During the wintry months it’s good to find projects that make us think about the seasons ahead of homegrown tomatoes and fresh green beans, tilling the soil and tending the garden. In my mind I hear the sounds of life teeming all around from birds you only hear in warmer times like the goldfinches and Carolina wrens, to the chorus of cicadas in the evening and the crickets chirping at night. Even though it’s 7°F outside right now, we found a bargain at the supermarket which sparked our normally autumnal desire to do some canning.
Since there was a great sale of potatoes, carrots and even chicken breasts, we purchased a good amount to preserve. Canning is usually a late summer to autumn activity but doing it in the dead of winter not only gives us a great project to while away these times of cabin fever, but also serves to save us money in the future. Carrots aren’t always 59 cents a bag and 10 lbs of potatoes are $1.39 only at Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s Day…maybe another time or two depending on crops. When you can find any meat for a dollar a pound these days, its time to jump on the opportunity. We found chicken breasts on just such a sale and discovered they can beautifully as well.
When we think about it, going to the store a year from now prices may be double on these things if not more. I’ve already seen 10 lb bags of potatoes for $3.50 a pound when not on sale. Bargain hunting can really make a difference. Canning is like putting a treasure in a time capsule. The time capsule lasts only two years but even just two years ago food prices were so much lower. We don’t see it getting any better so winter time is a good time to think about the savings of years to come. The possibilities are endless as to what bargain you wish to preserve.
Stews and soups can be preserved by canning as well. If you make a large batch of something, the left-overs can be processed and stored for another time. Think of the trips to the supermarket you can replace with a trip to the basement or cupboard for a delicious meal waiting only to be re-heated, the work already done. Save that gas money and invest it into a pressure canner. They can be as affordable as $88.00 at Target but go up to nearly $400.00 for the more serious cook. Either way, it will pay for itself if used when the food you can is on sale, or better yet, food you grow in your own garden for pennies a pound.
If I went to the store and purchased five cans (only 15 oz. or 24 oz.) each of soup, beans, spinach, corn, carrots, peaches, apple pie filling, jelly and jam, chicken and beef, I could easily spend upwards from $100.oo. For half the money or likely, much less I could put up 5 quarts (32 oz.) each of my own fruits, meat, beans, vegetables and soups with the added benefit of being organic and BPA free (metal cans treated with BPA have been linked to breast cancer and asthma). I could easily spend $1.39 on a can of potatoes but that whole 10 pound bag cost just as much and makes roughly 3 quarts…more than six times the amount prepared and available any time I want!
Canning must be done properly for the food you preserve to be safe to eat. For instance, foods high in acid require only a water bath which is as easy as boiling water but low acid foods like the ones pictured above require the pressure canning. The carrots and potatoes took 25 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure and the chicken 90 minutes at 13 lbs, pressure (higher altitudes require higher pressure). Follow the guidelines in the Ball Blue Book a Guide to Canning and Preserving. Also, I’ve found this link which has vintage recipes for free. It too is a good guide to safe preserving.
Sure, I purchase canned goods from the store for convenience but it is becoming less and less. It just makes good sense to preserve food myself and store it for leaner times. Shopping in my own home-store is convenient and there is nothing prettier than the colorful things preserved in shiny glass containers displayed in the cupboard or kitchen shelves. This, along with the previously mentioned health benefits makes me want to do all my own canning. I have the equipment so I should can…because I can.