Lifestyle

Preserve Your Sanity by Preserving Food

Canning is a hedge against uncertainty, an education in self-reliance, and a pocket of calm amid tumult.

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While eating from cans is far from my preferred sustenance, putting my own food into them for later consumption is a different matter. Throughout 2020—a year we could have skipped—my family took to home-canning food even as we expanded a garden that we hope will provide us with more to store. It's a means of armoring ourselves against a world that seems determined to throw every possible challenge our way and of turning our focus from insane headlines to comforting home activities.

For us, a big spur was the supply disruptions, when chicken, ground beef, canned goods, and other foods disappeared from markets and were rationed when available. We got in the habit of grabbing and storing goods as they appeared. But the chest freezer has limited capacity. And what do you do with a bonanza of apples for sale at 19 cents a pound?

One thing we could do with those apples, we remembered, was make apple butter and can it for future use. That is, if we could find the requisite materials.

My wife and I had dabbled in canning, but long enough ago that we were caught scrambling for high-demand supplies like everybody else when COVID-19 and then summer unrest revived interest in food preservation. While many people searched high and low for reusable jars and single-use lids, we were lucky to find a supply of pint and quart containers locally.

The big score came when, on a hunch, I popped into a supermarket in an area transitioning from small ranch properties to suburban development. Sure enough, the chain's distribution algorithms were a bit behind the times, and the store's food-preservation section was a treasure trove. We ended up with an assortment of jars from big-name makers Kerr and Ball and even some lids from Canada's Bernardin. Those brands are all owned by the same parent company, and their components are interchangeable.

Our stock pot was perfect for water-bath canning of tomato sauce—basically, ladling sauce into jars, popping lids on, and immersing them in boiling water for the time prescribed by the recipe. But water-bath canning works only for high-acid foods like pickles and spaghetti sauce to which you've added a healthy dollop of citric acid.

Our apple butter probably could have been water-bathed, but we preferred the greater safety of pressure canning. That process is necessary for any meat product, such as the chili and lamb stew that we simmered up to free space in the freezer and to have shelf-stable meals ready to go. So we broke out our 16-quart pressure canner/cooker, adjusted the process for our altitude, and filled the kitchen with cooking odors.

To avoid a DIY health emergency in an already interesting time, we pulled instructions from the University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation website, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and Diane Devereaux's The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning, among other resources. Even if you've canned before (or learned from Grandma), it's worth checking out the most current information. Research and experience have refined home preservation in ways that sometimes make it less tricky than in the past.

Canning isn't our only means of smoothing out bumps caused by supply disruptions. An unexpected oversupply of tomatoes, halved, seeded, and spread on screens, dried in no time for future use in salads, sauces, and gazpacho. We gave similar treatment to most of our basil once the first frost rolled in. It wasn't my first experience with dried herbs, but it was definitely the tastiest. To make sure we wouldn't have to buy everything we cooked and canned in the months to come, my son and I knocked together raised beds to expand the garden we panic-planted last spring.

All of this effort gives us a sense of self-reliance in an uncertain era. That's not the same as complete autonomy, which is unrealistic. But a bit of do-it-yourself security is reassuring when times are tough. Cooking, preserving, and gardening are enjoyable for us too. The necessary effort and focus become a bit zen as they consume our attention and take our minds off the world's troubles. And what a good year to distract ourselves from the worries of the moment by preparing a well-fed future.

NEXT: Brickbat: But He Didn't Die from COVID-19

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    2. I guess you think that:
      “Peaches come from a can.
      They were put there by a man,
      in a factory downtown.”
      –The Presidents of The United States of America.
      (Both the band name and literally.)

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  1. Great! Now when the zombie apocalypse comes, me and my buddies will know just where to go to stock up on canned food supplies! How’s your gun supply and your neighborhood defense plan coming along?

    1. The garden gnomes are color coded range stakes.
      No landscaping is over 6 inches in height.
      Those fancy mailbox pillars contain claymores.
      For the rest, you will have to learn the hard way – – – – – – –

      1. Love it!

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    3. How’s your gun supply and your neighborhood defense plan coming along?

      Ammunition, from bulk cartridges to powder, casings, and primers, has been in short supply since ~April nationwide, but that’s too local, the bigger story is that Tuccille canned some veggies when meat processing plants had to shut down for a couple weeks in early spring.

    4. I hope and trust you know that Mason and Bell Jars make great shattering and sharp-edged skeet.

  2. Canning, much like hiking, fishing, camping, and woodcraft, is white supremacy.

    So, if you do decide to can food and make your own preserves, make sure to think of your black neighbors and promptly relinquish your material goods. These downtrodden people would drown in a puddle were it not for you, white savior. Surrender yourself to black revival, white devil. Their melanin is the marrow of morality, usurper.

    Be kind, keep in mind … your privilege.

    #stopthehate

    1. Self reliance is white supremacy.

    2. Soooo…All those handmade flint tools from Australopithicus were all just paste jewelry?

    3. I hate articles like this, as well as the morons who decide to suddenly tap a whole quarter inch into their ‘canning heritage’ or some such shit. The only thing they really end up doing is scarfing up the limited supplies, and most of those supplies will sit on their shelf while I can’t find the 500 canning lids I normally buy every year. You’re the same assholes who created shortages in TP, bikes, yeast, garden seed, exercise equipment and so much more.

      Hey JD, I know canning some stuff sounds quaint and oh so urban-rustic-prepper, but a few pints of apple butter and a dozen quarts of tomato sauce don’t even move the needle on the self-reliance scale. In fact there’s no self reliance there at all and you sound like a moron for even suggesting it. Someone else still grew the food, picked the food, transported the food, stocked the food, and sold you the food. WTF is self-reliant there? Buying it and putting it in a jar? Damn buddy, did you ever even wonder what you’re gonna put that apple butter on?

      Go fill up that freezer and stock the cupboards with Cheez-its, Uncle Bens, and cans of Hormel’s and Campbell’s. If you’re looking for a hobby, try gardening because at least that is gonna remind you what it’s like to sweat and you might learn a few things about where your food comes from and what’s in it.

      1. Dude!…Relax! Have some locally-grown, artesan Sanka!

        Its not Either/Or, it’s Both/And! I’m sure 2Chilly can walk and chew gum or garden and can at the same time! Also, I’m sure he can marinate, pickle, dehydrate, make candles, and can, all great uses for Bell Jars and Mason Jars!

        And as long as manufacturers are free to produce, anyone can follow the Doritos advice with any product: “Crunch All You Want! We’ll Make More!”

        Hey, perhaps you could write an article on food preservation for Reason. Goodness knows it ain’t hitting on much for actual libertarian thought anymore.

  3. WHAT? Pre-made meals in box a hedge are not a hedge against uncertainty?
    Come-on’ Man!!!!

    1. Old Sleepy, Creepy, Crazy, Cranky, Tankie Joe >i>would support Gummint-Issued Meals Ready-To-Eat (M.R.E.s).

      I had a Beef Stew M.R.E. once and had a serious case of Montezuma’s Revenge thereafter! Those damn M.R.E.s are an insult to every Soldier, Sailor, Airperson, Marine, and Coast Guard in uniform!

      If I were Commander-In-Chief, I’d issue every Commissary, Mess Hall, and bivouac a dehydrator and a Seal-A-Meal of sufficient size and scale and let troops make their own field rations out of fresh food or flora and fauna found off the fat of the land!

      This solution to feeding our Armed Forces would be more nutritious, delicious, safer, and cheaper than M.R.E.s. Those M.R.E.s will be just as horrible 25 years from now as they are today. *Yeecch!*

  4. Next, home dentistry!

    1. Someone is suffering from Slippery Slope Syndrome.

      Canning is not as hard as all that. The boxes for multi-packs of cans contain all the information you need to start. Manufacturers aren’t stupid.

  5. You do know that the national guard in DC is being trained to use drones to find all gardens, and designate that location as a hotbed of sedition, right?

  6. For us, a big spur was the supply disruptions, when chicken, ground beef, canned goods, and other foods disappeared from markets and were rationed when available.

    Were you in Khazakstan for all of 2020? The only things in short supply were hand sanitizer and toilet paper and those are non-parishable. The price of filet mignon and premium cuts of beef spiked slightly and hit shortages in some areas, but things like brisket and ground chuck were still plentiful. We consume, but not buy, bacon weekly in our house and we were never short nor faced any noticeable price spikes. As long as you don’t subsist on grass-fed, organic waigu beef, there weren’t any issues. Despite the the government’s best efforts throwing shit at the fan.

    The most noticeable, documented, and unusually protracted supply disruption of 2020 (and now 2021) has been ammunition.

    1. non-parishable

      Sorry, perishable, but they can’t really be turned into church-based communities either.

    2. Hmmm…I didn’t know they had bacon in Muslim majority Glorious Khazakstan.

  7. Tuccille – grows and cans enough to survive the next 3 apocalypses.

    Abattoir – Has a rosemary plant on his back porch that thrives in spite of his neglect.

  8. Prepare to live thru the new depression.

  9. Get ready for the new onslaught of food regulations. We can’t have people being all self sufficient and finding their own way to subsist during the Green New Depression. Slaughtering your backyard chicken flock in order to prop up Purdue is interstate commerce.

    1. You saw what happened when the Chinese government failed to regulate the sale and processing of bats for soup, right? Let that be a lesson to you. Food comes from the supermarket, you deplorable white supremacist. Now put your masks on and shut the fuck up like a good boy.

      1. Looks like my neighbors are growing tomatoes. I called the cops.

      2. You are aware that over 40 percent of Americans, regardless of “race,” were in agriculture at the turn of the 20th Century, right? There is nothing racist about eating.

    2. Slaughtering your backyard chicken flock in order to prop up Purdue is interstate commerce.

      Yeah, this ironic aspect of the article occurred to me. The government’s intrusion into communications, supply chain management, and everyday life is becoming unbearable. To really stick it to government-captured, heavy-handed corporations like Tyson Chicken, we’re going to can our own veggies, raise our own chickens, and post about it on Facebook.

      1. Four hours later, here’s my 2 quarts of tomato sauce. Gonna live like a king when all the rest of you dumbasses are starving.

        1. You’ll need pasta, bread, butter, beef, chicken, veal, Romano, Parmesean, and other goodies with your spaghetti sauce. That is where other self-sufficient producers come in.

          Rest assured, you aren’t the only one. Libertarian-minded people can be object examples of how markets work by actually producing and exchanging in a crisis.

      2. The first rule of Food Club is not to post about it on Facebook. Stick to your own email circle instead.

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