The Hippie Homesteader: Canning 101 – Background and introduction

Before I get anywhere near starting this post, let me just share with you what the official dictionary definition of “hippie” is – I laughed, a lot!

Hippe

–noun
(esp. in the 1960s) a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.

As opposed to

Flower child

–noun
a hippie who wore flowers as symbols of peace and love.

Mostly I just totally laughed at the long hair, beads, and taking of hallucinogenic drugs, talk about stereotyping 😉 lol

I have to point out that all of this is brought about by the fact that any time I start talking about things like this (canning, raising our own chickens, cloth diapering, soapnuts, etc.) my lovely husband starts calling me a dirty hippie – I just laugh, smile, and nod, because it’s so true (well except the beads, long hair, and hallucinogenic drugs) and the funny part is he’s the one that reads websites like backwoods home, and wants to do things like raise bees (and chickens where his idea in the first place) and grows a massive veggie garden, wants to buy acreage and start a mini farm and all that stuff.  Either way you go about it, between the two of us, we are all about (in our own various ways) independent and sustainable living.  One of the adventures we embarked on about two years ago was canning.  For both of us it was something we’d seen both our parents and grandparents do as a way of storing home grown produce (among other things) but had never even thought of doing ourselves.  So, as the blind leading the blind, we jumped off a cliff together.

The biggest source of help and information for us in the beginning was a website (which is totally cluttered, chaotic, and unprofessional looking, but full of great information if you’re willing to wade through it all to find it) called PickYourOwn.org. Our supplies came from Wal-mart where we happened to find a pressure canner (I’ll get into this later) and tool kit as well as jars and other supplies. Our first canning adventure was in the form of peach jam, using I think three different recipes and a whole horde of peaches we had gone out and picked ourself. The results were interesting. The jams tasted good, not all of them sealed properly though, and the jam was thick as warm tar. Next up we went strawberry picking again the jam was really yummy but ultra thick – at least that time we got all the jars to seal properly. We’ve also tried canning sauces, chili and just recently I made a super simple and really yummy batch of grape jelly – all with mixed success, and a lot of learning buy trial and error. I’ve also found some much better websites and other books and guides on canning that have helped a ton.

As we started to can more, and talk about it a bit more freely, friends would ask us about it – where to get supplies, what supplies you need, how to do it, is it hard, would we teach them and on and on it goes.  SO, for a few weeks now, I’ve been thinking about sharing that information here.  Understand, that all of this information is mostly gathered from other sources, and by trial and error on what has and hasn’t worked for us.  I do not, in any way, claim to be an export – but I will say I’m a step up from beginner so I’m willing to impart what little wisdom I have on the subject and hope that more experienced people may jump in from time to time.

Today, I just want to share some great resources I have found, and then tomorrow we’ll talk about tools, terminology, and technology.  Then in a few days I’ll actually jump into some recipes and different categories.  Please chime in here (or on Facebook theres a decent little discussion going on on my page) with what you’d most like to learn, and PLEASE ask questions – especially if something seems unclear, or confusing.  That was my biggest struggle was getting the information I needed in a manor I could understand!

Websites for information, recipes, or supplies

PickYourOwn.org Like I said, it’s full of information and instruction, recipes, locations to pick your own produce, but the layout is a mess and you have to pick through it all to find what you need.

SimplyCanning.com I love the clean and simple layout and design on this site, which has recipes, instructions, and lots of information on canning.

FreshPreserving.com This is actually the website for the Ball canning supply company, so they have their own online store with the entire ball canning line which includes basically everything you need for canning, but they also have recipes and instructions on how to can which is helpful.

CanningPantry.com has a large store for all home preservation needs (not just canning, but also vacuum pack, dehydrating and others) as well as other products.

Amazon.com of course, the huge online marketplace has a decent sized canning supply section as well as books and other items.

Books for information and recipes

I have either purchased or borrowed (seriously, use your public library if you don’t already) the following books and can recoomend them either for information or recipes or both

Keeping Food Fresh a bit old, but PACKED with all kinds of home food preservation techniques and information and lots of interesting and informative charts like vitamin content in foods and such.

Food Lovers Guide to Canning again a bit old but a great resource of information – this book particularly I found nice to look at layout wise, the information was clear and easy to understand and it’s just a good resource.

Preserving Summers Bounty I own this book, and it’s very similar to Keeping Food Fresh, but with a lot more recipees and a bit less information – you probably don’t need to buy both though if your considering it.

Jams and Preserves this book is FULL of yummy and pretty unique looking recipes that I can’t wait to try!

and of course, no classic food post of mine would be complete without The Book: The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (third printing 1980) – although I’m sure newer editions probably have a section about canning and home preserving as well.

The following books I’ve not read myself, but have heard good things about – and will probably check out myself at some point.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (I’ve often heard it called the Ball Bible) and the Ball Blue Book

You Can Can by Better Homes and Gardens

Canning for a New Generation

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving

Places I’ve found canning supplies

HEB (Grocery Store)

Walmart

Kitchen Specialty Stores (more in small towns than big chains like William Sonoma)

As another short (I hope) aside I just wanted to give a few of the reasons I chose to start canning/preserving various foods for my family.

1) I know where the food came from and what’s in it.  Even more so if it’s fruits or veggies we grew ourselves or picked at a local farm.  A few weeks back (long after we started canning) I was looking for a jar of orange marmalade for a recipe I needed – and I read the ingredient list…

This information is taken right off the label for a very popular well known & often eaten company

“HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, ORANGE PEEL, ORANGE JUICE, FRUIT PECTIN, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL ORANGE FLAVOR.”

Somehow I just can’t see the company’s founder, 4 generations ago, thinking that High Fructose Corn Syrup fell into the simple “homemade taste, quality, and goodness” which is the companies guarantee.  In fact I have a thought that if he where able he’d come back from the grave and give the CEO something to think about before they could keep stamping his signature across the top of each jar.  But maybe that’s just me.  As I stood in the store, somehow dumbfounded, that something so simple as jam had gone from being basic ingredients (Fruit, Sugar, Pectin) to including SO MUCH processing I started to read other labels.  Discounting the organic brands (of which, even my big fancy grocery store didn’t carry many) almost every jar I looked at had HFCS in it.  In fact I was totally surprised that the major national brands did, but my grocery store brand favorite 4 berry blend didn’t!  I ended up buying a more expensive and imported brand of marmalade to avoid the HFCS.  It really irked me that I had to avoid a made in the US product in order to avoid HFCS.

Along with being able to control the amount of additives, and processed crud they put in my food, making my own Jams, Jellies and Preserves allows me to control the sugar content very easily – which I’ll talk about more as I start to get into pectin in another post.  If you can beans (I’m talking like pinto or kidney) or most any other vegitable, it also allows you to have the same (or higher) quality product without all the added sodium in store bought canned foods (again, I’ll get more into this at a later time).

The other big reason I got into food preservation was that it allowed me to cook in BIG batches, and then can or freeze the contents into meal sized containers so dinner was easy without all the processing that buying a similar product in the store would have and, again, I knew exactly what was in my jar – new hidden chemicals or preservatives or “flavor or color enhancers”  I could make a HUGE pot of chili our pasta sauce and split it into dinner sized portions for our family and either freeze it, or if freezer space was at a premium, can them and store it that way – then all I had to do was open a jar and reheat – dinner in about 5 minutes!  And it’s not hard, if you’re already making a meal like chili for dinner to quadruple the batch (or however big of a batch you can make in your pot) and can it – in fact it’s ALOT easier than trying to make the same amount of food at 4 different meals!

I hope this has gotten you interested, if you weren’t already, or given you a place to start or some things to think about.  I’ll be back in a little while (tomorrow?) with the next post in the series, Canning 101 – Supplies

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2 thoughts on “The Hippie Homesteader: Canning 101 – Background and introduction

  1. Pingback: Canning | Serenity Farmstead

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