Over the next few days, I’m going to be writing about canning – why I do it, why it works, the process of doing it, etc. I’m no expert but I like to think I know a thing or two. (It probably won’t be consecutive postings, so don’t be surprised if you see a bit about knitting pop up in the middle…)
So! Why can? I mean, I can just go down to the local corner store and pick up any number of pre-canned food items, why on earth should I do it myself? There are a multitude of motives to do it yourself. Ask ten people, and you’ll probably get ten different reasons. Here are some of mine:
- Total control over what I’m eating. I know exactly what went into that jar of salsa, and I can tell you there was no high fructose corn syrup involved!
- It’s cheaper. Once you get past the initial investment in some basic canning supplies, it doesn’t cost very much at all. (Yeah, you can get a cheap can of green beans, but how good are they?) It’s especially cost effective if you grow your own produce.
- It tastes better. Sometimes it just really does taste better, and other times it tastes better simply because I know I made it myself. But as long as you use fresh, quality ingredients, and a good recipe, the results can be amazing!
- Revive a lost tradition. People used to can all their canned goods at home. Now most people don’t even know how! I love learning skills that people (especially women) everywhere used to know but have now been largely forgotten.
- It’s rewarding. I get satisfaction out of knowing that I made something delicious and nourishing with my own two hands. Something that will impart a little whiff of summer into an otherwise dull winter. Something that will remind me of the process involved whenever I open the jar.
- Be less dependent on big business/big government. I’m not a sky-is-falling type of person overall, but really, look at the state of the world! I like learning a skill that could help make the difference in my quality of life. (Let’s hope it never comes to that!)
- It’s good for bribing people. Need a favor? Offer a jar of homemade jam as payment. It never fails!
- It’s just plain fun. I enjoy it! What better reason is there?
So that covers my personal reasons for canning, what about the technical reasons? Why do you have to can food in the first place? Well, I think we all realize that you can’t just stick some food in a jar, put the lid on, and call it good! It will spoil. There are microorganisms everywhere – in the water we drink, in the air we breathe and in the food we eat. Yeasts, bacteria, mold…they are all there, generally in populations that far outnumber us! Left unchecked, they’ll cause spoilage. Home canning kills these microorganisms and prevents recontamination by hermetically sealing the container. It also destroys enzymes in the food that cause it to spoil. So how exactly does canning mitigate the threat of those wily yeasts and cunning bacteria? I’ll get to that part in my next post!