What can I say? I really don’t like canning. I’ve always looked on canning the food we grow as a necessary evil. Canning is NOT my jam. Thankfully, there are 6 Less-Work Food Preservation Methods I can resort to for most of the food we grow in the garden.
As much as I always love seeing the pantry lined with colorful jars at the end of the season, I despise and resent the work every step of the way.
Why you may ask? Well, the answer is really quite simple… I’d rather be outside while I still have the chance! Not cooped up in a hot steamy kitchen for sure! At our last house, I’d bring in the garden harvest starting in late August, walking right past the cottonwood tree already dropping its leaves (I hated that tree) and be reminded that after 8 weeks of warm weather we were already on the downhill side of things. And here I was having to go in and process all this food. (Then follows the guilt of the thoughts that almost smacked of ingratitude. As though I wasn’t thankful for the bounty and provision… which, of course, I was.)
Over the years, I’ve tried to adopt a more seasonal approach to eating. For example, I don’t can my asparagus. I eat it fresh and when it’s gone I know I have something to look forward to next April. The freedom of not having to can those foods was a real blessing, but eating seasonally has brought other joys into our way of eating as well.
The pressure canner was a step in the right direction because at least it eliminated the “steam” part. Getting an outdoor camper stove made me infinitely happy! I still had to do the work, but at least I was outside.
I always felt like an odd duck for feeling this way about canning. Everyone else in our circles seems to get so stoked about it as the best method of food preservation!
You can imagine my surprise then as I continued reading through The Resilient Farm and Homestead that the author Ben Falk, has feelings about it much like my own.
Here’s how he put it:
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We see canning as a good way to put up special treats, such as some pickles and hot sauces- things that are added to food but not food calories in and of themselves… I don’t see the sanity in getting calories from such a method. The laboriousness of boiling that much food and water alone during the hottest and busiest time of the year does not make much sense and seems to be only a last-resort option when other strategies of putting up massive quantities of food are not available- but they are!
During the first few years of homesteading here, I was always bothered by the major canning operation, not clear at the time why. In retrospect it was likely several things. Harvest time is one of the most beautiful and busy times of year. August, September, October- these are stunningly beautiful days with a crisping air, the bulk of the harvest coming in, frost soon to arrive- gratitude, urgency, and abundance all rolled up into a couple of intense months. Spending long hours in the kitchen boiling water and putting up relatively small amounts of food for each massive pot of boiling water (and energy input) seems even crazier to me now than it did then. The harvest time is a time to be outdoors. It’s still swim season, the beginning of some hunting seasons, foliage season, Not a time to be slaving away over a stove. Besides, think of the energy input in physical terms along: Boiling three or more gallons of water to put up maybe three to five quarts of food. The energy exchange is a poor one for food but seems acceptable for diet supplements like sauces. – The Resilient Farm and Homestead
YES!! That pretty much sums up how I feel about canning! I wouldn’t say it was “crazy” to can if canning is your jam. We all have different needs and passions.
For me, it’s definitely worth the work for certain items. Tomato sauce is at the top of my list. We eat it weekly throughout the year… mostly on our seasonal pizzas. But pickles, jalapeño relish, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and jams, maybe dilly beans are worth the work.
6 Less-Work Food Preservation Methods
But there’s still the harvest to manage… So what are more passive food preservation methods to put up the bounty?
- Eat Seasonally
- Grow and store crops in the root cellar
- Freeze Dry
I prefer the first two food preservation methods.
Eating seasonally with stored crops in the root cellar for our winter diet is ideal to me. (Especially since I can grow greens indoors year round.) In fact, we’re building a root cellar in the basement of our new house this year. A curing chamber too!
Freeze drying is intriguing, but I’ve never tried it and it’s expensive to invest in a dryer. Fermenting kills me because I have yet to master it and I hate wasting the food if it goes wrong. Freezing is only good for some things.
I’m really interested in dehydrating more. I keep thinking about all the different uses a dehydrator would have on our homestead and I could see myself finally making the investment this year. My hangup is learning how to use the food once it’s been dehydrated. My cherry tomatoes, green peppers, and beets I dehydrated the last season I gardened always mysteriously lost their lids. And subsequently, the amount of food in each jar seemed to shrink daily. Odd. I’m really eager to use The Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook to get started!
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Ultimately, it’s just really good to know I’m not alone! And who knows, maybe you’re now feeling relieved there’s someone else out there who feels like you do about canning.
What do you think about canning? Love it or hate it? What is your favorite food preservation method?