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Canning… ahhhh a great comfort word.
Canning has been around for many many years. It was the most used form of food preservation before the invention of freezers and even today, many decades later it is a very popular method on many homesteads.
My mother taught me to can when I was about 10 years old and it is one of my favorite methods of food preservation. Just hearing the word “canning” brings happiness and excitement to me.
Canning brings warm memories of family time together in the kitchen during harvest but there are many benefits of canning!
Benefits of Canning
Canning ensures that what is in your pantry is the best quality food you can provide for your family and you know exactly what each jar contains; you can likely pronounce every ingredient in there.
Never Run Out of Food Storage Space
Another fact is that there is no limit on how much you can store. When a freezer is full, you can’t squeeze in one more thing. But with canning, as long as your shelves, basements, cellars, closets and even under the bed aren’t filled, you can keep preserving more and more.
The cost is also quite low as you can reuse your jars, rings and your canner over and over again for years on end. I have even discovered lately that there are reusable lids which tickles me to no end! You can not imagine the number of lids I have purchased in my lifetime!
Canning Doesn’t Go Bad During Power Outages
When the power fails, as it often does during winter storms where we live, our cellar of food is still safe, while we scramble to save the food in our freezers. A basket with a few jars of homemade jam and a small loaf of fresh bread makes a lovely gift!
Some Foods Just Taste Best When Canned
And finally, there are some foods that are just no good frozen or dried. Pickles for one.
There are basically just two different methods of canning.
There is one important truth that you must understand before you try to can anything on your own. And that is the difference between foods that can be canned at a boiling temperature (212 degrees F) and those that need high pressure.
The main thing to remember is that the whole idea behind canning is that you are sterilizing the food so that no pathogenic or spoilage organisms can grow. The temperature and the time for processing is determined by the food you wish to preserve.
Foods with a high acidic level like tomatoes, pickled vegetables and fruits need only be heated to the temperature of boiling to sufficiently sterilize these foods and keep them from spoiling.
(Note: There are now some tomato varieties that do not contain quite enough acid to make them safe when canned in a boiling water bath and so it is recommended to add 2 Tbs. of lemon juice to each quart jar to ensure a safe level of acidity.)
These are the easy foods to can; the ones you should start with if you are a beginner. Jams, jellies, applesauce, peaches, pickles, kraut… actually any fruit or any pickled vegetable that has enough vinegar, is suitable for the “water bath canner method.
Foods that are low in acid require much more care to be safe for consumption. The reason is that these low acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and dairy products, although susceptible to the organisms that are killed at boiling temperatures, are also susceptible to a toxic bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that causes botulism.
This is not killed even by boiling for a long time. The temperature of the food needs to reach 240 degrees F. in order to destroy any trace of Clostridium botulinum.
In order to reach such a high temperature, you will need to use a “steam pressure canner” for these foods.
Both of these methods of canning (water bath canner and steam pressure canner) rely on the ability to tightly seal in the sterilized food before any bacteria can enter the jars.
Now that you’ve learned about why you would want to can and know about the canning methods… you are ready to can! Check out the second part of this post in which we’ll talk the ins and outs of canning!
Kristina Dahlin grew up on a small farm in a log cabin not even a half milk where she lives now. Her childhood and adulthood have been filled with milking cows, gardening, cutting firewood, canning, butchering, and doing all the millions of things that seem perfectly normal to her. Many of the things she does every day have become skills forgotten by so many.
It’s geat you pointe out that canned food will be preserved even when power fails. There has been a rainstorm where my brother leaves, and he is worried the power might go down because of the rain. I will suggest he plans on getting some of his goods can in case of an emergency.