All-Clad 8 Quart Stock Pot
When it comes to jam making, the wider the pot, the better. All-Clad's 8 Quart Stock Pot (ranges from $205-300) offers the perfect combination of width, sturdiness, and heat conduction. What's more, the stainless steel surface means it's possible to scour away any burnt disasters you may encounter in your preservation career. The same cannot be said for more delicate enameled cast iron pots.
Kuhn Rikon 4th Burner Pot
This skinny pot is a best friend to small-batch canners and pickle fiends alike. Made by Kuhn Rikon, it's called the 4th Burner Pot ($35) and is designed to fit comfortably on a full stove. It comes fitted with a rack that makes it perfect for processing a jar or two for shelf stability. Remove the rack, fill it with pickling brine and bring to a boil. Its coated handle means that you can pour hot brine straight from the pot into the jars, without needing to use an additional measuring cup or ladle.
12-Quart Stock Pot
Instead of getting a dedicated canning pot, choose a sturdy 12-Quart Stock Pot ($60). All you need to do to transform it into a canning pot is drop a round cake cooling rack into the bottom and it becomes the perfect vessel for processing pints and half pints. Best of all, you can still use it as a regular stock pot when canning season is over. Can't say the same for those flimsy blue enameled canners.
Stainless Steel Measuring Cups
A set of well-made, stainless steel measuring cups should be a part of any kitchen, but they're doubly useful in a canning kit. They're ideal for filling jars with batches of jam, chutney and other homemade condiments because they hold the same volume as our jars. One cup is the same as one half pint, meaning you can scoop and fill jars quickly and efficiently. The low end starts around $8 and the high end tops out around $50.
OXO Good Grips Scale
Often, canning recipes will call for ingredients by weight instead of volume. A dependable kitchen scale means you don't have to depend on unreliable grocery store scales. The OXO Good Grips Scale ($50) has a low profile and a pull-out display making it a breeze to use and store.
Silicone Spatulas and Wooden Spoons
A big part of canning is stirring and the better the tools you have, the more pleasant the experience is. These fully encased silicone spatulas from Orka ($9) are fantastic because it's impossible to lose the heads in a boiling batch of jam. When it comes to wooden implements, I'm a recently converted fan of the Scrapers from Earlywood Designs ($36 for a set).
There's no shame in buying a pre-made pickling spice, but there's something extra-special about mixing up your own blend. Get your favorite pickler a variety of mustard, cumin, coriander and celery seeds, as well as some peppercorns and bay leaves from Penzeys so they can start playing with custom combinations. Prices vary.
Stainless Steel Canning Funnel
Most beginning canners get the all-plastic canning kit when they're first starting out. Help your favorite canner upgrade their outfit with a Stainless Steel Canning Funnel ($14). It will last the the rest of their canning days.
Weck Canning Jars
It seems that everyone is crazy for Weck Canning Jars these days. Made entirely of glass, with a rubber seal and metal clips to keep the lid in place, they are ever so elegant. Surprise your favorite jar lover with half a dozen.
No kitchen should be without a reliable digital timer and as far as I'm concerned, simple is best. This basic little timer ($11) has both a magnet and a clip on the back, so it can be stored and displayed nearly everywhere. It has a satisfyingly insistent beep, which means you'll never over-cook or over-process again.