Raise Your Food

Raise your food – save money and be independent

Canning and Preserving Your Harvest

Written By: Julie - Sep• 16•13

canning your harvestHome canning is becoming more popular again as families look for ways to preserve their harvest and save money. While canning food can seem intimidating, it is actually a pretty simple process. You’ll need to follow the steps correctly, but each step is actually pretty easy. My mom is not a canner – but I grew up in an area where many people did do their own canning each year. I dabbled a bit in canning over the years, but only recently did canning become a big part of my fall harvest plans. Now I can about 400 jars of food each year.

Every fall as I am up to my elbows in fruits and veggies I wonder what I was thinking. But as winter settles in there is no better feeling than to know that my family has a steady supply of locally-grown food that is ready for winter meals. So far this year I have canned sliced peaches, peach jam, peach spice applesauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, ketchup, barbecue sauce, roasted roma tomato sauce, and green beans.

Before the harvest season is over I will add in canned pears (my daughter’s favorite!), applesauce, more jams, corn (non-GMO!), salsa, apple pie filling and cherry pie filling. As time permits I usually can some of our favorite winter soups as well – white bean, Moroccan spice, vegetable, and Southwestern.

So why is all this worth it to me? I know that the foods I can for my family are locally-grown and not genetically modified. I can choose low-pesticide options (organic is often out of our budget). I know that there is no corn syrup, BPA or other preservatives in our food. Most of all – home canned foods just taste so much better. My family won’t even eat commercially-canned pears, peaches or applesauce any more. The flavor is better because I use ripe fruit – the commercially canned stuff is hard, tasteless, and often includes corn syrup.

Getting started with canning is simple. You don’t need to do hundreds of jars your first year! The easiest way to start is with water bath canning. This is simply boiling the full canning jars in a deep pan until they are safely preserved. This method works for high-acid foods like most fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, some sauces, and tomato products.

If you like canning, you can always branch out into pressure-canned foods. Pressure-canning is done in a large pressure cooker specially designed for canning. Because it super-heats the food you can use it safely to can green beans, soups, meats and other low-acid foods.

If you want to get started canning you’ll need a deep pan for water-bath canning, a few canning supplies, and clear instructions. Be sure to only use canning jars (recycled jars can break and don’t have reusable lids). Use fresh lids each time although the canning jar rings are reusable.

Never use old-fashioned canning jars with rubber gaskets. These are no longer considered safe. Likewise, don’t attempt to preserve foods without following accepted canning procedures such as water-bath canning or pressure-canning. Far too many people risk botulism poisoning or other illness by canning in dishwashers or ovens or simply by letting the heat of the jar contents to seal the jar. There is no way to be sure these methods have killed bacteria the way that tested methods do. Botulism is odorless and tasteless – and deadly. Be safe!

Canning jars are usually cheapest if purchased locally. Hardware stores, farm stores, grocery stores and some big-box stores carry canning jars and supplies. I highly recommend getting a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Canning and you can also find canning instructions at http://www.pickyourown.org and http://www.freshpreserving.com.


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  1. Benita says:

    Awesome post, Julie! I have wondered on many occasions how simple canning could be. My grandmother has mason jars that she does not use so I just may try canning tomatoes as a start. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Laurie says:

    Mmmmmm…..I’m not a canner, but I LOVE my mother-in-law’s canned beets! They are so delicious, I could eat a whole jar at one meal. They’re perfect with meat, potatoes, rice, pasta — anything.

    Recently, I drank a couple of ciders with my sister-in-law while she was canning her Saskatoon berries. It looks like a lot of work, but she said it’s worth it.

    Thanks for reminding me of my lovely in-laws! I should call them for a chat… :-)

    Stay true to you,

  3. Julie says:

    Canning tomato sauce and roasted tomato sauce could not be easier. I just core the washed tomatoes and whir them in the high-speed blender. Cook the sauce down and add salt and sugar. USDA guidelines call for a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint. SO tasty in mid-winter! Nothing like the canned stuff from the supermarket.

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