Can canning really change your life? It’s a little deep, I get it! But hear me out. Many people learned how to preserve and put food in jars from their grandparents. That was not me. I came to canning when I was 23 years old, and I taught myself how to can. Canning was my very first step on my homesteading journey, even before learning how to garden. Learning how to can food gave me much more than just a bunch of jars of jam. Here are 5 ways learning how learning how to can food has changed my life, which can also happen to you!
Canning allows you to reduce your exposure to toxins.
Standard metal cans are lined with BPA. This chemical, bisphenol a, is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins. Known as an endocrine-disrupting chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen, BPA has been linked to numerous negative health effects. It is found in many different plastic items and in the resins used to coat the inside of food cans. It can seep into food when it comes in contact with it.
Now, I see cans with BPA free linings, and it’s pretty common to see it on the label. I have no idea what it has been replaced with, but when I first started canning, they did not have canned food that was in BPA free cans, or, at least in brands that I could afford. I was eating lots of canned peaches and cooking with canned tomatoes, and was really concerned about the possible health effects.
By canning my own produce, I not only know exactly what is in the jar, but the jars are glass and do not have any potential health effects (other than, cutting me if they break).
Ready to start knowing the food you’re eating is safe? Check out my new Introduction to Home Canning ebook!
Canning allowed you to reduce you carbon footprint.
Putting food in glass jars not only reduced my contact with BPA, it also reduced the amount of stuff I was throwing away. Even though metal cans are highly recyclable, they still involve energy to transport, melt down and make new ones. Some canned food at the store was available in glass, which was also recyclable, but that also takes energy to process. But, brands packing in glass are often much more expensive, so sometimes that doesn’t work with my food budget. Often, the lids from glass jars are too small to get captured through the recycling system and get thrown away.
As long as my jars aren’t cracked or chipped, I can use them an infinite amount of times. The metal rings that act as one part of the lid can also be reused. The metal lid does have to be replaced each time for canning, but I can use them again for storage or garden projects like making plant tags.
Learning how to can food made you a more resourceful cook.
We all have a day or two (or who am I kidding, several….) where we have NO idea what to make for dinner and we REALLY don’t want to go to the store. That’s where having a well-stocked pantry full of canned goods can save you. A jar of crushed tomatoes suddenly can make some chili a lot more exciting. Or some jam can glaze some meat. Or a jar of pickles rounds out a meal of sliced deli meats and cheeses (hey, don’t judge!).
Making canning recipes also made me a better, more adventurous cook. Faced with pounds of figs but bored with my usual recipe, I came up with my now favorite cinnamon, orange, fig spread. Too many peaches and already a bunch of jam made led me to try making peach BBQ sauce. A glut of pears led me to experiment with whole vanilla pods, previously an unknown ingredient to me.
Learning how to can food give you the confidence to try new things and develop new skills.
To the unaware, canning might seem like a magical act, impossible for us mere mortals to do. And it is magical. You put hot food in hot jars, then process in a pot, and suddenly you have a jar of jam that will last for years (ok, according to the USDA, a year, but I won’t lie- I eat stuff older.) By learning this magical skill that so many other people think is hard or impossible, I gained a lot of confidence.
Canning was the very first step that I did on my journey to be an urban homesteader. Soon, I found myself thinking…..If I can safely put food in jars, maybe I could grow food? Maybe I could make cheese? What about pasta? Maybe I could keep chickens? Maybe even learn how to butcher my own meat? Pick wild foods? Try making homemade herbal products?
Once I felt confident because I learned a new skill, I wanted to try out other things that may have previously been seen as impossible. I think canning is the gateway drug to homesteading. If you suddenly find yourself wanting to get goats after putting up peaches, don’t blame me.
Canning makes you feel empowered.
I think that today’s society has made many of us feel that we are dependent on the grocery store. I think we have been told for way too long that we are incapable, and that we need the corporations to help us out with daily living. Not only in food but in health care, making clothes, entertainment, and almost every other aspect of life.
Sure, having things ready and prepped for us makes things much easier on a daily basis, but after seeing these things already done for us year after year, we forget that we also can hold those skills. It’s one thing to not want to take these tasks on ourselves because of time, etc., but it’s a complete other to think that we CAN’T.
I often joke about the zombie apocalypse, and how when it comes, everyone will be coming to my house because I’m so prepared. There is a certain empowering quality that comes from knowing how to preserve food. If an emergency comes and all the stores shut down, I know I will still eat well because there will be tons of homemade food in my house.
If you’ve never canned before, you’ve probably said to yourself “no way I could do that!”, but you’re wrong! Or maybe you tried to put up a pot of jam and it was a disaster, or you were afraid of poisoning everyone in your family. These are common fears, but they shouldn’t hold you back. Once you know the basics, canning isn’t hard!
Canning may no longer be a requirement in order to have food though the winter, but it will give you so much more than just a jar of food. If you’re interested in getting started and learning how to can, check out my new ebook!