No, I’m not talking about your last job… I’m talking about canning. It’s all but becoming a lost art. But it doesn’t have to be a mystery. I read a great article all about canning, this is about the basics, what you will need to get started, how to determine how many canning jars, rings and lids you will need. This is the part that most canning manuals don’t tell you about. Enjoy.
written by HerbalPagan
When trying to become more self reliant, a person naturally thinks of a garden and canning up the produce. Many people rely on their freezers, but I limit how much I do because that will be the food that goes first should electricity be lost (I lost about $1,000 worth last winter, so I tend to be a bit touchy on that subject).
I have learned over the years, not to put all my eggs in one basket. I can, freeze and dehydrate my produce. I’m leaning more and more towards dehydrating because it takes less of my personal time to do, takes up less spacein my storage, and lasts for a lot longer. The cons to dehydrating is that it takes electricity to do and takes much longer to prepare a meal from the dried food as you have to re-hydrate it.
Canning will always have it’s place in a well prepared pantry, but there are a few things you need to have in order to do it properly. The supplies for it can be considerable, and you need space to store both the supplies and then the finished product. Care must be taken as well, to the temps that the finished product is stored in. However, you can have a much wider variety, prepare the meal quicker and make canned “specialties” with home canning. So, the next thing to think about is how much canning will I need to do?
If you were to use just one jar of canned goods a day, that would require 365 jars in your stockpile. That is about 32 cases of jars. At a cost of (approx) $8 per case, that is a cost of $256, plus as you pick up a case of jars, make it a practice to pick up at least 2 boxes of replacement lids ($1 ea. average). After you have your jar supply built up, you can just pick up lids as you need them. Stored properly, they don’t “go bad”, so as you find them, pick them up. Jars will last a long time, not wearing out, merely being subject to accidents occasionally.
If you average the cost of a case of jars over a 10 year period, they are quite a reasonable investment (.80 cents per case) while the lids for that same case over a 10 year time actually are more pricy ($10). Jars can come in handy for lots of things like storing your dehydrated items as well, plus gift giving, left over storage, so again, a decent investment. 32 cases of jars will take up a bit of space, so make sure that you have a place to put them!
Now, if you use more than 1 jar a day, add that to the figures as well. Many people grab a couple of cases of jars every month or so to build their stock, but you could search for a jar supplier and buy a pallet of them at a discount (about $5 per case is the lowest I’ve found). I hear a lot of people are picking them up at yards sales, estate sales, and off free cycle and Craigs List. This is a thrifty thing to do, but be aware that you need to check and examine each jar carefully to make sure it hasn’t been chipped or scratched. I’ve had several people ask relatives if they have any they aren’t using any more, and that’s a good thing, since relatives who aren’t using them any more are also prime sources for other canning supplies. They like seeing someone doing canning again and will often give tips and hints.
Other tools you will need are a WATERBATH CANNER, usually to be found in most hardware stores for about $20. It comes with a lid and a rack to hold the jars inside. It’s usually enamel ware and will last for years, IF you take care of it. Mine has hard water stains in it, but that won’t hurt anything. I’ve had some for about 10 years with no sign of it wearing out. Be warned that you will develope good strong arms using this item!
The next item you will need is a PRESSURE CANNER. This is similar to a pressure cooker, but bigger and when you get one, make sure it says “canner” on it. They come in a variety of sizes, mine is a 16 qt one that I got from Wally World for about $75. Pick up a gasket to have as a spare when you get one and keep it in the sealed package. You can get huge canners, where you can stack the jars on top of each other, but again, you’ll need strong arms to heft that around.
While you are organizing all the canning supplies, make sure that you pick up a CANNING TOOL SET. This will have a jar lifter, a lid lifter, a wide mouth funnel in it. For under $10, it will make your life much easier! I also keep a stock of strainers, a big pot for blanching vegetables and plenty of long handled spoons and ladles as well as extra measuring spoons on hand. These items have multiple uses so I don’t count them as canning supplies. It may seem like a lot of items and a lot of expense, but it’s actually a very practical and time tested method of preserving food.
You will also need to plan how you get the produce you will can. A garden is my first thought, and I try and grow what I refer to as my “pickle patch”, veggies I will be pickling, as well as regular veggies for meals. I also consider jams, applesauce and juices as part of my “vegetables”, though technically, they are something else. Your garden should be your main source for produce, but there are others…neighbors and relatives sometimes have fruit trees they don’t bother much with, and would be more than happy to have you pick the fruit in exchange for a couple of jars of jar, a pie or two or some applesauce.
Parks and forests also have trees that may be available for you to pick from, and there are always “pick your own” places that offer good fresh fruit for a reasonable price. Be careful in selecting the right pick-your-own though, as many are set up to cater to tourists and city folk and the prices are no different than what you get at the grocery store. Be a wise shopper too, because if you pay a premium for fruit to can up, and put all that time into it, is it really worth it? You can buy a jar of premium applesauce for about $2! Though one of the main reasons for canning and gardening is self sufficiency, make sure you aren’t wasting your resources (cash) in your quest to “home preserve” your food.
After the first of the year, I will be adding more gardening tips in this blog, to help you in your task of building a well stocked pantry. As always, I welcome comments and additions to this blog in the comment section!
Thanks HerbalPagan for giving permission to repost this article.
Image by Brandy Shaul via Flickr
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