Walking down the path on a crisp morning, with water dripping on my toes, gripping the handle of a sturdy watering can. From seedlings soaking up the sun to harvesting the fruits of your labour, gardening is a rewarding process. More so, the end of summer holds an abundance of produce available for freshening up any dish and eating straight from the dirt. Whether you are a gardener, or just appreciate fresh food, now is the best time of year to get the freshest ingredients coming from local sources.
Preserving food has taken place for thousands of years, from salting and dehydrating foods to freezing and canning. Canning is my preferred way to enjoy these fresh ingredients at colder times of year. It’s easy to do, requires minimal equipment, and is also a way to enjoy goods and produce while living a low waste lifestyle.
Canning foods is also a very rewarding process, being able to consume and gift foods homemade and from the heart. The options for recipes are endless and you can transform almost any vegetable or fruit into an edible sweet or savoury. There are tools and processes that do make canning easier and less frustrating when you are first starting out, and can ultimately help you continue to make products more safely and efficiently while you also enjoy the process.
The tools I suggest investing in, first and foremost is a canning kit consisting of a canning funnel, jar lifter, and lid lifter. Jar and lid lifters make it easier to sanitize jars properly while also making sure you are not burning yourself when removing the jars from the boiling sanitization water. The canning funnel is a wide mouth funnel that sits perfectly on top of the hot jar you want to pour product into. It also keeps the top of the jar clean while measuring how much air space should be left at the top of the jar. All three of these tools have been extremely helpful in my canning processes, and good news, they are very affordable and will last a long time. The last item is a large size pot. Nothing special here, just a tall pot that can hold enough water to cover pint jars for sanitization and/or cooking your homemade goods.
A very important process to canning is making sure your equipment is properly sanitized and there is little chance of bacteria developing in your canned goods. To sanitize, the simplest method is boiling. Place the jars and lids you plan to use in a pot of water, making sure the tops are completely covered. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes has passed, you can turn the element down to minimum, but keep the jars in the water until ready to use, that way, they stay hot and sanitized. You can also sanitize using the dishwasher, however, unless you know exactly how long your dishwasher takes to finish the complete cycle, it can be a bit tricky figuring out the correct timing for when to begin your recipe.
Water Bath Process
The water bath process refers to what happens after you put your homemade product into the hot sterilized jars and place the seals on. Water baths help the jar to seal properly and in some cases such as pickles, gently cook the vegetables to help preserve them. The water bath is typically heated up prior to dropping in the filled jars (this is where the jar lifter really comes in handy!), and the jars are placed in the boiling water for 10-15 minutes before being removed. Water baths are used especially for products that are not cooked prior to being placed in the jar itself. Anything pickled is a proven example of this, however, this method can be used on pretty much any product. Fridge and freezer canning does not require a water bath.
Fridge & Freezer Canning
Among the easiest of canning methods, fridge and freezer canning preservation cuts off a couple usual steps. It doesn’t require sealed jars or water baths. The products can be placed in any container and stored in the fridge or freezer for consumption. The downside is that they typically don’t last quite as long. Freezer canning keeps for about 6 months, while fridge canning depends completely on what fresh ingredient you are dealing with. My personal favourite fridge canning recipe is for fridge pickles. With a 3:4 vinegar to water ratio, pickling salt, a touch of sugar, and home grown dill and garlic, you can throw together the best pickles you’ll ever eat in about 20 minutes! Check out my favouite pickle recipe here.
Canning & Why You Should Start
Here are the reasons why you should consider starting to add canning foods to your lifestyle.
Preserving fresh ingredients and increasing the shelf life
Homemade sauces and jams hold more flavour than store bought types
You know exactly what ingredients are in the products you are making
Your homemade products will avoid chemical based preservatives, extra salt, sugar, and aspartame.
Fridge or freezer canning recipes can use any container or jar (lids don’t need to be sealed) – can use old store bought pickle or sauce jars for this purpose
Little equipment is required
They make great gifts
Some fruits can be harvested for free from public fruit areas (eg. neighbouring crabapple trees, rhubarb bushes, or pear trees)
Canning trades – making a product and trading it with someone else who then gives you a different jarred good.
Creating exploratory flavour combinations and fruit cocktails
Jars can be reused time and time again
It’s more affordable long term – sauces and jarred vegetables in the store look inexpensive, but over time the costs add up. Canning goods yourself often has a larger initial cost, but is cheaper in the long run.
Canning is a great life skill for kids
You get to choose ingredients that you love
It helps you and your household become more self sustainable, supporting circular living methods and doing it yourself.
Low waste living and canning methods are connected in their values and way of life that surrounds them. Canning is an extension of the reasons you might choose to visit a farmers market and support local. It is a way of living that dips into self sustainability and reliance, a true life goal. Lastly, it can be so explorative of flavours, full of fun and curiosity, as well as fresh and delicious! Give it a try, and you might just become addicted!