If you’re thinking about food preservation, knowing the canning and freezing benefits may just tip the scale for you. At first, it may look like a lot of extra work at a time of year when you’d rather be at the beach or going for long hikes in the cool autumn weather.
It can be a lot of work, it may seem a daunting task, sometimes even worrying about food poisoning is enough to put a person off, but consider this: millions of people have been preserving food in one way or another for thousands of years. There must be a good reason. Of course, there is. It’s staying alive!
We don’t necessarily need to worry about going hungry when there are grocery stores dotting most of our neighborhoods. Unless we’re short of funds, getting food for a meal is just a hop, skip, and jump away. But is it the kind of food we want and do we want to pay someone else to provide us with food when we could put some sweat equity into our food supply ourselves?
If you’re growing a garden, raising chickens, go hunting or fishing, or have a fruit tree or two, you may have surplus food during the summer months that can be enjoyed over the winter, non-growing seasons. There is nothing like the satisfaction of opening the door to your pantry and seeing row upon row of food, safe, non-pesticide, organically raised, food. That inner feeling of security knowing your family will be fed well over the winter is only surpassed by a warm glow that you did it yourself. The cooking is done. You don’t have to drive to the store to get it, or worry about shortages or price increases. You don’t have to put up with inferior quality canned fruits or overpriced jars of jam. The chicken and fish are cooked and ready for a few finishing touches.
It’s a good feeling. A very good feeling.
I grew up helping my mom can, pickle, and make delicious relishes, mincemeat, sauces, pie fillings, and jams. From our little hobby farm we reaped all that plus canned chicken, beef, pork, eggs, ducks, with more than enough vegetables and fruit from our fruit trees and berry bushes to provide us with gallons of juice, dehydrated, frozen and canned fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
We could have done more, but our energy ran out! The good thing is harvest is spread out over months so preserving food is sporadic and not one long continuous drag-out, knock-down battle. There is a secret to success though. Be organized. Have all your equipment ready at hand so when you plan a preserving day, it’s just a matter of bringing it to your work space.
When you consider all the canning and freezing benefits for your family, you won’t have any problem asking for help either. If you’re a canning newbie, start with what you can do at one time, like canning cherries or peaches in early summer, then applesauce or apple pie filling later on. When that’s been a success, move on to pressure canning vegetables or pickling if you want. Try a few jams – freezer jams are my favorite – but canned jams won’t go bad if the power goes out, so maybe do both. When I dehydrate fruits, like cherries, I steam them first in my steam juicer so I get jars of cherry juice and the dried cherries, too. No one says you have to use just one method but keep it simple until you feel comfortable. Success is a great motivator that encourages a person to want to do more.
The canning and freezing benefits are why most people get involved with food preservation. If you are considering taking up this time-honored way of preserving food, you might be wondering if it's worth it. Why bother? Are there any benefits to canning and freezing food at home?
There actually are some very real benefits to canning and freezing. Here are some of them.
If you buy your food in season from local farmers or take advantage of supermarket sales, you can produce large quantities of high-quality canned food for little money. Dried beans are a good example - a 2-lb bag of dried beans for $2, cooked and canned, produces 4 to 6 pints of canned beans. A pint is a bit more than a commercial can, making your efforts well worth it.
Taking advantage of seasonal, local foods saves money,
too. Many vendors at open air markets will sell boxes of "canning
fruits" or "canning vegetables." These can be very reasonable,
producing more than their worth in canned or frozen goods.Just make sure they are not over ripe, damaged or moldy seconds that are not suitable for food preservation.
If you grow your own the savings is even greater, not just
in dollars and cents but in superior, fresh picked quality.As they say, that is priceless...and one of the biggest of the canning and freezing benefits is good health for less.
It's just healthier. When you can and freeze food yourself, you know exactly what went into the jar. If you prefer less sugar or salt, you can simply use a recipe with less. Glass jars are also a very safe material for food preservation; no metals or toxic can liners leach into the food.
There is a much shorter processing time when you can and freeze at home. There are no long transport times; you can get your food from garden or market to can in a matter of hours. This helps retain the foods' nutrients. Picked at its peak is best quality.
Another note on health - foods you can yourself do not have added preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. There are no high fructose corn syrups either or any other dubious chemicals and additives that may be of concern.
We usually speak mostly about canning fruits and vegetables, but one mom I know has a hard time finding frozen chicken breast without gluten added for her child who must eat gluten free food. When you can your own, you know what’s in it or not in it.
In the middle of winter, nothing beats opening a jar of
fresh-tasting berries, frozen or canned at the peak of their flavor and few
pleasures equal fresh-tasting corn and tomatoes in January. During cold and flu
season, you and your family can be enjoying nutrient-rich, healthy foods that
may help ward off illness instead of needing to rely on produce that was farm fresh many days, weeks or months, and, many miles ago. This extra boost of nutrients can help carry your family through to the next seasons fresh harvest in the Spring.
Meal planning and budgeting has always been a big factor for me in helping to boost the drive to have a pantry that is well stocked with home canning. Definitely a big plus on the side of canning and freezing benefits.
When you know how much food you have put away, it easy to sit down with your meal planning calendar and plan its usage. Meal planning calendars aren’t just for recipes, use them to track your frozen, canned, and dehydrated foods, too. You may then find yourself centering your shopping and recipes around what’s in your food storage. It’s also a way to stretch that food storage out so it lasts until you are reaping the next harvest of fresh food. I know, everyone want to eat the peaches first, but when you consider health benefits, it will be in the Spring when our bodies need that health boost. How nice to be able to rely on your preserved fruits then.
The same goes for your shopping budget. When you can see your food storage planned out on a calendar, you can make better choices at the grocery store and know if you need to up the use of pantry supplies and save your cash for something else. We’ve all gone through the “had-to-buy 3 prescriptions and 2 cough medicine plus extra fruit” flu season blues which decimate the family budget. Not when your pantry is full.
Have you ever received homemade jam or an herbal vinegar
as a gift for Christmas? Frozen or canned goods make excellent holiday gifts.They are much appreciated by seniors and others who no longer have the kitchen space or equipment to do food preserving in any quantity. They make wonderful New Home and Welcome Neighbor gifts (make sure you stick to all the food safety rules) and I doubt if there is a college students anywhere that wouldn't love some canned food from home.
One idea you might try if you are wanting to share is to "can 1 jar for Grandma, 9 jars for family" setting aside 1 or 2 jars of every batch to share with others. Or share your harvest with a friend or neighbor who shares their harvest with you. You may have a laden apple tree while they have a big plum harvest. Help with and trade your harvest for no cost. Some people even do the food preserving together, too. A lighter load of work for everyone.
What's another one of the canning and freezing benefits when you use them for gifts?
They are inexpensive, the jars can be decorated in fun ways, and everyone loves to get them.
I checked out 2 resources regarding the safety of canning cakes and breads. Please heed their advice. One of the canning and freezing benefits is that if one method isn't a good choice, use another. In this case, freeze cakes and breads for personal use or gift giving.
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