Home canning has been around for decades, and was the preferred method of keeping and preserving food. In times before freezers, homemakers either canned or dried their garden bounties if they wanted to keep them for the long cold winters.
Almost everything has been, at one time or another, canned. Homemakers not only canned fruits and vegetables, they branched out and became creative, canning entire meals in a jar. Meats, soups, stews, and dessert fruit compotes were all canned and ready to use. Can cupboards, huge wooden affairs that sometimes took over entire walls or basements, were chocked full every fall with pickles, relishes, jams and jellies, right along with the veggies and fruit.
Homemakers learned the technique of sterilizing jars, preparing produce, packing jars, and sealing them from their mothers and grandmothers. They also knew instinctively what cans had sealed and which hadn’t and what foods were still good and what were not.
The primary goal of canning was to get the freshest produce available, hopefully from your own garden, and canning it the day it was picked. The second concern was to make sure that all equipment was sterilized in boiling water, and that the jars remained sealed after processing. The worst case scenario was that you went to the can cupboard later on, only to find that jars hadn’t sealed properly, and that air had contaminated the contents. This, however, very rarely happened to the seasoned canner, since jars were checked and double checked before storing to make sure that they were air tight. This was accomplished either by tipping them, to make sure that there was no leakage, or by listening for the “ping”, the sound of the lid decompressing.
Today, the equipment used for home canning is basically much the same as it was decades ago. New and improved lids have been added that help to insure a better seal, but it is still up to the homemaker to make sure that, when the process is over, the seal holds.
While a lot of things can be frozen, and home freezers are convenient, there are still many veggies and other products that are better tasting when canned.
Anyone who is interested in canning today, and doesn’t have someone in the family to show them the ropes can easily learn the process through any number of books, or by contacting their local County Extension Office. Free pamphlets and instructions are available, and there is always someone around willing to give you some pointers.
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