Canning is one of those things that always sounded so good, but the actual process intimidated me terribly. It’s why I was so excited to jump on the chance to review the FreshTech Canning System. Could this all in one device provide all of the benefits of canning with none of the headaches? Read on to find out!
For those who are not familiar with canning, it’s a way to preserve foods in glass jars. By heating the jarred food to the right temperature and letting it cool, the jars are sealed tight, and can be kept in a pantry for months or years. You can preserve sauces, jams, salsas, and similar recipes. Since my wife is a regular at our town’s farmer’s market, we tend to end up with large bags of produce, and so we’ve had canning on our radar for some time as a way to make sure we don’t end up choosing recipes based on the “We have ten pounds of tomatoes to eat in a week” criteria. Traditional canning involves using a pot of water and monitoring the temperatures and timing carefully, but the FreshTech takes care of all that automatically.
While the FreshTech is physically large, it’s very light and easy to move. This is good, since it’s a bit too unwieldy to keep on your kitchen counter all the time. Setup is incredibly easy; there’s a removable pot with clear markings showing the water fill line, and a rack to support the jars and jar-grabbing device are included so you don’t burn your hands grabbing hot jars. All it takes to get started is to fill the water, insert the inner pot, close the lid, and hit “preheat”. You can also add the rack and jars if you want to sanitize your jars while the device is preheating.
After 12 minutes (which is helpfully counted down on the LCD in the front), you can grab and remove your jars and begin filling them. The manual suggests that you fill the jars within an hour after preheating, to remove them one at a time, and to keep the lid closed while you are filling a jar, as all these things help maintain the hot jars and prevent bacterial growth. Once your filled jars are back in the FreshTech, you lock the lid back down and input the recipe code for the food you are canning. There’s an included booklet that gives the recipe codes along with some easy to follow recipe ideas. I chose to make applesauce, both because we had a ton of extra apples, and because applesauce is basically foolproof. Peel, core, and slice the apples, boil them in water or apple juice, add some cinnamon, and cook until they’re soft. For smooth applesauce, throw the cooked apples in a food processor — even I can make that!
I popped my applesauce-filled jars into the FreshTech, inputted the settings for fruits (and applesauce in particular), and hit Start. Aside from a slight hissing sound and the steam coming out of the vents, there really wasn’t much noise, and outside our kitchen you couldn’t even hear the machine going. It did let out a loud, clear musical tone when finished, which I was able to hear two rooms over. Once your canning is complete, the machine has you go through a cleaning process to ensure the steam vent is clear, and then you’re ok to reset the display and clean the parts.
Not only is the entire process very simple, I appreciated how easy it was to follow food safety regulations, as well as how clearly the manual explained what needed to be done and why. These ranged from tips like leaving the sanitized jars in the closed device until they are being filled, to how and why to clean the steam vent, as well as tips to identify what to do if your canning process may have failed. They also include two small vent cleaning tools, which are great, but they happen to be my main quibble with an otherwise fantastic package. The vent cleaning tools are tiny; they are around the size of large paper clips. While two are included, and secured to the back of the recipe book, these are likely to get misplaced or lost easily. Because a blocked steam vent is a serious safety issue (no one wants hot steam building up like it’s a pressure cooker), the FreshTech alerts users to clean the vent each use. A compartment or snap-on spot to hold the vent cleaner on the device itself would make this process even easier and lessen the risk that a tiny piece of twisted metal get misplaced or lost.
The cleaning tool is really my only complaint about the FreshTech. Otherwise, it’s a very impressive kitchen appliance. Altogether, it took me about an hour to complete canning my homemade applesauce, and only about 15 minutes of that was active work. Even including the time it took me to make the applesauce, the entire process was under two hours, and not only do we now have delicious applesauce, but we have it preserved and saved for later! The FreshTech easily held the three jars we had on hand, and I suspect you could probably fit four in at a time. For average home canning, four jars completed in under 2 hours, with plenty of time to sit back and relax, is pretty amazing! Even if you were canning larger amounts for friends and family, this is a significantly faster and easier process than the traditional stove top method, and you can rest easy that the temperatures are being automatically regulated.
At $299.95, the FreshTech is not a frivolous kitchen appliance. It’s not something you buy because you might need it “someday”. But if you’re looking for a way to get into canning, or if you’ve been canning and want a cleaner and less labor intensive way to do it, the FreshTech is a wonderful device. It’s designed nicely, it’s easy to program, it’s simple to use, and if you or someone in your life has a surplus of produce, it’s a fantastic tool. Yes, it’s a lot for a sunk cost, but it’s no more expensive than a high-end blender or KitchenAid Mixer. And if you seriously intend to buckle down and do a fair amount of preserving, this will save you time and money long-term!
What I Like: Very simple to set up and use; comes with recipes and tips; takes the stress and guesswork out of canning.
What Needs Improvement: Cleaning tool is rather small; does not include any starter jars.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit