Thursday, October 4, 2012

So You Want To Try Canning?

     From what I've seen, canning has seen a big resurgence of popularity lately. Why is this? What's the draw  of canning your own food? It's a ton of work and there is a very real possibility of injuring or poisoning yourself if you don't do it right. Honestly, I have no idea. I don't even know if there's a resurgence. I just enjoy using that word. Resurgence. Feels good. Give it a try. Resurgence.  Sorry. So, the draw of canning? Well, it's certainly popular among the Doomsday (November Election) Preppers. It's also popular among us practical rustic folk.

     At its core, canning is just a great way to sock away surplus produce without just letting it go off, or Heaven forbid, leaving it in a plastic bag on the table in the break room. I hate doing that. It feels like I'm just throwing it away. When people do that where I work I just take all of it. I don't even check if anyone wanted any. It's gone. I take it home and can it.  And how does one can, you may ask? You have two options for canning:

Option 1: Pressure Canning
     This basically is loading your product in a jar and putting it in a boiling water bath, sealing the lid, and subjecting it to around 10 pound of pressure or so for some time. The jars will reach a temperature that should kill everything bad in them. Except when they don't. Or the jars explode. Or the canner explodes.

Sauce is done!
   In the end, I'm basically too big a wuss to try to pressure can, even though I own a pressure canner. I just use it for Option 2.

Option 2: Boiling Water Bath Canning
     This is very much like pressure canning, but without the pressure. You are boiling sealed jars of product to kill off bad stuff. Unfortunately, you don't hit the temperatures you need to kill everything.  If the food is naturally acidic (like apples) the acid will take care of the rest. Not everything (like cucumbers) is acidic so you have to pack the foods in something acidic, like vinegar. You make pickles by boil canning. Tomatoes on their own are not acidic enough, so I add lemon juice. I'm not going to bury you with specifics, there are plenty of resources on the internet to help you out. If you only go to one, go to The National Center for Home Food Preparation.

     Are there downsides to canning? Yes. For one, it's a total pain in the ass. It's messy and time consuming. Sometimes jars break. Lids pop off during the canning. Jars don't seal. Jellies don't set. You burn the hell out of yourself with steam and boiling water. Visitors look at each other uncomfortably when they see you have a commercial sized wire rack shelf full of cans for a household of two people.

      Regardless of all that, the wife and I love canning. It's just nice to open a can of summer-time food in the middle of winter. Peppers, jellies, tomatoes, chutneys, relishes, we have all sorts of good stuff waiting for us. And in the case of a zombie apocalypse, we are totally prepared to hunker down and live on the supplies for months!

The fruits (and vegetables) of our labor.


  1. Well...I voted for Obama, and I still can! Before and after. My pressure canner sat brand new in my basement for 5 years until I worked up the nerve to use it, and I've never looked back. (By the way, I hide my commercial sized racks of food plus my more-than-one deep freezes in the basement. Just don't look in the back at the cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep. Don't ask what their fate will be, so I don't have to tell you. Cause I will. If you get a chance to learn how to use that thing do it, it will open up a whole new world for you. Or if you ever get to Iowa, I'll just give you a free lesson or two!!

    1. Hey, there's nothing wrong with raising your own meat! We've got about 50-75 pounds of pig coming from a friend who raises them. I'm sure someday I'll try pressure canning when I run out of water-bath recipes. Or, I could just come by Iowa and get some samples!