This might fall under cookware, I'm not sure? Anyway..
I'm going to try canning for the first time (making apple butter for holiday presents), and I have the jars with the two piece caps - but I don't have one of those special canning racks to put the jars into when sterilizing them. Do I absolutely need one (all the instructions mention them), or will carefully placing them into a pot be enough? I guess that they help in getting the jars out of the water, but other than that, is there a real need for them?
If you are hot packing the apple butter (where the apple butter is hot and you are putting it into a hot sterilized jar) no need to have a special pot. Just use a stock pot, boil the water and put in the jars. I've put chopsticks at the bottom of the pot crosswise so the jars don't hit the bottom and break. Be sure to bring the sealing lides to an almost a boil only (don't boil them). Good luck!
no need for a rack but , as huruta suggested , something to keep the jars off direct contact is good - and lastly - pick a specific canning pot - that will hold enuf water to come at least 1" over the tops of the jars - (or real close) - and also one small enuf in diameter to hold the jars up right and not tip over while boiling.sometimes u have to put a "filler jar" in to do this.
I've also used a folded dish towel in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from rattling around.
The jars must be held slightly above the bottom of the pot to prevent a phenomenon known as bumping. Steam can build up under the bottom of a jar until sufficient pressure builds up to cause the jar to lift slightly but sufficiently to bounce a jar around. Broken jars can result. The important thing is to keep the jar bottoms off the pot bottom, whether by rack, wet towel, sufficient number of chopsticks or whatever.
re: Eldon Kreider
Crumpled heavy-duty foil works very well as an impromptu rack on the pot bottom. Make sure the water covers the jar tops by at least 1". And boil for the specified time.
Spring loaded tongs work to lift 1/2 pint jars out of the water or you can get jar lifter for larger jars for about $4. Place the processed jars on a towel on the counter a few inches apart to cool. When the lids 'ping' you'll know the vaccuum has formed and the lids are sealed. The center should be pulled down. Push on the center; if it bounces back with a slight click, it ain't sealed. Refrigerate it and use it up.
An easy way to sterilize empty jars is upside down on the racks of a 225 degree oven for 15 min. Place the two part lids in a small pan of simmering water for 10 minutes. Be sure to wipe the top edge of the jar CLEAN with a clean towel after filling the jar; then place the lid and ring on and close, but DO NOT screw down tight. Air must escape while processing to form the vaccuum.