One of the many joys of having a garden and supporting local farmers is enjoying delicious food for a fraction of the cost at the grocery. Preserving some of those foods at home can reduce your food costs and allow you to enjoy high quality food year around. First let’s address some of the myths of food preservation:
- It is too hard to do on my own. Once people see how easy food preservation is, they have a lot more confidence in their abilities. If you have a friend, neighbor or family member who cans, ask to help with a canning session. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn by working alongside someone who has experience. If that isn’t an option for you, seek out classes in your local area by calling the agricultural extension agency or culinary schools.
- It is dangerous. While this point has some merits, if you can follow directions and are a stickler for cleanliness, you should be all right. Preserving high acid foods such as fruits and tomatoes will usually be less risky than low acid foods that need pressure canning. Visit your local agricultural extension agency to have your pressure canner seals and gaskets checked to reduce risk of accident there. Use jars that are meant for canning instead of jars that once held other foods (such as mayonnaise). Canning jars are thicker and less likely to break or shatter under the pressure of canning.
- It is expensive. Canning does not have to be expensive. Sure, it can be if you want to pull out all of the stops and buy lots of fancy equipment, but it need not be. Three must have’s in my opinion are a jar lifter, a jar funnel, and good canning jars with fresh seals. If you are preserving low acid foods, you’ll also need a pressure canner, and if you don’t have a stock pot large enough, a water bath canner is handy. Once you make the initial investment, you can enjoy years of food preservation. The water bath canner that I own was one that I bought when I was a teenager over 20 years ago.
Review this post on Food Preservation Basics to learn the pros and cons of different forms of food preservation. I recommend that you review some of the canning resources that I mention in the post. Most canners agree that the must have book for all forms of food preservation is the Ball Blue Book. You can pick up a copy at a used book store or buy it new for around $10. I’ve listed some more resources below that you might find helpful.
Pick up some fresh foods at the farmers market and get started! If your first experience isn’t what you hoped, don’t give up. Every time I try a new recipe or new food I learn something different that builds on my expertise. The rewards of delicious homemade jams and other treats are well worth the effort!
- This is a post to address overflow in canning, a common problem for novice canners as well as more experienced ones.
- This post gives information on general jam making steps, not just for strawberries.
- Food in Jars and Putting Up with the Turnballs have become two of my favorite blogs about food preservation. Food in Jars, in particular, posts some great tutorials on addressing common problems when canning and frequently asked questions. Be sure to check out the other blogs that they have linked, as I’ve found many great resources there, too.
- If you are local, the Knoxville Permaculture Guild has a Canning and Preserving subgroup. Kat Reese, one of the members, often hosts classes on food preservation for a very reasonable fee.
Have fun preserving foods, and be sure to put up extras—your friends and family will want you to share!