On Thursday evening, June 28, Noreen (Atticus9799 on YouTube) hosted the show “Homestead Honey Hour” on American Preppers Radio and the topic was “canning 101”. In reality, it’s simply all about canning. Because we are always learning and growing with each and every experience, we are always at the “101” level even if we consider ourselves to be seasoned experts at the task of putting up or favorite foods.
Canning and preserving has been used for years and years as a way to preserve the harvest and have food throughout the year, not just when it was coming out of the fields. While dehydration was used for fruits and vegetables and smoking and salt curing was used for meats for generations, eating seasonally was what our ancestors did. Until the late 1800’s that is.
It was during this period of time when the emperor Napoleon, concerned about keeping his armies fed, offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Nicholas Appert conceived the idea of preserving food in bottles, much like wine. After 15 years of experimentation, he realized if food is sufficiently heated and sealed in airtight containers, it will have a much longer shelf life and be safe from spoilage.
This is how the process of sealing food in jars began. We affectionately call it home canning. For many people today, it is not as much for survival as it is a novelty. Many people can because they enjoy the task. Some people can in order to preserve the bounty of their gardens and orchards. Some people can because they use it as a means of income in the cottage industry of local farmer’s markets. Some people can in order to have fresh, preserved food that they have knowledge of its ingredients and where it came from. One could assume that few people today, can for mere survival. You could imagine that the recent resurgence in what has been considered a hobby for many years can be attributed to the economy and people’s concern for a coming financial disaster, either in their own life or on a much larger basis.
As preppers and homesteaders, we all can and preserve because we know that it is one of the best ways to keep our harvest and prepare for whatever the future may hold. Many of us may not have large bank accounts full of cash but we may have larders that are full of another kind of currency, home canned goods. The kind of savings account that makes you feel secure when you lay your head down at night and know that your family will be healthy and fed no matter what life may throw at you.
Canning is an important skill that everyone should know how to do. It is as basic as knowing how to mend a hold in a pair of pants or how to plant a seed and grow a tomato, darn a sock, sew a whip stitch or drive a nail. My idea of what my children should know how to do may be much different than many people in today’s society. We have come so far from the basics of life in our society that our children, many times believe that meat comes from the plastic covered package in the grocery store and eggs are safely created in cardboard or Styrofoam nests. We must get back to basics and teach future generations how to do these things and further educate ourselves on how to preserve food.
The basic principals of canning have not changed dramatically since Nicholas Appert developed the process. Apply Heat, sufficient to destroy microorganisms. Pack the food to be canned into proper vessels with proper seals. Put the jars under enough pressure, weather through a water bath process or a pressurization process to create a vacuum. The process is based upon the density and acidity of the food in question and when you apply the proper times and rules, you will be a success.
The rules are the same now as then, only now we have more conveniences and are able to can at home with little effort. Not to say that it isn’t hard work, because it is, but it is satisfying hard work that is made easier by the fact that we have electric ranges, timers, hot running water and air conditioned homes. Anyone who’s canned can tell you that canning in the summer is not going to be a pleasant task if you don’t have at least a fan to cool you down. Can you imagine what the homemakers of the years gone by must have had to go through? The work was much harder, but the outcome was the same. Taking the necessary precautions is paramount!
Start with a clean kitchen. Put the cats and dogs outside or out of the area where you will be working, turn off your ceiling fan. Clean everything, sanitize everything, sterilize everything and use the proper processes for either cold pack or hot pack methods. Be very aware of what is going on, take your time, and watch your timer and you will have a successful and satisfying bounty.
Make sure that when you remove your jars from your canner that you place them on a towel on your counter and that this area is draft free. A cool draft could cause your jars to crack and break, ruining all your hard work. Hard work has its rewards. There is nothing better than opening up that jar of strawberry jam in February and have it taste as sweet and fresh as when you made it in May.
You really don’t need that many tools to can properly. You need a large pot for water bath canning making sure to have a rack of some sort to keep jars off of the bottom of the pot and making sure the pot is deep enough that you will have at least 1 inch of water above the top of your jars. You will also need a pressure canner if you plan to do low acid foods such as beans, squash, meats, soups, sauces or chili’s. You need enough large saucepans to prepare what you will be canning and you will need jars, rings and lids. You can now choose to use the traditional metal lids or the plastic reusable lids that many know by the brand name Tattler. Some ladles, some towels and lots of time and patience. Niceties include a lid lifter, jar funnel and jar wrench. They are nice but not necessary and they do help make the process go much faster.
The benefits of canning your own foods are many. Because the food is canned and packed at the peak of freshness it is also packed and canned at the peak of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables especially have the highest nutrition content when they are at their ripest. Canning foods when they are in season is also an economical way to have those foods all year round. Figuring out how much your family eats of a certain food will help you to determine how much of it to can when it is in season.
It is recommended that you begin with a simple water bath canning recipe for something that you enjoy. Jam is a great thing to do the first time. Then when you get the hang of everything and become more accustomed to the process you can work your way up to jelly, salsa, tomatoes, ketchup, relish, pickles and the list goes on. When you feel you are ready, pressure canning is the next step. It is a great idea to start canning chicken for your first pressure canning venture. Boneless and skinless chicken breasts can be cut into chunks and cold packed in jars with some salt. The process is so simple you won’t believe it and you will also not believe the delicious results. You will find yourself reaching for your home canned chicken time and time again for quick meals and snacks. Before you know it, you will have a variety of meats, fruits and veggies as well as soups, stews and sauces that you can reach for, whenever you need to feed your hungry family. It is really the original “fast food” and you made it yourself!
People always have a lot of questions about canning in my time on YouTube and as a host of the Homestead Honey Hour. Some of the questions include:
What is the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning?
Can I water bath can my spaghetti meat sauce?
Can I can my chicken breasts in the water bath canner if I do it for a long time? I remember my grandmother doing that.
What is the difference between Jam and jelly and preserves and conserves?
How long are my canned goods, good for? What is their shelf life?
The following are some good references to answer those questions and do research for yourself:
The Ball complete book of home canning
The Ball Blue Book
The USDA Guide to Home Canning
Website for Ball: http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx
Website: Pick Your Own: http://www.pickyourown.org
If you don’t can, but have always wanted to try, there is no time like the present. The sooner you learn this valuable skill, they sooner you will be enjoying the healthy harvest of the season, picked at its peak. There is no greater satisfaction than the sight of a full pantry lined with colorful jars of everything from soup to nuts. The satisfaction is compounded each time you add to that food storage and the security that you get from the simple knowledge that your family is well cared for and ready for times of plenty or want, whichever the coming days may bring. Get yourself a good book and do some research. Do not be afraid. Fear is a great motivator at times; however it is the main reason for holding us back. A promise can be made that once you try it you will most certainly be hooked!
Yes You Can!
Listen to this show on Canning 101 with The Homestead Honeys! CLICK HERE!
For live broadcasts of the homestead Honeys and other great Prepper Shows go to American Preppers Radio!
Visit the author of this article Noreen at her You-tube site. Go Here!