Preserving food through canning used to be a normal part of our way of life! It was something most of our parents and definitely our grandparents did at the end of summer.
My father had an enormous garden growing up and remember summer nights shelling peas, snapping beans, shucking corn, picking raspberries, plumbs, and apples. It was a task I didn’t really enjoy, but now that I’m married, have a family, and a home and garden of my mine, I can’t thank my parents enough for showing me the benefits of preserving food through canning.
Trying to convince my wife that preserving food through canning was difficult and took a few years into our marriage to even give it a try. We both learned together. Now that she sees the benefits of it has actually gotten to the point of doing it on her own!
In fact, as I write this post, she’s processing peaches and tomatoes!
The Benefits of Preserving Food Through Canning
Canning is actually fun, economical, and a good way to preserve your precious garden produce. Besides the value of your labor, canning home-grown or locally grown food may save you half the cost of buying commercially canned food. Freezing food may be simpler, but most people have limited freezer space (not to mention what to do if the power goes out), whereas cans of food can be stored almost anywhere.
The nutritional value of home canning is an added benefit. Many vegetables begin to lose their vitamins as soon as they are harvested. Nearly half the vitamins may be lost within a few days unless the fresh produce is kept cool or preserved. Within two weeks, even refrigerated produce loses half or more of certain vitamins. If vegetables are handled properly and canned promptly after harvest, they can be more nutritious than fresh produce sold in local stores.
Another benefit of preserving food through canning, is keeping a supply of food storage in time of need. Food costs may sky rocket, supply lines may stop, or catastrophic events may happen that would prevent us from going to the store to buy food. But if we had a supply of canned food, it could be a matter of life or death! Or just be a means to get us through a difficult time in our lives.
Preserving Food Through Canning – How It Works
The high percentage of water in most fresh foods makes them very perishable. They spoil or lose their quality for several reasons:
- Growth of undesirable microorganisms – bacteria, molds, and yeasts
- Activity of food enzymes
- Reactions to oxygen
- Moisture loss
Microorganisms live and multiply quickly on the surfaces of fresh food and on the inside of bruised, insect-damaged, and diseased food. Oxygen and enzymes are present throughout fresh food tissues.
Proper canning practices include:
- Carefully selecting and washing fresh food
- Peeling some fresh foods
- Hot packing many foods
- Adding acids (lemon juice, citric acids, or vinegar) to some foods
- Using acceptable jars and self-sealing lids
- Processing jars in a boing-water or pressure canner for the correct amount of time
Collectively, these practices remove oxygen; destroy enzymes; prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds; and help form a high vacuum in jars. High vacuums form tight seals, which keep liquid in and air and microorganisms out.
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