We originally posted this back in 2008. We received a great response, making it one of CSWM’s Best Blogs. As you read this also remember the post we did just a few days ago about canning equipment.
Last year was my first year gardening and I loved every minute of it. I was very lucky that I had a very bountiful harvest. However, almost every time a vegetable was ready to be harvested I was overwhelmed by the amount that I had available and how little time I had to consume these vegetables. I was lucky to have friends and neighbors more than willing to share in my surplus but I also wanted to have some of that surplus available at a later date. So I decided to preserve some of my harvest.
My first resource for learning how to can was “Ball Blue Book of Preserving.” It really is the authority on the different forms of food preservation. I highly suggest that if you are looking into preserving food you look into this resource. Borrow it for free from your library and if you decide you need your own copy, you can find it for around $6 at Walmart. After looking through it, I decided that a mix of canning and the use of a vacuum sealer was going to be what would work for me.
These are some of the things that are needed for canning: Jars, lids and rings, tongs, a canner (boiling water or pressure cooker type). But where to get all of this for very little investment?
- The first two resources for these items should be garage sales and thrift shops. I was very lucky to have been able to find almost all of my jars at garage sales in my areas. They were even cheaper than at the thrift shop. I also was able to find all of the tools I needed this way.
- Another resource should be friends and family. You may have an aunt, or a friend’s aunt who has decided to stop canning and has her stuff gathering dust in the basement. So pass the word along.
- Let’s also not forget Freecycle or Craigslist. Unfortunately, this is the time that a lot of people are looking for these items as well, so you may find some competition for the same goods. But patience and persistence may pay off for you.
In the end all I bought new were the lids and the hot water bath pot, and you may not even need this one if you don’t use the big jars. A big pot where you can submerge the jars and boil them while covered in water is really all you need.
I would suggest that if you are thinking of canning vegetables you start small. Canning takes a lot of work. Last year I canned tons of pickled vegetables, salsa, tomato sauce, apple sauce, peach and apple butter and green pepper jelly. As you can see a lot of things. A lot of it was for Christmas presents but it took a lot of my time. This year I am scaling back, I have one more baby to take care of and I know my limits. So I will only be doing peach butter to give out as presents and tomato sauce for household use. The point still is to use the surplus from the garden and I know I will have a lot of tomatoes that I will turn into sauce. However, the rest of the vegetables I intent to blanch and vacuum seal. I did this with peppers and Brussels sprouts last year and they kept very well.
Food preservation is a great way to prolong the benefits growing your own vegetables provides. But don’t think that if you don’t have a vegetable garden, canning or other food preservation doesn’t apply to you. There are other ways to obtain free or cheap vegetables: surplus from friends’ gardens, pick your own fruit places, or even at the farmers market. Many sellers are willing to cut down on their prices towards the end of the day, always be willing to give haggling a try.