July 27, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Eight - Canning

Picture from naturesmom.com
We're back to Amy Dacyczyn and the great advice that she offers in our Tightwad Gazette Series.  In today's reading Amy talks about canning.  She gives some great information on canning cheaply and in encouraging people to give canning a try. 

Amy doesn’t get into the basics of canning, as there are a lot of sources out there. She recommends the “Ball Blue Book: The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing” which you can buy or borrow from the library. Instead Amy covers the Tightwad angle on canning. Specifically she’ll dispel some myths and pass along some time and money saving pointers.

First the myths:

1. Canning is difficult, tedious and time-consuming. People assume canning is difficult because they are unfamiliar with it. Amy says “If you can drive a car, you can learn to can.”

Canning can seem tedious and time consuming as you will be processing a great amount of food in one day, but as you use the food, you will notice a time savings. An example is canning your own homemade spaghetti sauce vs. making a new from scratch batch every time you want spaghetti.

2. Canning is not economical. This is usually based on buying your equipment new and not factoring in that you will be able to re-use the equipment year after year. The savings depends on what you’re canning and where you get the produce and fruit to can. Do you grow your own or are you given produce? Do you buy everything at a farmer’s market or at another store? Growing your own produce is economical and healthier as you know what you put on your plants.

3. Canning is unnecessary for people who have freezers. Many people who can also own freezers as they prefer some vegetables frozen and some canned. My mom canned green beans but she always froze corn. Canning is a flexible method for surplus. If your freezer gets full you can still process food for later use by canning. Also canned food is “immediate” in that it is ready to use versus having to be thawed out. Canned foods can make wonder gifts.

Now, here are some Tightwad tricks that Amy uses:

1. Get equipment cheaply. Put the word out for what you need and you may be quite surprised at what people are ready to give to you. Look for canning jars at yard sales and perhaps you can borrow a pressure canner from someone. Go to a thrift store and see if they have any canning supplies.

During the spring and early summer you will see the canning jar lids on sale and many times there will be coupons for these. When lids are on sale, stock up for as many as you think you will need. Also when canning spices, salts and sugar are on sale, stock up in anticipation of canning.

2. Use the right sized canning jar. Amy uses small mouth quart jars for all canning aside for pickles and jams. This fits the needs of her family.

3. Save on energy. For foods that can be either pressure canned or water bathed, Amy uses a pressure canner to save energy.

4. Cut small and pack tight. The more food you pack into a jar, the more efficient and economical the operation becomes.

5. Use the hot pack method when possible. Food shrinks during cooking, so filling jars with precooked foods instead of raw food saves space.

Canning also has a psychological value of providing for your family. For many people there is nothing like looking at a pantry full of home canned items. I have only canned things like jams, applesauce and apple pie filling.

Next year I have a goal of planting a garden and learning to can. A big part of it has to do with economics and another part has to do with knowing what I put on my plants and that it is organic.

I would love to hear any other ideas for canning or why you can.  My biggest fear with canning is using a pressure cooker.  I have never used one and the thought has always scared me.  But since I can drive a car, I need to get over my fear and learn to use one. 


Rose said...


I grew up in Alaska and every family had a freezer. But, with a freezer you are limited on space, not to mention that food will hold for only so long when the power goes out, which it did with regularity in the winter months.

My mother canned our food as well. Not only did she make jams and jellies, she canned salmon, venison and mincemeat, to name a few. She canned in the evening hours and I often fell asleep listening to the hissing rock of the petcock on the pressure cooker.

I have been canning for over 16 years having continued on with my mother's pressure canner. Please note that there is a difference between and pressure canner, and a pressure cooker. You want the canner to process your canned food. The cooker is for cooking food. I started out canning jams, salsa and pickles that use a boiling water bath (BWB). I then got the courage up to use my mom's pressure canner, carefully reading the instructions and familiarizing myself with the parts and how it works. Take your canner lid with pressure gauge to your local extension office to have the pressure regulated. If you have a weighted gauge, this is not necessary, as the weight will regulate the pressure.

My first venture with the pressure canner was to can green beans and corn. I have since ventured out and can everything. Stew, chili, spaghetti sauce with meat, chicken, beef, hamburger, soups, mixed vegetables, and chicken a la king. I have even canned bacon, cheese, and butter which our government says you should not do. But I figure if I can buy it canned at the store, why not can my own? It is economical for me when the food is on a good sale, and I don't have to try to create freezer space.

Canning does cost up front, but scour garage sales and thrift stores for canning supplies. Your imagination is endless as long as long as you follow rules such as processing for the length of time required for food item that takes to most time at the proper pressure for your altitude. If you follow your canner directions, your food will be safe to eat, won't require a freezer or electricity, can be stored where you have room, and will be delicious and nutritious eating for you and your family.

One good resource is http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/
This website has recipes and tips for canning, along with methods and recipes for freezing, drying and curing/smoking of meats.


Anonymous said...

I am canning alot of sauces, pickles, and other things this year and to be honest the pressure cooker scared me at first to.

Now I am just really careful with it, I talk to it nicely and I fear it. So we get along just fine!!!


Debs said...

I've never canned, but last year I made a lot of jam (and sterilised the jars by heating them in the oven at a low heat for about twenty minutes, which works to seal them properly)

Maybe one day i'll try canning.

Antie Eboo said...

I would love to learn to do some canning. I have helped my sister can tomatoes before, but I wasn't very impressed with it. Maybe in the fall, I'll try my hand at canning applesauce.

æble said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I've been hesitant to can get interested in it. I think this is the year! I've been stockpiling mason jars (our preferred store bought sauce comes in them), and now is the time.

Martha said...

Such wonderful and encouraging comments about canning. Yes I can - can, that is and will plant a garden next year and get it done.

Anonymous said...

Canning has completely changed the way we store, prepare and eat food in our home!

STORAGE: I live in a hurricane prone area, so losing freezers full of food to power outages was infuriating to me (what a waste!) and I needed a solution. Canning did it! Now my food is stored for longer than a freezer could ever do, tastes better (no freezer flavor) and I don't have to worry about losing my food with the next hurricane.

PREPARATION: Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING compares to the convenience of canned food! When I've forgotten to thaw meat out for supper, I just grab a can of whatever is canned off the shelf and voila!....instant supper. Also, canned foods are already partially cooked, so it cuts the time I have to stand over the stove down to almost nothing.

EATING: We are eating much healthier and more tasty meals thanks to canning. The produce I can typically either comes from my garden or from a local farm I like. Few things taste better than farm fresh (or backyard fresh) vegetables! And because there are no preservatives, food colorings, additives of ANY kind, I know I'm giving my family food that I don't have to fear. That means a lot when you're raising little kids.

COST: Yes, there is some upfront cost. But when people find out you enjoy canning, they will actually call and offer you free produce from their gardens and fruit trees! No, I'm not kidding. It's almost insane how much free food they're giving away. Also, after your first canner purchase, you never ever have to buy another canner. I have one pressure canner and one water bath canner...and that's all I will ever need. Jars do break sometimes for whatever reason. But garage sales are a great place to find new ones. And again, you'll be amazed at the number of jars people will give you when they find out you're a canner! The only real purhcase I have to make repeatedly for canning is lids (since these aren't reusable) which run around $1.50 a box during canning season.

SAFETY: Canning is very, very safe IF you follow proper procedures. But these procedures are so simple that's it is pretty dang hard to mess up. The hardest part is waiting while the food processes the full amount of time. Sometimes we want to hurry that 15 minutes up. LOL Please please please do not use your great-grandmother's canning methods. There has been a lot of scientific study done over the last 20 years that has changed canning a lot. Get a Ball Blue book and follow it's instructions. It's far better to be safe than sorry.

I have six children and a hard-working husband (who brings in our only income). I can't imagine why I waited so many years to begin canning. It has saved us SO MUCH money, time and health issues. I've been canning now for three years and WILL NOT go back to my old life of convenience foods. After all, home canned is the ULTIMATE convenience food!

But you must be warned: canning is HIGHLY addictive. Once you cross over into the world of canning, you may never want to leave. *grins*