Beginners Guide to Canning Food
Take a look at our guide to canning food, and preserve your summer bounty to enjoy in the months to come.
While canning can be intimidating, you, too, can fill your pantry with colorful, flavorful food you’ve grown yourself.
Cooking with vegetables fresh from my little garden brought me so much joy. Summer’s end was fast approaching, however, and the rewards of the summer’s hard work would end with the first cold snap. But did it have to? Why should I spend the winter using inferior canned tomatoes when I could enjoy my own heirlooms? Canning was the answer, and a guide to canning food would be very helpful for all undertaking this pursuit.
The prospect of home canning can be intimidating. I wish I could say I learned as a child at my grandmother’s side. The real story is that I learned alone with a shiny new boiling water canner, a “Ball Blue Book,” and the Internet. I was shocked at my success, but the fact is so many resources are out there for the uninitiated that anyone can tread fearlessly into home canning.
Worth the bother
People choose home canning for many reasons. Memories of families getting together when their favorite fruit ripened and working in a steamy kitchen are enough to bring some folks back year after year. Others seek to reap the fruit of their labors long out of season, every jar of pickles stretching summer’s bounty a little further. Many appreciate that home canning is environmentally friendly in a tangible way: glass jars can be reused for years (or in my home, repurposed as drinking glasses), a bumper crop that would spoil before it can be consumed doesn’t go to waste, peels become compost, and fuel is not used to transport goods from farm to factory to table.
A parent would be hard pressed to find a better way to encourage environmental stewardship and self-sufficiency in a child. Choosing and preparing the produce yourself gives you control over the use of pesticides, sodium, sugars or potential allergens. Still others choose to home can to provide healthy food for their families. Homegrown vegetables are higher in nutrients than their commercially grown counterparts, and home canning means nutritious vegetables can be preserved at the height of their freshness without chemical preservatives.
Kim Krapcha of Oschner Hospital in New Orleans says, “With home canning you can preserve the foods at their peak ripeness. This means vitamins and minerals are at their highest concentration, which gives the home canner the best, most nutritious food available. Home gardeners often use fewer pesticides – if they even use them at all. This translates to far fewer harmful chemicals being trapped in canned foods and becoming a health hazard. Chemical preservatives aren’t used in home canning, which means foods retain their natural flavors, textures and nutritional value.”
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