Home Canning: Drudgery or Creative Outlet?

I stumbled upon an old article on home canning in Slate Magazine the other day by Sarah Dickerman. The article came out last year and the first half pretty much sums up home canning’s history and its resurgence in our new, thriftier and greener lifestyles.  It was all very interesting…until she made a few comments and observations that clearly showed that she just doesn’t “get it”.

First, she states that canning is hard work (I think her exact words were “serious drudgery”) and that it is far from being cost-efficient. But where she really misses the mark is when she says, canning is

“NOT about producing serious food for the future, and its NOT about shaking a fist at industrial food…Rather, its about making and sharing delicious, idiosyncratic things that are also…very pretty.”

Ummm…really? That’s all it is?  Sharing pretty and delicious things?

You know, it would be easy to get all worked up about her words (she goes on and on), but she is just not on the same page as us.

I do not consider canning/preserving drudgery. Far from it! Just as a real home-cooked meal can be an art form, so too is canning and preserving. It is a creative outlet. I’ll admit that I love to share my canned goods with others because by doing so, I am sharing a little piece of my garden. But I preserve the harvest for so many more reasons that that! I can for the flavor, for the knowledge of what is in my food and for the fun of creating condiments that you can’t find in the supermarket.

And I’m sorry, but you CAN produce serious food for the future with canning. That is the whole point! Well okay…it is only part of the point.

People also can because putting up a jar of organically-grown beats, corn or even jam is the best way to be assured of what is in your food. Have you read the labels on your pantry items lately?  Can you tell from reading them if there are GMO foods in there? Can you really compare a can of stewed tomatoes with the flavors of home canned tomatoes grown in the backyard? No.

Industrialized food does not hold a candle to home-canned food in nutrition or flavor. So, yes – I do feel that home canners can shake their fist at industrialized food. Home canners are making a difference in their lives and health by avoiding industrialized food as much as possible. – and for that, I thank them.

Can on Baby… Can on! And let’s have a jar swap!

About the Author

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive TV Producer and the On-Air Canning/Homesteading Expert for the national PBS gardening TV series, Growing A Greener World. She is a lifetime canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program. She studied both sustainable horticulture and professional culinary arts and she is a wrangler of chickens and two teenage children. (Not necessarily in that order.) Click here to download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE of favorite must-have sources for preserving the harvest.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • cityslipper (small kitchen garden) April 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    You know where I stand on this. In my presentations, I try not to limit the conversation to canning, and I offer quite a few reasons to preserve:

    Extending your garden into the off season
    Reducing waste when your garden over-produces
    Saving money
    Knowing what you’re eating
    Creating new foods
    Supporting the local economy
    Decreasing your impact on the environment
    Helping to preserve biodiversity (buying local, growing your own, getting away from factory-farmed products)
    Preparing for the zombie apocalypse

    Dickerman either failed to research the subject, or she lacks imagination. When we have that jar swap, let’s invite her to the party.

    Reply edit
    • theresa April 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      Daniel-

      I’m so glad you stopped by. Yes, I know where you stand and your points are spot on! I especially love your last two points: biodiversity and zombie apocalypse. Both are equally important. Nice touch to want to invite Dickerman to the party too. You are a class act.

      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
  • thaydra April 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

    My boyfriend grew up canning, and was excited to start canning again and show me how. We’re hoping to eventually have a nice big garden, especially designed to have lots of overflow, just for canning! Especially the tomatoes and fruits! And I’ve always loved the simple beauty of a stocked pantry of home-canned good. The colors and textures (within the jars) are just cozy!

    Reply edit
  • TeresaR April 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Hubby and I do think it’s hard work, but we involve our kids and make it a life lesson that we know will benefit them forever – they know the value of growing and preserving our own foods. They also know how our own food, either fresh or preserved, tastes better than anything we can buy at the store. Plus the sense of pride and accomplishment as we look at our storage/root cellar and see all those jar on the shelves is priceless.

    We also do it for all the reasons your friend Daniel listed. :)

    Reply edit
    • theresa April 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Teresa,
      Your kids are so lucky to be learning such wonderful life-lessons from you and your husband. That is awesome. I forgot about the pride factor. Very important as well. Good job!

      Reply edit
  • Theresea April 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I love to can. This year is especially exciting because my church has put in a garden. So, if all goes well maybe some canning will be done at church. I love to can! I can control what exactly goes into my food. How much sugar and salt.

    Reply edit
  • Heather April 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

    AMEN and AMEN. I grew up canning everything that was grown in my grandparent’s garden. And we ate from the pantry all winter long. To this day, I consider myself a produce snob….can’t buy anything out of season since it just doesn’t taste good and who knows where it was grown. While home canning is not always more cost effective, it rarely costs more than buying at the store. And there’s just something great about opening up that jar of applesauce you canned last Fall and knowing EXACTLY what you’re getting. Plus, I think it’s good for my children to see where food comes from. We’re far too removed from the farmers where our food comes from

    Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but it always makes me giggle………one more reason to can.
    http://www.level20wife.com/2011/12/giggles-on-monday.html

    I’m off to make some strawberry rhubarb jam. Just came home from the strawberry patch. Happy canning!

    Reply edit
    • theresa April 30, 2012 at 5:52 am

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughtful comment. I agree 100% on all counts! Hope your strawberry jam turned out great!

      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
  • Bernadette @ B3HD May 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I’m not QUITE ready for a jar swap (JUST getting into canning myself) but seriously. Yes I have read my labels lately and it is downright scary. I LOVE the taste of my homegrown tomato yield (I remember my grandmother arguing with my mom who claimed to not be able to taste the difference between homegrown and store bought). If I could have that taste year round…totally worth the work/effort/craft/drudgery of it all to me to at least give it a go.

    Here’s to canning!
    Bernadette
    http://www.b3hd.blogspot.com

    Reply edit
    • theresa May 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Right on Bernadette! I feel like a tomato snob sometimes because I just don’t like store bought. But yes, to have that flavor in a jar year round – it is totally worth the work!

      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
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    Reply edit
  • Debbie T May 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I have never canned personally, but I remember my mom doing it years ago. I’m hoping this will be the year that I try it. I received a case of pint jars from amazon and I’d love to do some pickling and jellies. Starting off small, and get grander as my gardening skills grow.

    Looking forward to reading more on your blog. I had emailed your link to myself a few weeks ago to bookmark and read later but I don’t remember how I found you!

    Reply edit
    • theresa May 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      Well, I am so glad you found me (however that was. LOL). Hope you have a fabulous year in the garden, canning in the kitchen and hanging out here with me! Thanks for stopping by.

      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
  • Lydia May 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Enjoying my first issue of your newsletter! I so agree about the canning. I do it for many reasons. I grow a really large garden every summer (as much for the resulting produce as for the therapy of it) & I want to be able to enjoy that for the rest of the year. I love being able to share with my friends & family. When the grandbabies were just starting to eat real food I wanted them to have foods that didn’t have a ton of sugar, salt, preservatives etc. in them. I like opening a jar & knowing that the jar will be re-used & not put into the garbage or even recycling bin. I just enjoy the whole process really, I get such a sense of satisfaction from it. I will admit that when I get inundated with say, a bushel of corn & it’s getting onto midnight & I’m trying to get it all done I sometimes have a fleeting moment of “remind me again why I’m doing this” but it’s always erased when I see those jars lined up on the counter!
    Glad I found your blog & newsletter, thanks for the great sharing of information & ideas!

    Reply edit
    • theresa May 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks Lydia! I am so glad you enjoyed the newsletter and I am really glad we found each other. LOL You are canning for all the right reasons. And you are so right about the satisfaction of seeing all those jars lined up on the shelf! I always love that!

      Reply edit
  • Annie June 5, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Canning (or freezing, or dehydrating) at my house is a necessity, but then again, so is cooking. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the practical, beautiful. However, by the end of October, I definitely see it as drudgery!

    Reply edit
  • Joyce Pinson June 5, 2012 at 7:21 am

    A drudge? How is canning a drudge? When I was small, canning time, particuliarly bean season was a giant party. We kids would string and snap, the young adults would can, and the grandmas would make lunch and dinner. How great is that?

    When the snow is flying and I am savoring a fresh from the oven biscuit slathered with homemade blackberry jam….remind me what a drudge I am. Giggles

    Reply edit
  • Christine O. November 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I love canning and have done jams mostly. There is nothing better than apple butter with lots of cinnamon and cloves on buttered toast in the morning! Last year was the first time I canned tomatoes and it was wonderful having them all winter. This year I got chickens (love them!) and I didn’t protect the tomatoes enough to withstand the foraging ladies so no homegrown tomato sauce this winter for me. Next year I’m fencing in the tomatoes!

    Reply edit
    • theresa November 7, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Welcome Christine! Glad you are here. Yes, those pesky chickens seem to get the goods if we aren’t careful. There are times where my garden is covered in fencing and chicken wire and it looks pretty strange. But whatever works! I like to let “the girls” free range and so I guess it is just something we have to deal with. Good luck with the fence!

      Reply edit

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