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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, September 28, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Debunking 10 Canning Myths

Frugal Kitchens 101
This time of year so many are doing whatever they can to preserve foods for the coming winter months. Over the past few weeks I have made several posts about stocking the pantry. One cost effective, frugal way to stock the pantry is home canning. This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 will debunk 10 canning myths.

  1. Only grandmothers and little old ladies home can foods. - During the Great Depression anyone who could can did so. It was a way to preserve the harvest in rural communities and the excesses from Victory gardens in urban communities. It remains a popular rural community activity however with the y2K scare home canning saw a renewal. Anyone interested in self-sufficiency and realizing economic savings are turning to home canning. On the forums it is quite apparent that the trend is heading towards younger adults now home canning.
  2. Canning is expensive. - Home canning is in many ways no more expensive than normal cooking. True you do need a pressure canner for canning low acid foods but for as low as $150 you can easily buy all the equipment needed new including a few new jars. Cut that cost by buying used if possible. From there it is a matter of finding used mason jars and rings then buying new lids. Cheap/free sources are yard sales, estate sales, Craig's list, freecycle and word of mouth.
  3. Canning is time consuming. - Home canning is no more time consuming than normal cooking even when it comes to prep work. Some foods are more labour intensive but there are several inexpenisve specialized appliances to help you with this. Many of these can be picked up rather inexpensively at yard sales and resale stores. Once the food is in the jars and in the canner the only time involved is the processing time during which time you can be doing something else.
  4. Canning is complicated. - Canning is not complicated! If you can follow a recipe you can easily home can. There is a learning curve of course mainly to get comfortable with the process and get your rhythm but once you've canned a couple of loads it is no more complicated than baking a cake from scratch using a recipe.
  5. Canning is seasonal. - Some stores perpetuate the myth that canning is seasonal beginning when strawberries come into season and ending with tomatoes. Canning is not seasonal. It is a frugal, money saving activity that can be done year round. For many home canners there is the busy canning season then there is the off season with the only difference being the number of times the canner runs in a week. Off season you can take advantage of meat and poultry sales, wild game/fish catches, produce discounts and canning things like beans (kidney, Great Navy, baked), soups, stews, stocks and broths.
  6. Only jams, jellies, fruits and pickles can be home canned. - This myth is perpetuated by those who do not understand about canning low acid foods that require a pressure canner. The list of foods that should not be home canned is significantly lower than the list of foods that can be home canned.
  7. Pressure canners are dangerous. - Floating around in the vast space known as the internet are all kinds of stories about a pressure canner or cooker (2 different things) blowing up on someone, usually a friend of a friend's grandmother. Modern pressure canners have safety devices built in to prevent any problems from over pressurizing the vessel. With proper use a pressure canner is no more dangerous than a fry pan!
  8. Home canned foods cause food poisoning. - This is one area where home canning gets a bad rap because it is easy to blame food poisoning on improperly home canned foods. The last case of food born illness due to botulism in Canada was improperly home canned whale meat in 1994. By far the majority of food borne illness occurs in the commercial sector (food plants, restaurants) is E.coli, Samonella and Listeria. There have been several recent notices by both the USDA and CFIA of various contaminated commercially prepared foods that have even resulted in death. The CFIA continues to remind Canadians of practicing food safety when home canning.
  9. You need a lot of storage space for home canned products. - Ideally home canned foods should be stored in a cool, dark place. While a large walk-in-pantry like mine or a spot in a basement is likely the best storage for home canned foods, home canners living in urban areas have become quite creative with finding storage solutions. Some have turned small linen closets into pantries while others have taken to storing home canned foods under beds and couches. Some have stacked the cases then covered with a small round tabletop and tablecloth creating an accent table using the stacked cases as a base. Think vertical with sturdy shelving as well to maximize what storage space you do have.
  10. Canning products are only for humans. - Many home canners concerned about the quality of their own food are taking that philosophy a step further by canning their own pet foods. There are several online sources for homemade pet foods. This really does make good sense as the homemade versions are not only cheaper but higher quality. At the same time it is using up organ meats and cheaper cuts of meats that may otherwise not be used.

2 food lovers commented:

Jason Gallimore said...

I am attempting to learn canning myself. Thanks for your wonderful tips!

Kat said...

Yes, Yes, and YES!!!!! I agree whole heartedly with your post! I am 28 years old, and I learned to can from my mom when I was 24. My husband and I were very poor while in graduate school, and I started canning all year to save money. I've never had a large pantry to store my food in. I have used random cabinets or even the space above the cabinets for my jars.

I started with the typical canning in the fall with the harvest, but now I can whenever there's a need to do so (sale prices or too much of a food item for two). I can any leftover pumpkins (from fall decorations) in the fall, tomato sauce and salsa in the late summer, boiled peanuts in late summer, practically any produce that's on clearance, and broth whenever the bag of leftover vegetable pieces gets full in the fridge - I found that idea on your site.

Canning isn't expensive, time consuming (I would start the canner and study for class), nor is it only for housewives or grandmas. It's for anyone wanting to save money!

Thanks for posting an article that clears up all the canning misconceptions.