It’s that time of the year. What my oldest daughter refers to as “Canning Season.”
Yes, I’m a canner. A pretty hardcore canner. In June, we make jam, in July it’s beets and pickled cucumbers and dill beans, and come August, it’s peaches, spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes. Is it frugal? Honestly, I don’t think it is. Between the costs of the fruit to can, the jars (reusable, but still expensive) the sugar, pectin, vinegar, or other ingredients, and the processing time, I’m fairly certian that it is not less expensive than buying a similar item at the supermarket.
But there’s still a host of good reasons to home-can.
I know EXACTLY where the food came from. I buy organic when I can, when I can’t, I wash fruit very, very carefully. Organic strawberry farms are expensive and hard to find around here, but we buy our strawberries from Duris Farms in Kent and Puyallup, WA. Duris has a committment not to use any chemicals on their berry plants from the time they bloom, so we can be fairly certain our fruit will have very low pesticide levels.
We use BPA-free jars and lids. Glass jars are naturally BPA free, but most commercially available jars have lids which contain dangerous BPA chemicals. We buy special BPA free lids from Azure Standard by mail order.
We don’t need extra preservatives or colorants. Our oldest daughter takes ADHD medications and artificial food dyes seem to interact with her medication. We don’t have to add any artificial colorants to our home-preserved foods. Our strawberries were fully ripe, and the jelly gets a deep dark burgundy color all by itself.
This is a case of paying for peace of mind. Yes, I’m willing to take the extra time and energy to be 100% sure of the origins of my preserved food. We spend our money in our local community, with local farmers. We avoid chemicals and we really, really love jam.
For canning newbies
For those looking for canning instructions, there are a few good places to find them. I really like the Ball Book of Canning which is available at most hardware stores. I’ve also had great luck finding my canning equipment at estate sales and Freecyle e-mail lists. My friends know that I can, so they collect canning jars and glass spaghetti jars for me throughout the year, and because the jars are re-usable over and over, it’s a worthwhile investment. You’ll only have to replace jars lost due to breakage or gifting. For beginning canners, the water-bath method requires the least extra equipment and is lowest risk food-safety-wise. You don’t necessarily need a special canner, if you have a really, really big stockpot, that will suffice. Classes are often offered by food co-ops, cooperative extensions and private companies like Seattle Can Can.