I've been thinking...If we are going to move out of the city to start a homestead, there will be a certain set of skills we will need to develop in order to adapt to this new lifestyle and Home Canning is probably one of the most important ones.
Growing up in northern Ontario meant you didn't always have access to the freshest produce but when you did manage to get your hands on some, you had to find a way to preserve it so your family could enjoy them during the harsh winter months. I still remember the taste of my grandmother's field strawberry jam and it brings back some of my fondest childhood memories. When I met my wife Tessa, I soon found out that traditions were very similar in her family as well. Her mother was the queen of canning; she canned everything from fruits and veggies to meats and soup starters but the best was her canned spaghetti sauce. Her basement was always packed full of mason jars and she constantly made extra food so she could can the left overs.
I believe our ancestors had a scarcity mentality, and that is why they were always prepared for the eventuality that fresh food is not always available. Urban living and consumerism have made it so we rely more on the grocery store than on our own ability to produce food. That's all fine as long as the system keeps working but what if stops. We have all felt the effects of extreme droughts on the west coast or hurricanes in the southern United States. What happens when minimum wage increases to a point where all of our basic services get inflated and become no longer affordable. Think about it.
In starting our journey to self-sufficient living, Tessa and I realized we were going to have to make some changes to our current lifestyle. Just as everyone else in the city, we often find ourselves forgoing meal planning for a quick stop at our local grocery store for dinner or worse ordering in some take-out. Don't get me wrong, it is super convenient and fun to do that, but when we do, we always go over budget and we don't really eat as healthy as we should. When we decide to move out of the city, that will not an option for us any longer. We took a step back to find solutions and quickly realized that we already had the perfect example to follow. We started asking questions, reading books and with a little trial and error found that home canning was not that difficult.
First of all, you don't need a lot of equipment. Canning jars are available everywhere. We were lucky because my mother-in-law's favorite gift was to give a few cases of canned spaghetti sauce or a few of canned pea soup. When we wanted to return the empty jars, she would always tell us to keep them; you never know when they will come in handy she said. Besides the jars, all you really need is an oven, a few pots and you are in business.
Second, anybody can do it. All you need is a little can-do attitude and you're all set. We started canning in our little 700 sq. ft. apartment. Slowly gaining some experience, trying out different methods and canning all kinds of things. We have made dill pickles, canned peaches, pickled carrots, spaghetti sauce and a lot more but the best part is that we have a ton of fun doing it together. If you have been on the fence about canning or are afraid to try it, the best advice we can give you is go for it. What's the worst that can happen really?
We have yet to find any disadvantages to home canning; in the long run it produce less garbage, currently we are supporting our local farmers because we don't yet have our own garden. We have good food to enjoy all year round and we know exactly what goes into it. Another benefit we found was that we started developing a community. Whether it's from gifts we give away or from talking with our local farmers, like-minded people tend to find each other and this is no exception, in our book, that is a win.
I am aware that not everyone is brought up as we were and that is why I think it is important for me to write this article. Tessa and I believe strongly in self-sufficient living and want to use our journey to help teach others about the benefits of this alternative lifestyle. The best resource we have is a book published by the Canadian company Bernardin called Guide to Home Preserving. It is available by clicking the link below or at your local store that sells home canning equipment. Pick up a copy, it covers all the basics to get you started, gives you a few recipes and explains the different canning methods. Get started today, I know you will enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally.
Finally, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us. It will be our pleasure to help you in any way we can.
Thank you for reading!