Part of the homesteading lifestyle, no matter how large your homestead is, is preserving foods.
You grow a garden, have lots of veggies all over, and you need a way to keep eating them even when the gardening season is over. So, you preserve them. Many “newbies” to preserving foods turn to canning them, especially at first. That is what I did, anyway. I remember it like it was yesterday. We had a 1/2 bushel of apples we picked at our local orchard, and I wanted to can applesauce. I only had one large pot, so I cut the apples up, cooked them until they were soft, and put in the blender bit by bit to turn to sauce. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a canner, so I washed the pot out, filled it with boiling water and proceeded to water bath can the applesauce in there. It took me nearly 18 hours to make that 1/2 bushel of apples into canned applesauce, and I came out with a mere 6 quarts for my efforts.
Yes, that was riddled with problems.
First, I didn’t plan very well. Even though it was a small amount of apples, my kitchen was a disaster. One sticky disaster. What I should have done was gather a partner to help me cut the apples up, instead of trying to do it all myself. Even better would have been if I had the right equipment.
I needed a real water bath canner.
My applesauce didn’t go bad, and the seals did seal, but the risk I took by not having proper equipment was not a good thing. A water bath canner, like this one, would have made it much easier to cook the apples in one pot and can them in another. There would have been enough room for all the quart jars at one time, and the time spent would have decreased. That would have saved me so much frustration and sticky mess. Takeaway: having the right equipment when canning food makes all the difference in your success.
Even after getting the right equipment, I still made mistakes along the way.
For example, there was a time when I “just knew” that I would remember what was in a batch of tomato based products, so I didn’t need to label the jars. Normally, I would use stick on labels or write on the lid with a sharpie. For some reason, I choose not to this time. One of the jars got stored in the back of the pantry, and I found it recently. I had no idea what was in it at all. My family couldn’t remember what it could possibly have been either. After a couple days of just staring at the jar, willing the contents to identify themselves, I finally opened the jar to find pizza sauce. Takeaway: always label your jars. You think you may remember what’s in them, but it’s so easy to forget.
Storing the jars was another issue I had.
I didn’t have a lot of room, so I would stack the jars on top of each other. But, finding out the hard way that the lids can come loose with the pressure from the jar above made me a believer in not doing that anymore. I found several jars of salsa with lots of mold on top, even though the lids seem to be sealed. What I found out upon further research was that the lids can come loose and then create a false seal. Not a good thing, because you may not realize that there is toxic growth happening in there and possibly consume it. Takeaway: don’t stack your jars upon each other. Use jar boxes if you need the room, or even store the jars under a bed or in a closet to avoid having to do that.
But, perhaps the biggest issue that I had, as many newbies do, is not using a proper canning recipe.
Once upon a time, I had no idea that certain items needed other items to can safely. For example, fruit needed sugar to help preserve it better. I was trying to cut the sugar out of our diets, and made the move to can some homemade jam with an alternative sweetener. I was so grateful that a friend asked about it, and when I told her what the recipe was she showed me how dangerous that could be. Following a good, tested recipe is your safest bet to preserving your food safely.
I have several canning books now, but this new one I found has been awesome.
It’s called “The Organic Canner” by Daisy Luther.
It’s chock full of delicious, easy to follow recipes that are simple enough for even a beginner to follow. There isn’t a recipe in this 230 page book that wouldn’t fit any homesteader and garden size. You’ll learn simple steps to canning from peas to canning stock. Even though I would consider myself a seasoned canner, finding new recipes like her spicy pears or her canned nuts (I had no idea you could can nuts!!!) are a welcome treat to the same ol’ same ol. This is one canning book you’ll not want to be without!
Lastly, the biggest mistake a canner can make is reusing lids.
The metal lids, like these from Ball, are to not meant to be reused. Sure, your grandmother may reused them, but it’s not safe. The seals may not be as strong, allowing air and thus bacteria into your food. If you want to save money on lids, I am totally loving the reusable-ity of Tattler Lids. You can reuse these lids several times over, and the only thing you would need to replace after a few uses is the rubber ring for the lid. Mine have lasted 4 years now and are still going strong, which makes them a great investment! They are a hard, bpa free plastic that is a great alternative to the thin metal lids you toss.
Want to learn more about canning off grid? This video will guide you through everything you need to know how to safely prepare and can your food, even when there is no power, and you find yourself truly off-grid. In this DVD:
- Which way out of three different canning methods, is likely to kill you?
- How has bacteria mutated since Grandma used to can, and how does that affect you?
- How to can raw meat, and why some meat has to be canned differently.
- Why canning milk and eggs should be avoided.
- When to use different canning methods.
- How to can berries, vegetables, fruit, meat off-grid.
- How to blanch tomatoes
... and so much more!
Get a FREE copy of the ebook, Canning For Beginners with each purchase as well! Grab yours today! Only $14.95 it also makes a great gift!
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