In world a filled with BPA-laced cans, people may be asking themselves, “how is it possible to safely eat vegetables when they are no longer in season?”
The answer does not include some sort of chemical preservative with unknown side effects. The solution is actually something a lot simpler, and even traditional.
Canning is Classic
Some of our grandparents or great-grandparents may be familiar with the idea of canning their vegetables at home. They might remember it as a technique to save surplus harvest from the garden later consumed in the colder months.
This method of food storage should no longer be remembered as a piece of history, but instead as an affordable, green, and healthy way to store food from your garden or local farmers’ market!
Canning your own vegetables eliminates any concern for pesticides, herbicides, or GMO’s. Instead of aluminum cans that food packaging industries use, glass mason jars are used. This eliminates any concern for non-organic materials leeching into your succulent vegetables.
Make Harvests Last
You control what you put into your mason jars. You can have organic produce from the richest of soils if you so desire, and can save pretty much anything that comes out of your garden. Or, you can head to your local farmers market and stock up on premium produce to use for canning. You’ll be able to enjoy local, organic, and high quality produce no matter what the weather is outside.
How To Can
No expensive equipment is needed to start canning vegetables in your home today.
Here’s what you need:
- Canning/mason jars (can be found at grocery or hardware stores)
- Canning seals and rings (usually come with the jars)
- Large pot
- Canning salt (optional)
- Knife (to prepare vegetable for storage)
- Garden or market fresh vegetables
- Large ladle spoon
- Dish towel
- Choose your veggies. The first step to starting the canning process is to decide what it is you want to store. Tomatoes, green beans, corn, potatoes, leafy greens, beets, carrots, peppers, as well as squash, make good candidates for canning. However, almost anything that can be grown in a home garden is fair game.
- Sterilize everything. The second step is to sterilize all of your materials that will come in contact with our food by boiling them. This prevents future spoilage and bacteria from growing in your food. It is important from here on out to keep your hands and your work area clean.
- Prepare your veggies. If you have green beans then snap the ends off. If you have corn you will need to shuck them and chop off the kernels. For tomatoes, you may want to cut them into halves or quarters depending on their sizes. Small potatoes can be left alone, but larger will need to be cut to smaller sizes. After prepping the veggies you must blanch or cook them briefly to avoid the risk of future spoilage. You do not want to cook them fully, but just enough for the heat to kill unwanted bacteria.
- Load em’ in. Place your prepared veggies into your sterilized canning jars. Canning salt may be added, but it is not essential for the process. You want to pack as much as you can into the jars and allow some of the cooking water into the jars so that the veggies appear to be floating. With clean hands, place the lid on top of the open jars and then carefully fasten the metal ring onto the lid creating a seal.
- You still have another vital step before you can place your freshly canned produce into our cabinets. The next thing we are going to do is placed the canned veggies back into our pot which should be rinsed and filled with clean water. If the jars touch each other within the pot, then you should place a towel in between to keep them from touching. Bring the water to a boil once again. This is not to cook the food but instead to kill any existing bacteria and create an airtight seal within the jar. This step is crucial in creating canned goods that will last a long time without spoilage.
- Cool and store. Let the cans cool, and then dry them off. Find a place in a cabinet or shelf to store them. At this point no other measures are needed to upkeep or maintain the canned veggies. The only thing left to do is put them away and save them for a delicious, and healthy meal.
I am particularly fond of this method of food preparation because it gives me full control over what I will be eating in the future. Not only does it allow healthier choices, but it provides hands on approach to food storage. This is how canning gives one a sense of connection to their food.
One of the problems of modern day food industries. I believe, is that the consumer takes no part in what is happening to their food. Canning is a greener method because mason jars can be re-used over and over again. No landfills will suffer because you decided to can your own food. In fact, you may be doing the earth a great service by taking your nutritional need into your own hands instead of the likes of giant food corporations.
Will Nelson is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University who is studying psychology and philosophy. He spends a great deal of his time playing music and exploring the world around him. Will has deep interests in the mind as well as sustainability. Visit his website.