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Are You into Home Canning Foods?

August 15, 2020

Another Way for week of August 14, 2020

Pandemic Pings: Are You into Canning?

Two 5 quart Dutch oven pots do just fine for cooking down our tomatoes to make juice.

I get our pressure canner out that my brother-in-law gave us for Christmas when we first started a garden. What a great, long lasting gift. It has served us forty-plus years now.

What would August be without canning vegetables to have on hand for the winter? (I don’t can fruits but well remember when mother and grandma did.)

I gather up other items I need for the rather massive and messy project: canning jars, lids, strainer and pestle for squeezing out the tomato juice, scores of large pans or Tupperware, my largest popcorn bowl, salt, a small pot for boiling lids and keeping them hot, digging up the propane fired burner we use outside. Too much to name here.

Making tomato juice is kind of fun (especially for kids) and easier than canning tomatoes themselves. When canning quartered tomatoes, you of course have to get the skins off the ‘maters which involves dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, then cooling them quickly in ice water (in a spanking clean container), then taking a knife and sliding off the skin or peeling, then cutting them up in quarters to be placed in the sanitized quart jars.

All of this is much easier now that I don’t have to can at the end of a busy and tiring work day. Or doing so with wee ones underfoot.

Pressure canner still going strong after more than 40 years.

This year I’ve read that more people have tried their hand at growing their own vegetables, especially in light of the pandemic. I also heard an amusing aside regarding a woman who asked at a store if they had canning jars and the young clerk looked puzzled and said she’d never heard of canning jars.

I hunted widely (by phone and in person) for canning lids on shelves of hardware and grocery stores. Finally, I landed some oddly packed regular sized blue canning lids made by Ball in a store called Jon Henry’s General Store (as old fashioned as it sounds). The canning lids were in little bags, not boxes: I speculate that perhaps some manufacturer was able to produce the lids but didn’t have boxes on hand to meet the demands? Anyone have insights or info on that? Later I did land some traditionally boxed wide-mouth lids at our local hardware store.

Once the jars of juice are lifted from the canner and allowed to cool, the lids give me the satisfaction of a pleasing ping, telling me my efforts panned out: they all sealed, always cause of deep satisfaction.

A niggling unease, though, rises in my psyche: what might we face in years to come in terms of shortages, rising prices, lower incomes. A pandemic of this scope was normally only the territory of doomsday or dystopian novels—and a few epidemiologists (those with expertise on disease epidemics). A worldwide reckoning with a virus was never seriously on my horizon. So what will our children and grandchildren face and experience?

That’s when the legacy of family traditions—like the labor of late summer canning and freezing vegetables and fruits can feel like a source of strength and pressing on. If my parents and grandparents got through the Depression—and even the flu of 1918, World War 1 and 2, Vietnam, Korea and more, it gives us courage to face our fears and doubts. The strength of faith, community, and family remind us that we are not alone. Even if confined to a room in a nursing home. As time goes by in this time of fighting covid infection, some of the early examples of caring for each other (such as the daily music from apartment balconies in cities in support of health workers) fade away with the sheer dailiness of pandemic reality.

My worried wondering can rest in the arms of a God who cares for us all, who reaches eternal arms around us to comfort and sustain us for all time, even when human or medical efforts fail.

I have two free pamphlets I’d love to share with anyone who needs them, “Journeying Through Loneliness” and “Losing Someone Close.” Request for yourself or a friend. Write to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or comment on the blog.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. I just sent in my next column about preserving food. 🙂

  2. Ha. Glad I beat you to the draw this time. 🙂 Does your column still appear in the Bargain Hunter?? Other Ohio papers? Thanks for letting me know so I won’t accuse you of copying theme. I’ll be anxious to read yours!

  3. We used to submerge the mason jars in a pot of boiling water and pull them out with tongs. The lids were in two pieces.

  4. Elaine permalink

    Since we retired in 2009, I’ve been able to have a garden and do some canning and freezing. (Previously I worked full time besides the fact that gardening in S. Florida would be a challenge to say the least). The house we moved to in KY had quite a few items the previous owner left behind and one of those items was a pressure canner! (My first) I have enjoyed being able to can our green beans and it was my first experience using one. My mother canned/froze copious amounts of fruit, beets, tomatoes, etc for our family of 7 children, so I got plenty of experience in that department when I was growing up. 🙂

    This year my husband has encouraged me numerous time to put up extra because he sees the possibility of a food shortage this winter, so that’s what I’ve been doing this summer. I’m thankful for the availability of produce grown by a local Mennonite family.

  5. Elaine, thanks for sharing your story on canning. After this appeared, my mother (who reads it only in the newspaper) reminded me that she never had an actual pressure canner, she was too scared of one exploding. She said her mother was too. But I’m grateful she did not pass that fear on to me … too much. I remember being really worried to try my new canner at first but my husband encouraged me to go for it. His mother used a pressure cooker for cooking some foods (apart from canning). I hope one of my daughters at least will carry forward the tradition–she is the one who “borrows” cans from my pantry and then brings back the empty cans.

    I felt the same way that there may be shortages down the line so while I’m not a hoarder, we never know in retirement what we’ll be able to do or manage the following year or summer, right? So canning ahead makes more sense than ever this year. I don’t do fruits although I may try doing applesauce this year. Mom did beets, meats, many fruits, along with the more standard green beans, pickles, tomatoes, juice. One year she did grape juice, another time ketchup: no one liked those very much.

    And yes, Mom and Dad found gardening in Florida a challenge the years they lived down there in north Florida. 🙂

    Glad you can get homegrown produce! I’m giving away cukes and tomatoes.

  6. Every time I slice a peach in half and thrust out the seed, I think of helping Mother with canning, probably Red Haven peaches in August. I remember her reluctance when she had to part with her canning jars, giving them to the Re-Uz-It shop in Mt. Joy. I believe I have a wistful photo of her having to part with these jars in the kitchen.

    I don’t can; we have fresh fruits and veggies almost year round here. Yes, I have noticed that many people have turned to gardening and freezing or canning fresh produce. I’m happy to see readers are chiming in here. I believe you touched a nerve here – great! 🙂

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