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Canning: A New Obsession

Updated on April 2, 2013
A Moto of WWII Victory Gardens
A Moto of WWII Victory Gardens

As a child, I watched my mom “put up” food via the freezing method. She knew how to can the old fashioned way, but, I never remember seeing any jars in our home used for the purpose for which they were intended. Mom was an elementary school secretary; she had summers off to take advantage of storing the bountiful produce our state of Georgia provided.

We would go to farmer’s markets, local farms, and of course, we had our own garden which my dad tended to faithfully. His specialty was tomatoes, but he also grew butter beans, green beans, and peppers of all variety. Mom had a large chest freezer if filled to capacity would allow a family of four to last an entire winter without visiting a grocery store.

Mom spent many hours over a hot stove peeling, blanching, and packaging up vegetables and fruit in plastic freezer bags. She taught me these methods that I have continued to use for many years.

The first attempt to can tomatoes was a success with each jar sealing correctly.
The first attempt to can tomatoes was a success with each jar sealing correctly. | Source

A New Skilled Learned

My husband and I decided to become more self-sufficient, we needed a vegetable garden. We have been successful gardeners of flowers for many years but never could sustain eatable crops. A garden would help supplement our grocery bill with fresh, organic, local produce. We also made a commitment to buy as much food locally as we can, whether it is from the town’s farmer’s market or directly from a family farm.

After combining what our own garden produced with locally purchased veggies and fruit, we found ourselves in need of a way to store the harvest. We live in a cozy, old cottage that only allows for a small freezer which has just enough room for meat. I needed to find another way of keeping the produce that did not require freezing. The answer to this dilemma was canning. Canning had always intimidated and scared me into avoiding it like the plague, but if I wanted to be more self-sufficient and make the harvest last, I had to learn the process.

I purchased a canning kit, a water bath canner, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, and a couple of cases of pint and quart sized jars. I watched several online videos that helped me understand the process before undertaking the first attempt.

For my beginning endeavor, I decided on stewed tomatoes. Tomatoes are an item that we use an immense amount of in our home. During the fall and winter months, we love making homemade chili, vegetable soup, and bisques. For us, we could never have too many canned tomatoes.

As a newbie, I needed to follow the online Ball Canning Company's video while canning my tomatoes. The video is clear, precise, and extremely helpful in giving confidence during the process. I tried to pick a day (in Georgia, no less) that did not reach the 100 degree mark. I took my time, watching and stopping the video as needed to process the "maters." Every lid sealed properly; I could not ask for more. I was hooked.

My new obsession fills my cupboard with goodies and gifts for the holidays.
My new obsession fills my cupboard with goodies and gifts for the holidays. | Source

Interest Turns into Obsession

Coming off the high of having every lid “ping,” I thought of the endless possibilities of jams, jellies, preserves, whole fruit for pies, and of course more tomatoes. I want to can tomatoes for chili, spaghetti, soups, stews, casseroles; the possibilities are endless.

Although we have experienced the hottest summer in Georgia’s history this year, I have fed my new obsession by making blueberry jam, blackberry jam, strawberry jam, fig jam, and strawberry- rhubarb jam. The making of a rhubarb jam was something a Georgia girl might not ever take a shot at during her lifetime, but I was exceedingly glad I did because it turned out fabulous.

I have made an upfront investment on canning supplies, including several cases of jars of all sizes; an expense I would not normally have when freezing. But, when I see how each item I have processed can supply a gift for a loved one or good, fresh food for my family, while saving freezer space, the money spent has large returns. Plus, the jars will last a lifetime with care.

Produce waiting to be canned.
Produce waiting to be canned. | Source

Online Communities Supply Encouragement

The most delightful surprise I had while researching my new hobby was the discovery of a vast online community of canners. A community of beginners, experts, and those in between, who support each other through the process. One of my favorite websites is the SB Canning Blog. This site is extensive and provides easy to follow recipes and processes. What I enjoy most is the companion Facebook page that allows people from all over the world to share their homemade goods. SB gives encouragement while sharing tips and knowledge freely, and free is wonderful these days.

Currently, I have a large bounty of fresh fruit and veggies from the local farmer's market sitting patiently on my dinning room table waiting to get processed. My obsession deepens.

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About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore Catherine's professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Google+.


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