My *New* Views on Canning, & Why it Could Be Wasteful.

How many of you can - like, preserve food in jars using a water bath or pressure canner?

Yep. I figured it would be a lot of you. And for that reason, I want to share some fairly new views of mine on canning, and how it {could} be wasteful, or even counterproductive to a sustainability movement. 


To begin to illustrate my point, let me tell you about the canned goods that I dumped in my compost bin  a few weeks ago. No, I didn't dump all those canned goods in the photo above. Relax. That is my pantry today, after dumping crap we didn't eat.

Let me explain.

I cleaned out my pantry of canned goods that fell in two categories - canned goods that were old and had changed colors or looked funky, or canned goods that I knew we wouldn't eat. Ever. You might guess that I dumped a lot more canned goods that we wouldn't eat, than canned goods that appeared to be too old. I dumped:
  • Pickled okra
  • Pickled peppers
  • Bread and butter pickles from 2009
  • Dill pickles from 2009
  • Strawberry jam that had taken on a strange color
  • and a few jars of a certain recipe of salsa that we didn't like
I felt really, really bad tossing the contents of at least two dozen jars into the compost bin. I put so much effort into putting those jars up, only to throw them away. I didn't really waste any money, just space in my cupboards and time.

If you know anything about me, friends, you know that I value my time. Sometimes more than money. For this reason I've decided to be strategic with canning my garden produce. I don't want to spend a day or two in the kitchen concocting some canned produce recipe that I even *think* we might not consume or enjoy. Unless it's a recipe that I know we will enjoy, I'm not going to put it up. My time is worth more than the thought of squirreling away my garden produce.

Canning food just for the sake of preserving it, knowing you might not eat it - or worse, force yourself to eat it throughout the year and hate yourself for it - is wasteful. Simple.

I would much rather give some tomatoes away to friends and family so they can eat healthy and in-season, than try some random salsa recipe that I can't even use to marinade chicken.

I would much rather leave a bag of cucumbers on the desk of a valuable local business than make 1.547 million pints of pickles that no sane person could eat in a reasonable amount of time.

Are you feelin' me? Am I making any sense? 

15 comments:

  1. I wholeheartedly concur. I used to way over can stuff and we had more than we could eat in a reasonable amount of time. I now can in much smaller batches, saving time too, and we are much better about eating it up before it gets old. Plus, canning lids aren't really all that cheap if you think about it. The cost adds up.

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  2. Ouch, this hurts! All that work. Don't know that I could have done what you did. Back before I had all the knowledge I do now about canning, I would have some spoiled jars that would have to be trashed. Bout broke my heart. But I have learned to can small batches of new recipes, and to think about whether it is cheaper in the long run to can than buy (although I hate the thought of chemicals in my food) And I have learned you should take all those rings of your jars! lol

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  3. My motherinlaw has canned goods from 2000 and back! I don't understand why she won't throw it away because she won't eat it (thank goodness).

    This is why I stick to the basics when canning. Jam, Peaches, Green Beans, Spaghetti Sauce, Salsa. I calculated what we usually go through in a year and my goal is that amount. I don't even can pickles because we probably eat MAYBE 2 jars in a year.

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    1. Sounds like I need to keep better track of what we eat in a year, like you!

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  4. As with anything, there's a learning curve. Year after year, you figure out what your family does and doesn't eat, what you will and won't use in recipes and so on. Our family doesn't eat canned apricots, but to salvage them I need to make apricot leather one of these days when we're done with the fall harvest. :)

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  5. Makes total sense to me....now...lol. I wonder however, how safe it would be to dump into the compost bin IF the jars look bad? Botulism comes to mind here, so I think, if it just looks and is old, ok, but, if it looks bad not in the compost pile. Better safe than sorry.

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    1. I toss them into the bin. If wrong I really need to know it and limit them to the flower bin!

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    2. I think tossing them in the compost bin wouldn't be an issue. Or at least I haven't had any issues. It takes a long time (at high temps) for my bin to break down the 'greens and browns' into compost, and by the time I actually eat the food it's been growing in a garden, washed, and processed/cooked before it reaches my mouth.

      I guess I just live on the edge :)

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  6. I would just add, from my experience, don't can until you've studied HOW to can. I was taught the water bath method by my Gram. I spent an entire Saturday canning 30 quarts of beans only to have them pop open and explode two weeks later. I totally did not know about the acid effect and that certain foods need to be pressure canned, not water bath canned. What a waste of time, money, and food!

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    1. AGREE! I've never had anything break, but one year I made a chicken vegetable soup and canned it. In a WATER BATH canner. Yeah, we all know this recipe is not acidic and MUST be pressure canned. I didn't realize this until like three months later when I got out a slimy, brownish-green jar of chicken vegetable soup. Thankfully, we hadn't eaten any. The contents of those jars went right into the trash.

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  7. I can simple so I can use the food for more things. I do not want to be limited to certain dishes unless I really Know the family will consume them. I prefer pressure canning to be sure there are no problems.

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    1. I find myself doing more whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. so they can be easily incorporated into many recipes.

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  8. I know I'm late in joining the party, but I'll put my two cents in anyway :) I can veggies each year, whatever is left after we are unable to keep up with eating produce fresh (and generally everything that is canned is eaten). This year I canned way more than usual, but I have a goal. Every week when I make my grocery list I consider what we plan into the menu from our selection of canned or buried in dirt (as in sunchokes and carrots) or stacked (as in squash) veggies. As a result, the produce portion of our grocery bill has been considerably reduced, and we have the satisfaction of actually eating our own produce. Or eating canned veggies and fruits we traded some of ours for from a friend!

    There have been a couple cases where I wasn't completely satisfied with the recipe, but I do my best to figure out a way to use it anyway. For example, I have been unable to make spaghetti sauce without seeds. It doesn't bother me, but my husband's teeth come together in such a way that the seeds get stuck in his teeth and hurt him every time he chews. So I try to use that sauce when it's just me and the kids. It still saves us money as we don't have to buy sauce for lunches I may want to make, and everyone is happy.

    You do have a good point though. I think it comes down to planning ahead. Make sure that when you can you are using produce and recipes you enjoy eating. Try canned foods your friends and family have made. If you like theirs ask for their recipes. Get opinions about different recipes online. And of course, consider how much you normally eat. If you make too much, you can always trade with friends for other things, or at least use some for gifts.

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