In Canning We Trust

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013

It’s so depressing talking about Eco-destruction, Consumerism, Women’s Issues inside Sustainable Standards… we can’t ignore the bad news, but we can inject some fun to the mix, create better soil, and save money by canning our food.

What really goes into that home-canned jar anyway? Last weekend Midwest expat pal Nina and I found out as she learned what it takes to can her own food for the first time.

IMG_3027Step 1: Make time 

If you have never canned before know that you’ll be taking time away from some other part of your life to do this project.  If you want to do it 5 things at once.. expect a longer day. Choose your recipes ahead of time, not like we did improvising as we cooked. (Some things worked out, some didn’t.)

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 11.40.19 AMStep 2: Buy equipment ahead of time 

Don’t get sucked into buying the top of the line pots unless you want to use the monster water bath pot for something other than canning. You need a pot and boiling water – grandma’s pots will last for generations. Share the equipment use and pro-rate the cost over many families.


Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 11.20.25 AMStep 3: Head to your garden or Farmer’s Market EARLY…

Picking veggies from the garden early ensures you’ll get the best of the day’s offerings. The same is true of a Farmer’s Market, much better pickings in the AM. We went to the UCI Farmer’s Market that has many organic choices and filled our bags with red and yellow tomatoes, hot and red peppers, onions, apples, cucumbers large and small, and…

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 11.58.29 AMStep 4: Try something weird

The best part of a market is to sample the local produce. We sampled the Elephant Heart Plums and HAD  TO  HAVE  THEM. They can be jammed up, right? Elephant Heart Plums are a rich red inside with mottled skin and so, so sweet. They are grown primarily in California – a speciality created by Luther Burbank.

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 11.23.04 AMStep 5: Open something interesting

Okay, the wine wasn’t organic, but I’m a sucker for a whimsical label. The winner was a delightful Zin to match the mixed food of the day of yellow and red salsa, spaghetti sauce, dried apples, and of course PLUM JAM. (Full disclosure, some of the Zin ended up in the jam adding an interesting note that we both agreed would happen on future batches.

IMG_3033Step 6: Put on Pandora and get chopping

I have several go-to tracks on Pandora, for Friday night it’s always the French Bristro track, for writing, Classical for Studying, and for canning with Nina – only Classical Guitar will do. After that we went at with abandon dicing, stewing, slicing until we had enough of of something to smelt down and put into a jar.

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 11.24.05 AMStep 7: Celebrate the effort

I grew up helping my Mother put up tomatoes, peaches, corn, beans, cherries, apples… whatever was in season. We canned to save money making the most of a very large garden’s produce while making fun of the poor people who had to eat store-bought-food.

That’s what you taste when you sample the results — the experimentation, laughs, music, markets, fun, and time spent together — it’s all packed into that jar and water bathed to seal in the memories. What a great ROI (return on investment).

We also made spaghetti sauce, what’s the ROI on that? 

Just for kicks I ran the numbers on what you could save by growing and making your own spaghetti sauce using sustainable seeds to start. (costs have been rounded up)

Heirloom Tomato seeds (about 25 seeds per pack) – $2.50

1 tomato plant can yield 25 pounds of tomatoes.

25 pounds of tomatoes goes into one batch of spaghetti sauce*.

1 batch of sauce yields 9 quart jars.

Do the math: 20 plants at 20 pounds per plant (or batch) times 9 quarts equals 180 jars of spaghetti sauce from ONE PACK OF SEEDS.

Do the money: One quart  jar of spaghetti sauce in the store is $5 or $900 (180X$5)

Even if you add in the cost of other ingredients, new canning equipment and jars, you’re still $800 ahead when you grow/can it yourself. And then there’s the taste of homemade sauce, not to mention the bragging rights and all the memories created in the process.

Life is good, and we CAN make it better…

One Comment

  1. I love this post since it shows that how simple changes can be fun and save the planet. I am HOOKed on canning. Okay, truth be told I am a little obsessed about gardening.

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