Getting canned

Canning JarsNo, I’m not talking about your last job… I’m talking about canning. It’s all but becoming a lost art. But it doesn’t have to be a mystery. I read a great article all about canning, this is about the basics, what you will need to get started, how to determine how many canning jars, rings and lids you will need. This is the part that most canning manuals don’t tell you about. Enjoy.

Canning and Garden planning

written by HerbalPagan

When trying to become more self reliant, a person naturally thinks of a garden and canning up the produce. Many people rely on their freezers, but I limit how much I do because that will be the food that goes first should electricity be lost (I lost about $1,000 worth last winter, so I tend to be a bit touchy on that subject).

I have learned over the years, not to put all my eggs in one basket. I can, freeze and dehydrate my produce. I’m leaning more and more towards dehydrating because it takes less of my personal time to do, takes up less spacein my storage, and lasts for a lot longer. The cons to dehydrating is that it takes electricity to do and takes much longer to prepare a meal from the dried food as you have to re-hydrate it.

Canning will always have it’s place in a well prepared pantry, but there are a few things you need to have in order to do it properly. The supplies for it can be considerable, and you need space to store both the supplies and then the finished product. Care must be taken as well, to the temps that the finished product is stored in. However, you can have a much wider variety, prepare the meal quicker and make canned “specialties” with home canning. So, the next thing to think about is how much canning will I need to do?

If you were to use just one jar of canned goods a day, that would require 365 jars in your stockpile. That is about 32 cases of jars. At a cost of (approx) $8 per case, that is a cost of $256, plus as you pick up a case of jars, make it a practice to pick up at least 2 boxes of replacement lids ($1 ea. average). After you have your jar supply built up, you can just pick up lids as you need them. Stored properly, they don’t “go bad”, so as you find them, pick them up. Jars will last a long time, not wearing out, merely being subject to accidents occasionally.

If you average the cost of a case of jars over a 10 year period, they are quite a reasonable investment (.80 cents per case) while the lids for that same case over a 10 year time actually are more pricy ($10). Jars can come in handy for lots of things like storing your dehydrated items as well, plus gift giving, left over storage, so again, a decent investment. 32 cases of jars will take up a bit of space, so make sure that you have a place to put them!

Now, if you use more than 1 jar a day, add that to the figures as well. Many people grab a couple of cases of jars every month or so to build their stock, but you could search for a jar supplier and buy a pallet of them at a discount (about $5 per case is the lowest I’ve found). I hear a lot of people are picking them up at yards sales, estate sales, and off free cycle and Craigs List. This is a thrifty thing to do, but be aware that you need to check and examine each jar carefully to make sure it hasn’t been chipped or scratched. I’ve had several people ask relatives if they have any they aren’t using any more, and that’s a good thing, since relatives who aren’t using them any more are also prime sources for other canning supplies. They like seeing someone doing canning again and will often give tips and hints.

Other tools you will need are a WATERBATH CANNER, usually to be found in most hardware stores for about $20. It comes with a lid and a rack to hold the jars inside. It’s usually enamel ware and will last for years, IF you take care of it. Mine has hard water stains in it, but that won’t hurt anything. I’ve had some for about 10 years with no sign of it wearing out. Be warned that you will develope good strong arms using this item!

The next item you will need is a PRESSURE CANNER. This is similar to a pressure cooker, but bigger and when you get one, make sure it says “canner” on it. They come in a variety of sizes, mine is a 16 qt one that I got from Wally World for about $75. Pick up a gasket to have as a spare when you get one and keep it in the sealed package. You can get huge canners, where you can stack the jars on top of each other, but again, you’ll need strong arms to heft that around.

While you are organizing all the canning supplies, make sure that you pick up a CANNING TOOL SET. This will have a jar lifter, a lid lifter, a wide mouth funnel in it. For under $10, it will make your life much easier! I also keep a stock of strainers, a big pot for blanching vegetables and plenty of long handled spoons and ladles as well as extra measuring spoons on hand. These items have multiple uses so I don’t count them as canning supplies. It may seem like a lot of items and a lot of expense, but it’s actually a very practical and time tested method of preserving food.

You will also need to plan how you get the produce you will can. A garden is my first thought, and I try and grow what I refer to as my “pickle patch”, veggies I will be pickling, as well as regular veggies for meals. I also consider jams, applesauce and juices as part of my “vegetables”, though technically, they are something else. Your garden should be your main source for produce, but there are others…neighbors and relatives sometimes have fruit trees they don’t bother much with, and would be more than happy to have you pick the fruit in exchange for a couple of jars of jar, a pie or two or some applesauce.

Parks and forests also have trees that may be available for you to pick from, and there are always “pick your own” places that offer good fresh fruit for a reasonable price. Be careful in selecting the right pick-your-own though, as many are set up to cater to tourists and city folk and the prices are no different than what you get at the grocery store. Be a wise shopper too, because if you pay a premium for fruit to can up, and put all that time into it, is it really worth it? You can buy a jar of premium applesauce for about $2! Though one of the main reasons for canning and gardening is self sufficiency, make sure you aren’t wasting your resources (cash) in your quest to “home preserve” your food.

After the first of the year, I will be adding more gardening tips in this blog, to help you in your task of building a well stocked pantry. As always, I welcome comments and additions to this blog in the comment section!


Thanks HerbalPagan for giving permission to repost this article.

The original article can be found here on the American Preppers Network.

HerbalPagan’s blogs

For pressure cookers and canner supplies, click here.

Image by Brandy Shaul via Flickr


5 Responses

  1. Besty, you sound like a know it all who can’t stand that someone made some sense and put the idea out there before you did.

    EDITED for language by moderator

  2. Oh, good grief! This writeup makes canning sound so complicated and expensive that it’ll scare off a lot of novices who’ve been considering whether or not give it a try. I live entirely off the grid, in a community of other folks who are entirely off the grid. We all can stuff. A lot of stuff. I have neighbors who’ve been putting up all their own canned fruit and pickles and so on for 5 decades. When you begin to can, you gradually accumulate tools. And you don’t “need” a pressure canner. Most folks here don’t bother with pressure canning, because that’s for meat (which is better fresh or frozen anyway) and for non-acid produce (many of which, like root vegetables, apples, and squash, can be kept for months in a root cellar). Freezers can be run off solar power, and if someone has serious money to put into food preservation, they’d be better off saving up for extra solar panels and a low-energy type of freezer.

    When I started to can, I bought a big black canning kettle at a thrift store for almost nothing. My husband did buy one of those little metal jar holders to go into it. I bought one little package of around 8 jars and one of lids, and I scrounged up another half dozen jars from leftover gifts that neighbors had given us. I borrowed a jar-picker-upper from a neighbor, because nobody is using their tools every day. That was enough to get started. Gradually I’ve accumulated more. You don’t need any more pots or strainers or spoons than you already have. Jars last nearly forever, and it’s my experience that when they break, they break… it’s not like old jars get chips off their rims very often. Thrift stores in rural areas are crammed with them.

    And no one opens a new jar of home-canned stuff every day of the year… that doesn’t even make sense. At least three seasons of the year, you can eat something straight from the garden. The canned stuff puts the sparkle of summer flavor into dark winter seasons, when opening a quart of peaches or a pint of salsa provides a welcome touch of luxury.

    Furthermore, the website where “herbalpagan”s article originally appeared is pretty chilling to me personally: American Preppers’ Network. Lots of survivalist, property rights, “government is trying to control us” chatter. My personal experience, living in a remote community without doctors or police or stores, is that when there’s a crisis, (and we’ve experienced quite a few over the decades; it’s not just theory for us) what we have is one another. We share our time and our resources with one another, our work and our tools and sometimes even our homes. We are unarmed and we believe in and work for global peace. I seriously hope that the effort to live resiliently and sustainably is not going to become flavored with right-wing fearmongering.

    1. Betsy, I didn’t see that HerbalPagan’s article sounded complicated or expensive at all, I thought she broke it down quite nicely. Kudos to you for living your life off-grid, I too live 100% off-grid, in a small community, it’s the only way I would want to live.

      I hope you aren’t judging HerbalPagan by her name, she is a very down to earth and smart lady. I read the articles on those other sites, I don’t see what is so chilling about property rights, not wanting Big Brother to have any more control over us, and survivalist stuff… perhaps since you have lived in a small, close knit community you haven’t experienced those types of problems, or perhaps you have only heard about the extremist who have given survivalists and preppers a bad name. I certainly hope that no one (the government included) ever turns a suspicious eye towards your community, being more independent is not looked upon kindly by the powers that be. I’m hoping and praying that none of us have to deal with TEOTWAWKI situations, but there is nothing wrong with praying for the best and preparing for the worst.

      Thanks for your insight on your canning experience, it’s not so common any more, becoming a lost art, it’s something that needs to passed down to the next generation. :)

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