This is the time of year when the fruits of our labor are abundant. Have you been eating your fill of those fresh green beans, tomatoes and other wonderful veggies and still have plenty left over? Why not try canning or freezing to extend the enjoyment through those long winter months? Nothing compares to the flavor and when your friends and family rave about how good it tastes you can’t quite keep that smile off of your face.
If you have never canned or preserved your own food before you may wonder where to start. We recommend getting a good canning guide, such as the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It will explain terms such as “head space”and the difference between “hot pack” and “raw pack” that you never understood if you have read a canning recipe. There are also step by step instructions on making jellies or canning tomatoes plus lists of the equipment you will need. Your County Extension office is also a great source for all of the current canning information and all of the updated safety tips.
There is a small initial investment you need to make for supplies to get you started with your canning project. However, most of these items will last for years and pay for themselves many times over with the savings on your food bill. Depending on what type of produce you are canning, you will need canning jars, two-piece lids, a large water bath canner or pressure cooker, jar lifter, wide mouth canning funnel and a wooden or non-metallic spatula. The only thing that can’t be reused next year is the actual lid—everything else is reusable for many more seasons to come.
Start small by making a batch of jam or jelly. Once you put those sparkling, colorful jars on your shelf for winter you will be eager to try another canning project—maybe some tomato juice or salsa. There are even wonderful Mrs. Wages mixes for cucumbers and tomatoes to make the job seem almost too easy!
Nothing is more satisfying than teaching someone else all of the things you have learned over the years. Canning your own food is a great way to spend time with family and friends and is a wonderful thing to pass down to your children. Our grandparents did it out of necessity to cut costs—now it is becoming a necessity to not only cut costs but to have control over what is in the food we are feeding our family.