From the time I was 5 years old, I was helping my mother and grandmother can and preserve our food. I remember many summer days, sitting on the porch, snapping green beans or shucking corn. It was work but come January, with wind chills below zero and a few inches of snow on the ground, nothing was nicer than that fresh, out of the garden taste you get with home canned food.
Many believe home canning is difficult but the opposite is true. Today there are many learning resources on line; everything from books to how-to websites. Canning is easy to learn but there are startup costs. Do not take shortcuts. Canning can be dangerous if you do not use the proper equipment or follow canning instructions for the needed time and temperature. Good canning books are necessary and there are several I highly recommend.
If you are unsure if you want to take on this task, ask yourself some important questions. Do you love fresh food? Do you want to know what is in your food? Do you like serving healthy meals to your family? If you answered yes, you may be a candidate for home canning.
The next question is, “where will I find vegetables?” If not having garden space is keeping you from canning, think again. You can get enough fresh vegetables to fill your pantry by container gardening. Grow vegetables in beds made from wood, large flowerpots or even hanging baskets, depending on the vegetable. Almost any container will work, just pick a container size to match the vegetable selection.
If you don’t have space for any gardening, farmers markets are another choice for finding fresh vegetables. Look in the classifieds advertisements, you will also find many hobby farmers selling their surplus vegetables.
My favorite vegetable for canning is the tomato. We use tomatoes for several meals, so I am always plant my own tomato plants as well as look for local farmers selling excess tomatoes. I home can plain diced tomatoes for soups and stews, stewed tomatoes, rotel and Italian style tomatoes. Canning tomatoes is work but, there is an easy way to do them without turning your kitchen into an oven.
First, wash and core your tomatoes; be sure to cut off the little dark navel on the bottom of the tomato as well. Drop the whole tomatoes in freezer bags and freeze for at least 24-48 hours. When you thaw your tomatoes, just pull the skins off with your fingers. No need to spend time peeling or blanching and plunging in an ice bath. I like to keep mine frozen until the weather turns cold. That way, when I start canning, I don’t mind if I heat up the kitchen.
There are many things you can preserve by home canning. The first investment can be a little costly but good quality canning supplies is a must. Once you start eating your own, home canned food, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
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