. Electric stoves are the most difficult, in my opinion, but if you're doing a lot of canning, you sort of get the hang of where the dial should be and when and how much to turn it for adjustments. Same with the wood stove, too. Each stove is different and you'll get used to whatever kind you have. I try to have lots of fairly small, dry pieces of wood in the house so I don't end up cooling the fire too much during the canning by adding large frozen chunks of wood. I usually don't have to add any wood to the fire once it gets up to pressure anyway. If the stove is hot, which it usually is by that point, I can shut it down pretty good and scoot the canner over to the middle of the stove. If the rattling begins to slow too much, I just scoot it back over the fire a bit and open the draft a little.
Oh, back to the size again. Since we have what I call a medium size canner and a smaller one (can't remember the exact size, but I think it holds only 5 quart jars), I have tried using both at the same time. I have heard of this working for some people, and is wonderful if you have a moose or a ton of stuff to can at once. But it doesn't work well on my stove. I have an antique Waterford Stanley, which is somewhat small. I love the stove, but a larger one would be better for using two canners at once ---- say if you found a good deal on a "double decker" one and also found one a bit smaller. With that combo you could sure put up a moose in no time!
The Ball Blue book has really good information on canning, so glad you found that. If you have questions about things, you can also call the extension service in Palmer. I think your land is in the Mat-Su valley, so that will be a local call for you. They've been very helpful when I've called with questions.
If you're planning to pick berries and make jelly, jams, catsup, etc, then it would be a good idea to pick up a water bath canner, too. You need a pot large enough to cover the jars by at least one inch (I think that's what the extension service says) and allow room for the water to boil. I know that many folks just use the method of turning the jars over after filling with the hot jelly or whatever. Can't remember now how long to leave the jars and such, but I did that a couple of years. I always ended up with a few moldy jars, so I finally bought an inexpensive enamel one for doing a boiling water bath for jellies and such. I don't like the rack that came with it. Instead I use the rack that came with the pressure canner. You could use a towel or just about anything to keep the jars off the bottom and from breaking.
That reminds me --- If you buy a used pressure canner, and if it doesn't have some sort of rack in the bottom, that's OK. You can probably either buy one, make one from a cake cooling rack, make one from slats of wood or sticks, or even use a folded towel in the bottom.
As for putting up vegetables, I now dehydrate everything instead of canning. Having the canned veggies does make for quick meals though, but vegetables, except beans, are pretty quick anyway. I do it for several reasons. Our family has grown, so I got tired of canning so many vegetables. When they're dried, I can just fill up zip-lock plastic bags, then store them in plastic totes or 5 gallon buckets in the cache. Dehydrated vegetables take up much less room than canned. Also, I don't have to worry about using up my jars that I will need for meat, so it's cheaper to dry them. Since we have to fly everything out in charter planes, I don't like flying any more jars than I have to. Usually just blanch for a few minutes, then drain, spread out on the drying racks, and in a day or so they're ready to bag up. I've read that dehydrating preserves more of the nutrients, too. I dry fiddleheads, chickweed (BTW, chickweed is very nutritious and makes a very good salad, usually before anything else you've planted is ready in the garden, and is good cooked like spinach, but doesn't dry quite as well as other greens), other wild greens like watermelon berry leaves, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, turnip greens, rhubarb, and pretty much everything else. Since I don't really care for turnips except as pickles, I don't dry them, but you could.
I have a book that has an extensive chart for dehydrating so you know how long to blanch (usually 2-4 minutes), how you know when they're dry enough, how to rehydrate them, and the best methods for preparation since some vegetables don't rehydrate as well as others. I think the book is "Making the Best of the Basics" or something like that. If you're interested in drying but don't have a book or don't know how to dry what you're doing, let me know and I'll look it up. Most things turn out very well, and we even like some things better dehydrated, like kale and collards. I think the flavor of dehydrated greens is much better than those that have been canned.
Well, over the years, that's just what I've found works for me. Everybody does things different. So just to answer your questions, a 12 quart canner that will can 7 quart jars at once should be plenty big enough for you. A used one would certainly be worth a try since new ones are expensive now. And I wouldn't buy a propane stove just for canning. A wood stove will work fine.
Oh, I hate it when I post at night. I talk way too much when I'm tired
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