Canning is an activity I do during fall harvest of my vegetable garden in Chicago. It is the processing of food in glass jars at high temperatures to prevent spoilage; water bath canning is best for high acid foods while pressure canning is for low acid foods. Although it is time consuming, I fit it into my schedule of my urban homestead priorities during the fall season to ensure I have preserved vegetables for the winter. This kind of food preservation may not be popular in these modern times but I find it necessary for my sustainable living. I have noticed that some of my fellow Chicago urban growers enjoy cultivating their fresh produce but fail to preserve them. I choose to can during the fall season in Chicago to practice sustainability and have access to garden vegetables when I want and need them.
So what can be canned? Any and everything. I have found that fresh garden vegetable and fruit crops serve different purposes once they go through the canning process. Eating canned homemade soups, broths, stews made of fresh garden vegetables is popular in my home during the winters for meals, warm snacks as well as nursing colds or the flu. Canned fruits such as apples, cherries, peaches and grapes are great for making jars of jam, jelly or preserves that complement breads and pastries; I make homemade jam to give as gifts during the holidays and special occasions any time of the year. Canning is a great way to salvage the surplus yields of green tomatoes, okra and summer squash I discover when putting my home garden to bed in autumn. Almost every crop I grow during the growing months is canned by the end of the season.
Canning provides a host of benefits and I am reaping them. The shelf life of my canned food is more than a year. Having preserved vegetables prepares my household in times of uncertainty and disaster (i.e. financial crisis, tornados, snow storms). The hard work put into the process and seeing all the canned jars after it shows the effort and yield from the growing season. Growing and conserving my garden vegetables gives me security and freedom of knowing where my food comes from and that I have access to it whenever it is needed. This is a means of food security during Chicago’s harsh winters so I can have vegetables when I cannot cultivate them in the soil. Creating and taking advantage of these benefits of canning are favorable for my urban homestead.
I encourage you to can your own food. Whether it is for a hobby or necessity it is a good skill to have and can come in handy when you least expect it. You can learn from elders, homesteaders or avid canners that have been doing it for years. If these people are not within your reach search on Google or your local Craigslist site for food preservation classes. Can for your security and pleasure.