Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Small Batch Canning

When I was growing up in the Midwest we had very stereotypical canning adventures each harvest season.Tomatoes, pickles, peaches, apples in several forms, jams, jellies, even cherry pie filling. It was great and most of it came from our family orchards and gardens or from some place nearby. Now that I'm out in San Francisco both the getting/growing and the amount of canning is a bit different. We're also not trying to feed eight or ten people until the next harvest. One of the things I like about my new canning adventures is opportunistically putting up small batches, even just a jar or two of preserves from the last chance sale bins at the market. For one it takes a lot of pressure off of production and since it's just a small amount, it's safer to try something random or new. This year it's been a lot of peaches and wild berry preserves and since we just finished the last jar of okra pickles, we'll be making more of those soon as well.

Canners aren't always terribly expensive, some are as little as $20, $5 for the occasional garage sale find. Truth be known, you don't even need a canner for the small jobs, it's really just a deep stock pot after all. As long as the water covers the jars you're good to go for fruits, preserves and other acidic foods. A starter pack of jars is often less than ten bucks or again, available at garage sales and thrift shops for next to nothing and once you have some you can reuse them indefinitely with new lids. With everything on hand an opportunistic jar or two is well worth the effort.

So, keep your eyes open for fruit on the trail, your neighbors yard and of course local farm markets. If you barter well you might even trade fruit for canning, provided you can get yourself to part with some of your stores. In addition to the fun, having the best things on hand when you need them and being able to take pride in making things yourself, in this day and age of over processed everything, you control the production. You know exactly what went into your jars and you can feel good about making what ends up being both a frugal and healthy choice. Between, health, frugality, creativity and entertainment value, canning is an art that shouldn't be lost for any number of reasons all of which are good on their own and undeniable in combination.

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