Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should I? Or Can I? It's Not A Grammar Lesson.

For many of us this time of year brings memories of gardens and canning. Some good memories, as in assembly lines and family projects, others bring back thoughts of how tired we were.

Since this time of year does bring thoughts of bushels, peeling, jam and bottles I want to eliminate one word from your vocabulary … guilt. Following are a few pointers to help you decide – Should I? Can I? Do I want to? Is it practical? And I am really not a “Molly Mormon” – Do I have to?

Home canning is one of those skills that should be part of our training. Training? What training? Let me rephrase that – canning is a very good, very valuable skill to have. If the need arises and things are so tough that the only way you can have jam or jelly is to make it yourself, it’s nice to be able to make it yourself and have it be edible.

Rumor and news stories are saying that people are already feeling the budget crunch to the point that canning supplies are flying off of the shelves. But before you run out and buy a ten-year supply of supplies there are a few things you might want to consider.

If you don’t like hard work canning is not for you. Rewarding work? Yes? Difficult work? No. Time consuming and tiring? Yes, but it depends on your energy level and how much help you have.

If you have to buy all of the fruits and vegetables, jars and equipment – at top grocery store prices and then factor in the cost of your time, you might be better off finding a good case-lot sale. That is the rule if you know your prices and know that you still have the opportunity for good prices.

However, the jars and equipment are reusable year after year. If you or your neighbor has fruit trees or a garden, then you can save money. If you live near a farmers market or vegetable stand (not the kind of farmer’s market that is the trendy tourist trap with all organic and natural products) then you can save money. Even if it is a few batches of jam or peaches that you put up and you don’t plan on spending every waking hour all summer long canning, you can still save money.

A few rules of thumb – or canning – must be followed!
* The first absolute rule is to follow the rules!
* Canning, toxins and bacteria are nothing to cut corners or play games with.
* Lids cannot be reused. Rings can and jars can, but not the metal lids.
* Do not use mayo jars or jars that are not designed for canning. The non-canning
jars are not made to withstand the heat and pressure.
* Do not use a jar if it is cracked, before or after processing.
* Proper timing is a must – no shortcuts here!
* Zucchini, the wonder vegetable is a vegetable and must be processed as one, no
matter if you have turned it into jam, salsa or the newest fad of pineapple
marmalade – or whatever.
* Do not, under any circumstances, can in the oven!!!!

Your state university extension has canning booklets, books and recipes, obtainable at their offices and online. Their information is current and reliable. You can call your extension service if you have any questions.

If you have never canned before start with something easy such as peaches, tomatoes or jam. Follow a reliable recipe. The joy of seeing full jars on your counter, hearing the lids pop, and then seeing those jars on your shelves or under your bed is indescribable.

Canning can truly be a boost to your budget. It is not only an investment for the budget; it is an investment in gaining self-reliant skills.

Some of my most spiritual conversations with Heavenly Father have been sitting on the floor of my pantry or by my cupboard and being so thankful that a kind person let me pick tomatoes or peaches. To see the full jars and know that once more I was blessed in being able to provide for my family caused my heart to swell and tears of gratitude to flow.

My husband and I grew close together year after year gleaning and canning to fill our pantry shelves. It was part of our summer and fall events as we worked together and listened to the symphony of the popping lids.

So should you? Assess your situation, your ability to find produce, your time to be adjusted and squeezed, your budget, and your willingness to put forth the effort while the produce is available.

Can you? Of course! If I can learn to can so can you can!

Return to the Neighborhood


Melanie said...

I'm a canning advocate. It is not that hard to do. Intimidating at first? Yes. But, hard? No. I feel a sense of satisfaction with each jar we use. This year I'm going to try pressure cooking. Here's to no holes in the ceiling!

Rachelle said...

I love home-canned green beans. There's nothing like them and they are incredibly easy to do. I love the sound of those lids popping too. :)