People are discovering this money saving tool once again.
Many of us remember our grandparent’s rows of mason jars, or avoiding the kitchen as a youngster in order to maintain freedom on canning days. If you do process your own food then you know the feeling of accomplishment it brings after a long day of peeling, slicing, boiling, and canning. When you hear the “ping” and can place those beautiful jars on the shelf, all the exhaustion and hard work become worth it. It certainly brings peace of mind!
This two-century-old technique of preserving food—or “putting up,” in canning-speak—is making a big comeback. Thank to the worst recession in decades and a trend toward healthier eating many Americans are learning to grow their own food and can it.
Why Home Canning?
- It’s a MONEY SAVER!
- Home canning is the ultimate convenience food.
- Doesn’t require electricity to keep food safe (like a freezer) so it’s ideal for our most minor disasters.
- Food can be prepared so that extra water isn’t needed from food storage to re-hydrate or prepare the meal, saving it for emergencies and drinking.
- Easy way to get a balanced meal.
- Decreases food prep times.
- Decrease leftovers and wasted food from spoilage or making to much. (1 qt feeds 2-3 people)
- Not having to thaw meat.
- Less messy dishes for home cooked meals.
- Opportunity cost – spend a few hours in one day and cut out an hour everyday for that meal.
- Skips the preservatives with names no one can pronounce. A more wholesome alternative.
- You control the ingredients!
Now is the time to learn, experiment, and prefect it – when you need it, that luxury is past and can no longer be afforded. So get started, or get back in the habit of home canning today!
Getting started with home canning – essential supplies
Before you start canning buy a quality canning book like the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Amazon). It’s pretty much the canning bible of our generation. Other excellent books are probably available at your local library. Your next stop is the website from The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP). This excellent resource from the University of Georgia will answer any other questions you may not find in the Ball canning book.
Next you need jars, lids, and a pot. Before you buy any jars, ask around – especially the “older” generations. They usually have way more jars than they need since they’ve been canning for years and they’re cooking for two instead of a herd.
Often they’re just happy to get rid of them and you can get them for cheap or free. Inspect all jars for cracks or chips, these will cause the jar to break during canning and you’ll lose your hard work, not to mention a nasty mess of food and glass.
Lastly be sure that the jars are actual canning jars. Old jars from dressings, pickles, and other foods aren’t safe, even if your grandma has been using them for years. There are safe guidelines for a reason and it’s always better to stay within them.
Purchase new lids. Many people say they reuse their lids, but it’s never recommend for a better seal. Of course you can reuse those lids in everyday use, just don’t can with them again. Some people like to purchase reusable Tattler lids. I’ve never used these, but I am intrigued, so let me know what you think of them.
You’ll also need a set of canning utensils. These can be purchased, quite inexpensively, and will last forever. A kit usually comes with at least a canning funnel, jar lifter and magnetic lid lifter. These will save you hours of time on canning day. I actually use my funnel almost every day, is is one of my essential food storage items.
A big black Water-Bath Canning pot can now be found at any place that sells kitchen appliances. Check the local Wal-Mart, Target, or hardware store. Most any place that sells canning jars will have the pots too. Don’t forget to check around garage and estate sales as well. You can easily cheap score one for cheap or free, that’s how I got mine. If the one you find does not come with a rack, you can put a towel underneath the jars or try this creative idea from NW Edible.
If you’re planning on pressure canning at some point then you should probably just purchase a new one. If you don’t put your gauge or weight on then it will be big enough to double as a water bath canner too and you will save storage space.
If you get a used pressure canner have the weight and seal checked by your local extension agent, this service is offered free and almost all extension offices. It is also a good idea to get your canner checked if you’ve owned it for awhile. Remember these are precision instruments and should be taken care of and kept well tuned for safety.
Pick the easy food first
Now just pick your produce. Decide what you’re going to use for your first home canning project and go for it! The easiest items to start with are water bath preserved:
- Jam & Jelly
If this is your first time canning, ask for a mentor to help you and offer to split the finished product. Who wouldn’t like help stocking their shelves? Once you’re done be sure to label your jars with the date and what’s inside. The general rule is as long as the seal on the can is good (push on it if it makes noise and moves up and down, it’s bad), then you’re good, no matter how long it’s been in there.
Canning is not for long term food storage. You should be rotating and eating those items within 1 to 2 years. Luckily home canned food tastes GREAT and you’ll find that doesn;t stay long on the shelves. HAPPY home canning!
Today’s challenge: Begin Your Home Canning Adventure
Good: Buy a book, find your jars and lids, get a mentor, and pick your produce. Set a date for your first home canning run. Ask a friend to join you. If you don’t have a canning buddy consider this excellent video series from At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond..
Better: If you’ve home canned before but are rusty – get it out and can something! Order Pizza for dinner when you’re done. It’s a tradition at my house.
Best: You’re a pro so take someone under your wing. Find someone who hasn’t canned before and teach them how to renew the art of preserving food. Enjoy the satisfaction of having, and being, a home canning buddy.
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