Thursday, November 13, 2008

Canning...old school style

Canning is something that I think any self respecting survivalist should be able to do. In most parts of the US it's impossible to grow crops year round. If things get so bad that the supply lines shut down then there will probably be several months out of the year where the grocery stores just don't have much produce on the shelf. The months when they DO have plenty on the shelf are the months when your gardens should be in full swing, anyway. The same goes for meat. Not everyone can raise their own meat animals thanks to ridiculous local laws and hunting ends up costing more than what it would cost to just buy the meat at the market at today's prices. With prices getting more and more expensive, canning is becoming all the more viable. A year ago you could fill up a pantry with canned meat and vegetables from the grocery store for half of what you can today. I went to Wal-Mart today and canned TUNA was $1 a can. A year ago it regularly went on sale for 3 for $1. This stuff is just going to keep getting more expensive.

So what can you do about it? Can it yourself! It costs a little bit to get things started but once you get things rolling most of the stuff is paid for and it becomes really cheap. A couple of months ago I decided that my garden was producing more than I'd be able to eat so I went ahead and invested in some canning jars and a water bath canner. My water bath canner was $20 and the jars were about $10 for a dozen. These are brand new prices. That was a pretty good start but it didn't take me long to realize that I'd need more. Luckily, the jars will last you forever as long as they don't break and new lids are only a couple of bucks for a dozen (stock up now). The biggest downside to water bath canning is that most recipes call for distilled vinegar which may be hard to come across during a major emergency. Luckily, it's ridiculously cheap and relatively easy to stock up on.

Once you realize how easy it is it becomes obvious that a pressure canner is where it's at. I lucked out and found an old canner at a thrift store that cost me $20. It uses weights instead of a pressure gauge and it doesn't use any rubber seals. Everything I've read on the internet said DON'T USE IT OR IT'LL BLOW UP AND KILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Me being me I went ahead and tried it out anyway. Interestingly enough it works perfectly. I've eaten jars of chili that sat on my shelf for a month after the canning process with no issues. The good thing about canners that have a good metal on metal seal and that use weights instead of gauges is that you should never have to replace anything. Obviously, you have to be very careful if you go this route. If you want to be safe then get a newer model All American Pressure Canner. They start at about $200 and you're sure to end up with a high quality pressure canner that will last you and your family several generations. Replacing the gauges is the only thing that you'll have to worry about but if you're really concerned with safety then this is very important. If you're lucky enough to find a flex-seal canner that's in good shape with all of the weights in tact (what I was lucky enough to find) then I'd have a hard time not recommending it. If it was abused then it could potentialy explode in your kitchen and cause some serious damage but if you're diligent about testing it before you use it then you should be just fine.

Canning has practically become a lost art. That's a little ironic because a $10 Ball Canning book that's available at any Wal-Mart will tell you everything that you need to know, whether you're water bath canning or pressure canning (yes I'm telling you to buy this book). We've become so dependent on our economy to keep us fed that, as far as I'm concerned, you'd be a fool not to learn ways to preserve food on your own to make sure that you can preserve some food in case the economy does actually fail.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been looking at canning for a while now.I just picked up a water bath set up and 5 dozen small jar's for 15 buck's on Craigslist,my favorite shopping mall!The USDA has a great website for canning,but for some reason do not recommend the water bath.My mother and grandmother used this method forever,never had a problem.

Rob Taylor said...

Stupid Question. Are there any ways to can when there's no electricity? I know there must be but I never see much info on that which would be great in an extended grid down situation

Anonymous said...

Canning without power is no problem,it only need's a fire for boiling the water.Just need to control the heat,such as a propane stove or grill.I imagine it could be done on a woodstove or campfire,if watched closely.It's as simple as boiling water.

Rob Taylor said...

Thanks. I might give it a try this week.

Anonymous said...

I'd recommend getting a cookbook with some instruction's about canning.The USDA website is pretty vague about hot water canning,but I have an old cookbook from my mother that is pretty good about it,yet still seem's to lean toward's pressure canning.Try going thru the book's at goodwill or such.From what I've read,fruit's and tomamto's are ok for water,but they recommend pressure for veggie's.No clue why,my mom did everything in the hot water,she was paranoid about pressure cooker's.

The Urban Survivalist said...

During the great depression pressure canning at home was in great demand. There weren't a lot of people that actually had canners at the time, though, and with the war limiting everyone's available resources they were almost impossible to get. The people that didn't know someone with a pressure canner had to water bath can. All you needed was a big pot and some canning jars to water bath can but the food that you canned had to have high acid content for it to remain safe. That meant you had to either can certain foods or use a lot of vinegar. Basically you have the choice of making pickles or tomato sauce.

After we started to pull ourselves out of the depression and the war was over pressure canners were in high demand. A lot of companies started producing low quality canners to keep costs down. Unfortunately, they had a tendancy to blow up on people's stoves. It didn't take long before people started to get paranoid about pressure canning. It got a bad rap and despite the fact that companies started to make much higher quality, safer canners people lost interest and the underlying fear stuck.

Just get a ball canning book. They're about $10 at Wal-mart. They have all of the most up to date information that you need to can safely since it's updated and rereleased annually.

Anonymous said...

I can't recall my mom using any vinegar or such,I'll have to ask her.I do recall her canning ton's of tomato's,and bean's.(in fact,I still have a scar from falling on a jar when I was 3!).To start with,I'm trying to can chili pepper's from my garden,they grow like weed's here in Arizona.Not saying they are a great survival food,but a good change of pace from the other thing's.Just out of curiosity,what is the shelf life of steel canned veggie's and such,compared to jar canned food's?If the pepper's seem to work out,I'd like to buy carrot's and other thing's I can't grow here.Maybe make some can's of mixed veggie's too.Any tip's would be welcome!

The Urban Survivalist said...

Peppers are a lot better than you think. They're nutritious and, more importantly, they provide excellent flavoring. I would think that the glass jars and the tin cans from stores would have the same shelf life as long as you follow the proper sanitizing procedures and recipes when you're canning yourself. I've personally eaten canned goods that were years past their date and they were fine. The food will start to deteriorate and lose some of it's nutritional value but the whole point of the sterilization process is to kill everything that's inside that could potentially grow and multiply and then make you sick when you finally get around to eating it.

Anonymous said...

thx Urban! I hope I'll use it up before any potential expiration date,as I'm paranoid about rotating my stocks.As far as my chili pepper's,I'm hoping to make some sort of salsa or something ,rather than just pepper's.Some tomato's,onion,and the pepper's.Something a bit different than just the veggie's.Nothing is more relaxing than a garden!

The Urban Survivalist said...

I dried a lot of mine this year. I use them so much in cooking that I didn't even use many of them in canning. I did make a really killer relish, though. Salsa is a great way to make use of them. Get the Ball canning book. There are a ton of recipes that use peppers in it.

Anonymous said...

I made another great Craigslist deal today! Got a food dehydrator,like new,for 10 bucks! I recall on another site, someone was dehydrating canned veggie's for soup stock and such. I can't figure out a reason to open a perfectly good can to dehydrate it, other than to try to save space. Maybe after you open the can,use what you need,then dehydrate the leftover's make's more sense to me. Wouldn't frozen veggie's work better?

Anonymous said...

Here's a tip: learn to use apostrophes correctly. Jesus.