A company called Progressive is about to release to the market a set of five new tools for home canners, and I’ve had an early opportunity to try them out. Here’s what I’ve found.
The stainless-steel wire jar rack, 10½ inches in diameter, has petal-like loops that flare upward from the center, to 1/2 inch above the base. The rack holds seven pint or half-pint standard mason jars, narrow- or wide-mouth, more securely than has any other wire rack I’ve used. Here you see the rack in my 16-quart stockpot with jars of various sizes. Flip the rack over, and it will hold four standard quart jars.
The peculiar shape of the red and white plastic ladle allows you to scoop nearly all of a batch of hot jam quickly into jars instead of having to pour and scrape it from the pot when you’ve given up on your round-bottomed ladle. One scoop fills a half-pint jar. Although the plastic looks as if it would melt in a dishwasher, Progressive says it will stand heat of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The ladle suffered no harm, in fact, when I used it to stir a pot of hot chili on the stove. The ladle has both a hook for hanging from the side of a pot and a loop for hanging from a rack.
The plastic funnel is made up of two parts, an inner red part that fits into the mouth of a mason jar and an outer white part marked in fractions of an inch for measuring headspace. This works well for liquids, but to see clearly whether vegetable or fruit pieces are floating up into the headspace you’ll still have to look into the top of the jar.
Because the white part of the funnel extends lower than the red part, you can set the funnel on a dirty counter without contaminating the part that will enter your jars. The handle on the side makes the funnel extra bulky, but it helps keep fingers out of the interior, and you can hang the funnel by the handle, if you like, instead of stuffing it in a drawer. (The pickle pictured here, by the way, is cauliflower colored by red cabbage. I don’t actually process this pickle or heat any of the ingredients.)
The jar lifter is the only one of these tools that doesn’t strike me as special. Its spring-loaded hinges keep the lifter open until you grasp the top, and this feature is supposed to make the lifter easy to use one-handed. But I’ve never had any trouble using my thirty-some-year-old jar lifter with one hand. I like my old jar lifter better, in fact, because it takes up less room in a drawer.
The magnetized lid lifter has a swollen rim that makes it easy to release a lid with one hand. Just turn the handle downward, and the magnet comes free, leaving the lid in place. The lid lifter has a loop at the top so you can hang it—a good idea, because no lid lifter is worth bothering with if you can’t find it quickly. (Keep in mind that this writer has fingers of asbestos.)
Although I don’t care for the plasticky look of these tools (excepting the stainless rack), I admire their clever designs, which originate in Progressive’s offices in Kent, Washington. But Progressive tools, sadly, are manufactured in China. If only the company would live up to its name by moving the factory to the USA! I’d pay more for American-made canning tools; wouldn’t you?