Can it: The art of home food preservation


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I attended a wedding three weeks ago where the favors were homemade canned jams — a traditional food in the bride’s family and a delicious twee delight for her guests. 

The bride, one of my friends and crafting soul-mates, spent days in her mother’s kitchen, along with several of the women in her extended Italian American family, cooking at least four varieties of fresh jams. The results were a huge hit.

Canning may seem like a lot of work, but for those who are part of its 21st-century revival of something that started with the first Mediterranean civilizations, it’s about creating and experimenting with flavorful, fresh, healthy food that preserves well and saves a household money, while also honoring family traditions and building new memories. For those interested in canning but feeling a little intimidated, let’s look at how it’s done, easy pro tips and what foods are best to preserve.


What foods can be preserved?

Canning is so much more than jams, salsas and pickles, although the delicious results of those condiments are reason enough to start preserving. Fruits, vegetables, seafood, legumes and meats all can be processed into canned meals


What are the benefits?

Canning is economical. Modern Alternative Mama, a blog written by Kate Tietje, explains that canning saves a lot of money with fresh, organic results. Canned peaches done at home are about a fifth of the cost of the store-bought product.

Additionally, the food is healthier and fresher than store-bought foods, and it’s more eco-friendly. Store-bought canned goods contain a lot of sodium, sugar and other preservatives to retain flavor and increase shelf life. All of those additives go away if you can your food yourself. This is especially true if you grow your own fruits and vegetables, which are free of pesticides and hormones.

Canning keeps you prepared for the future. What you’re essentially doing is taking fresh foods and preserving them for a later date, which is perfect for preparing for cold and harsh winter weather. We’ll take any opportunity to stay away from the madness of a grocery store as others prepare for blizzards and other inclement weather.


Where to start?

Better Homes and Gardens has a helpful step-by-step guide to the canning process. The magazine recommends that if you want to start canning, the first step is to give yourself lots of uninterrupted time. It also has a comprehensive timeline chart for canning different kinds of foods. 

When you can, it’s easy if you remember your three Ps: prepare, pick, preserve. This addresses the proper sanitation of tools, choosing the right recipes and foods to can, and the method by which they are preserved.