How water bath for pickles
I would like to make some pickles and then can them for the long haul. I know I need to run them in a hot water bath for 10-15 minutes to ensure that I get a good vacuum seal. However, I do not know if a canning pot is necessary to do this or if I can simply put a wire rack on the bottom of a big pot that I already have and then put the lid on it. What does a canning kettle/pot get me that I am not getting with a wire rack on the bottom of my big, heavy duty pot?
Rack for canning kettle is structured to space jars and keep them from bumping into each other. This maximizes the number of jars that will fit safely. The rack in a canning kettle also lets the jar bottoms go pretty close to the bottom of the kettle and facilitates lifting the whole batch part way up for loading or unloading. I have a canner but wouldn't buy and need to store a special kettle for this to process a few jars of pickles. The advantages are niceties, not necessities, most useful to somebody who makes a lot of jams or pickles. The rack to keep jar bottoms off the kettle bottom is the absolutely essential element.
I've made both pickles and jam with a big pot and a rack. Actually, though, neither cooked in the hot water-- I just sterilized the jars and lids and utensils in the hot water. The pickles were then cooked in the oven (an hour at 250 is what I remember, but I'm at work and don't have the recipe in front of me). The jam sealed because hot jam cooled and suctioned the lid.
I only can things that tend not to have problems, because of high acid or high sugar (pickles and jam, eh). And I don't claim big expertise. I just follow old family recipes.