Adventures in Food Preservation

A couple weekends ago, I started my first solid attempt at food preservation. I’ve frozen foods before and dried herbs, but this year marks the very first time I’ve canned anything and otherwise preserved foods in earnest.

Part of my new effort had to do with the secondhand gift of a deep-chest freezer. Part of it had to do with the proliferation of food-preservation blog posts and stories and canning supplies that greeted me at nearly every grocery store I went to. It just seemed like the “in” thing to do this season. It’s probably more a matter of me actually noticing it this year than any surge in popularity. It’s not like I’m seeing friends’ cupboards with the kind of collection in the World War II-era canning photo I attached to this post. If  you thought that was mine, you think WAAAY too much of me. It’s from the Library of Congress.

But I did do and plan on doing more of my fair first-timer’s share of canning. Coming up on the Food Life will be a review of a canning guide I received, some peachy canning and, if I can eek out a little time this weekend, some apple and/or pear works.

But first, I thought I’d share a few of the lessons and rules I learned from my so-far one weekend adventure in canning:

Rule No. 1: Make sure you have EVERYTHING handy, all your tools, all your ingredients. Everything. Which leads me to:

Rule No. 2: A wooden spoon and tongs are not a good substitute for a jar grabber tool. Which leads me to:

Rule No. 3: If you’re going to wear long sleeves while cooking, don’t wear polyester. If you slosh scalding water on your arm, it’s going to keep the heat in. My bare skin fared better. And just in case you didn’t know: treat a scald burn by running it under cool water and cover with a clean cloth. If you blister, seek medical attention (which I didn’t need, just thought I’d throw that PSA in there).

Some other yeah-I-should know-that lessons I was reminded of:

  • Fruit is sticky.
  • Fruit flies are fond of sticky fruit (say that 5 times fast!).
  • If your jam looks more like syrup than jam when you think it’s done cooking, it’s not going to get that much thicker when you seal it in a can.
  • If the recipe tells you to wait a week before eating your canned goods, take its advice.
  • Read the whole recipe before you go shopping. Every word.
  • Don’t try to do multiple recipes you’ve never tried before all at once to save time. Really think about your workflow first and leave time for emergency corrections.

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Food Preservation

  1. I’ve been dehydrating and freezing our food for over twenty years. But I’ve never tried to can. My mother gave me her canning supplies years ago but I’ve been to terrified to try it. I guess I’ll pay attention and see what the other bloggers haveto say.

    1. Kyle, I don’t know that all canning is scary. If you make sure to sterilize your jars (which I did in a dishwasher that has a “sanitize” setting) and follow a modern recipe’s instructions, you’re probably OK. Maybe stick with fruits to start. From most of what I’ve read, the real issues with contamination tend to happen with low-acid foods. Meats, vegetables and tomatoes need to be pressure-canned, but fruits can be sealed in jars with water bath canning (immersing the filled jars in boiling water).

      – Angela

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