8 Good Reasons to Learn Canning Now
Although my mother made her own preserves for years, I didn't bother to learn. I could always pick up exotic chutneys or fancy jams in local stores. We didn't live in places where we had fruit trees or many berries, so I didn't find any compelling reason to learn. (See also: Homebrewed Beer: The Result)
And then, we moved.
While I was thrilled to suddenly have mangoes, cherries, passion fruit, guava, berries, and other fruits in abundance, I also realized that they were going to go to waste unless I did something with them. My husband bought me a canning set from the hardware store, which came with a great instruction book, and I learned how to can. So, why should you learn how to can?
1. It's Really Not Hard or Scary
Folks, if I can make jelly, so can you. After making a batch of mango jam a couple of weeks ago, my neighbor said, "I want to learn, but all that sterilizing and boiling and stuff intimidates me." It's not like you need a sterile laboratory. You do need to follow the steps closely, measure ingredients, and time the stages. That's it.
2. Waste Not, Want Not
Besides dealing with our own produce, it is not unusual for a neighbor to show up with a bag of fruit. Sometimes at a farmers market you will find a great deal on large quantities. If you learn to can, you can put those mangoes, berries, apples, or whatever to good use. We have even made white wine jelly, which is delicious and can be made from very inexpensive white wine. Wise Bread's Thursday Bram has shared a great mint jelly recipe, complete with very easy instructions.
3. You'll Always Have Christmas, Hostess, or Other Gifts
People seem to enjoy receiving jams, jellies, and chutneys as gifts. I love the fact that they are all done well before the Christmas "rush." It is also really nice to have an inventory of gifts ready to go for emergencies.
4. You Can Save Money
I just made mango jam, which cost me .25 per jar. The cheapest mango jam I could find to buy was $2.49 a jar! That's a pretty amazing savings.
5. DIY Is Fun
I know, that sounds silly, but it's true. Learning how to preserve food really is fun, especially if you are a person who likes DIY projects.
6. Minimal Storage Required
Some DIY projects take up a lot of space, so when I started canning, I was a little worried about that. However, all of my equipment fits nicely in a 58-quart plastic storage container.
7. Canning Equipment Is Inexpensive
My canning kit included a black granny-ware canner (yes, that's a funny description), a jar lifter, a funnel, 12 jars with lids and bands, and the Ball Blue Book canning guide. It was about $65 five years ago. The sets are widely available in hardware stores and on the Internet. The Ball set is extremely well-made and it has held up beautifully. My neighbors all bring back their empty jelly jars, as well as others they collect, which is very nice. I rarely have to buy new jars. You can often find canning jars at yard sales, and you can even get reusable jar lids now.
8. Mistakes Are Delicious
My mother's best accidental creation was dubbed "Plum Runny." Meant to be plum jam, something went awry, so we tried it on pancakes as syrup. It was amazing, and from then on, she just made Plum Runny. I personally have a store of Lilikoi Syrup in my pantry, which is similarly fantastic. In some recipes, if your jelly hasn't set, you can simply re-make it, to get the consistency desired.
There are great books out there for beginning canners, and the Internet has loads of information. I would love to hear what kinds of preserves you have made — please share in comments!