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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Saving on Home Canning

Frugal Kitchens 101
Last Monday's Frugal Kitchens 101 focused on home canning essentials. Now that you have acquired the necessary equipment for home canning and I do hope you bought a pressure canner so you can put up a wider varieties of home canned foods, I thought a good topic would be saving on home canning. There are two areas in which you can save: energy usage of prepping and canning and the food itself.

Energy Savings Tips:

The beauty of home canning is once the food is canned there are no additional costs for storage as there is with freezing. Your food is not at the mercy of the electricity supply so there are no food losses to worry about in the event of an extended power outage.

  1. During prep don't leave the tap running. Pour your produce in batches into a sink then rinse with a sprayer if you have one. This removes a lot of the initial dirt. Put the plug in and pour cold water over with a drop or two of dishsoap. Wash the produce then drain and spray again.
  2. A pressure canner is cheaper to operate than a boiling water canner because you can process more jars at a time. A full canner load takes the same length of time to process than a partial load so always run a full canner load whenever possible. You use less water as well. For some foods like tomato products pressure canning dramatically lowers the processing times. For example whole tomatoes raw packed are processed for 85 minutes for 500 ml jars in a BWB canner. A full load for a BWB canner would be 7 jars depending on the size of your canner. However, you can process 20 of the same size jars with 25 minutes processing time in a pressure canner. And pressure canning increases the antioxidant properties of lycopene so you end up with a healthier product.
  3. If you have a choice between raw pack and hot pack, choose the raw pack. While this does increase processing time it eliminates the pre-cook making the pre time less and uses less pots and pans. In the end the additional energy used in a bit longer processing time saves you the extra costs of heating water for washing up and your own physical energy.
Saving on Foods for Canning Tips:

Most people associate home canning with making jams, jellies and pickles. If you have been following this blog you will know it is so much more than that. Canning can and should be a year round frugal way to save money on your food costs! A well stocked pantry full of home canned foods also helps to curb the desire to pick-up fast food or eat out.

  1. Grow whatever produce you can and think outside the box. Use the square foot gardening method, small space gardening, growing indoors, vertical gardening, container gardening and any other method that allows you to grow as much as possible. Realize that there are some things you will not be able to grow or may for whatever reason fail to grow well for you so turn to the U-picks, orchards, farmer's markets and farm stands. The produce at the aforementioned is bound to be fresher than the produce in your grocery store. Don't forget to trade with other home gardeners. One year I had an excellent tomato crop so traded extra tomatoes for fresh caught perch saving me the time of going fishing and cleaning the catch. Another year I traded extra zucchini for wild duck.
  2. Always check the reduced for a quick sale in your grocery store. This is an excellent way to fill those canning jars while saving money. Take advantage of any good meat, poultry or produce savings by canning. Be sure to check the in store specials and loss leaders sales for the same reason. Some ideas to get you started if you find great meat deals are: meatballs, seasoned ground beef, meatloaf, soups, stews and just plain meats.
  3. Dried beans seldom go on sale but you can buy them in bulk for a bit less then store some dried and some home canned. They are so easy to can making an ideal convenience product for your pantry shelves and when considering the overall cost (beans, electricity, lids) they are a fraction of the cost of store bought beans coming in at well under the half price of store bought!
  4. Make your own soups which is always cheaper than store bought condensed soups then can them up for ready meals. The only rules are it is not recommended you use pasta, barley or rice in the soups. If you want these ingredients add them when you reheat which is a good way to use up those bits of left-overs of the aforementioned foods.
  5. Clear Jel® is currently the only approved thickener for canning. This is a modified corn starch that does not break down under processing like regular corn starch and flour. So it is a quality issue. Unfortunately the Clear Jel® regular (don't use instant) is not widely available in grocery stores. Order online from several sources. Golda's Kitchen (here) is an excellent Canadian source that ships within Canada and has stores in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) so if you are in the area you can easily pick it up.
  6. Pectin is necessary for most jams and jellies. One of the problems with the pectin bought in the grocery stores (Certo®, Sure-Jell®, Ball®) is they are sugar dependent for gelling so you cannot reduce the sugar or adjust the recipes at all. You must follow their instructions. The low-sugar pectins are packaged with just the right amount of fructose (a fruit sugar) to ensure a gel. Using commercially prepared sugar dependent pectins will add about $2 per batch of jam and there are date stamps that the pectin should be used by. So they really aren't shelf stable for long term storage. Pomona's Universal pectin is a low-methoxyl pectin that uses calcium water rather than sugar for it's gelling. I buy directly from them for the best price. Using this pectin means you can use other sweeteners than sugar, no sugar or low sugar and basically create your own gourmet style jams and jellies. On the surface it does appear to be more expensive but you use so very little of it per batch and the shelf life is several years so per batch this pectin works out to be a lot cheaper!

1 food lovers commented:

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Jennifer :) You're welcome. Pomona's is a bit more flexible so you can make your own custom combinations for jams and jellies. I hope you like using it.