Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Canning Tools from Progressive

Just when I'd thought there was nothing new to make canning easier - and believe me, I'm always on the lookout - I heard about some pretty impressive-sounding home canning gadgets that were recently brought to the market by Progressive International. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to get a chance to try some of them out and a couple of weeks ago I got that chance. Thanks to the nice people at Progressive, a box of goodies arrived at my doorstep containing a new canning rack, lid lifter and the item I was most looking forward to trying, a canning funnel with head-space measurements listed right on the tool.

New canning tools from Progressive International
Truly, I don't know of too many big advances in equipment for the home canner in the 20+ years I've been involved in the past-time, so this is a pretty big deal. Here are my unvarnished opinions of the three items I tried:

I was most looking forward to trying out the canning funnel. If you look at the picture, you can see the head-space measurements on the funnel, with a nifty gap in it so you can easily see the side of the jar. This funnel fits regular or wide mouth jars perfectly and is a definite step forward in canning tools.

If you're new to the art of preserving, you'll love this tool because it takes the guesswork out of the whole head-space issue. If, like me, you've been doing this so long that you'd know those jar markers blindfolded, the Progressive canning funnel has a nice surprise in store for you as well.

The part of the funnel that fits inside the jars is shorter than the outer collar. This means you can put the funnel down without ever having the messy inner part touch your work surface. I can't emphasize enough what a joy it is to get through the jar-filling process without a mess on my counter-top. Simple, but brilliant!

Another item I tried was the Progressive lid lifter. This is basically your traditional magnetic tool, designed to remove hot canning lids from a pan of simmering water. The upgrade here? The tool has a rounded bottom, which allows you to place the lid directly onto your jars as usual, and then roll the lifter to the side, which releases the lid without ever being touched by human hands. I'm sort of thinking this may be a solution for a problem that doesn't exist, but it's also one of those things that couldn't hurt either. On the plus side, it works as promised, has a nice feel in your hand and doesn't seem to suffer any of the magnet loss issues so common in the Ball version I've used until now.

Finally, I tried out Progressive's new canning rack, which ended up being the most wonderful surprise of all! It seems so simple, yet it's a true improvement on the past and a great step forward for home canners. The stainless steel rack is reversible. Put it into your water bath canner one way and it's a perfect fit for seven small sized jars. Flip it over and it holds up to four quart jars nicely. The best part? If you're using smaller jars, the racks are stackable. Add a second rack and you can add an entire second layer of seven more small size jars. What a time-saver! I loved this one so much, I'm planning to buy myself another.

All in all, these are really nice tools and I appreciate the thoughtful design that Progressive put into them. Nice to see a company breathe new life into the old standby tools. By the way, all of these canning tools are dishwasher safe. That's a definite plus as well! If you want to try them out for yourself, you can find them at Sur la Table and Kitchen Kaboodle stores now, as well as a few other gourmet kitchen shops around the country. You can also check them out online at ProgressiveIntl.com.

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