Posted on June 4, 2015
You can can!
Being urban/suburbanites on a shady lot means we don’t do much gardening. If you have lots of space and light to grow things on your property, then canning is probably a worthwhile adventure for you.
Still, Mr. Tucker and I can a few things a year and it can be a worthwhile venture for you as long as you are canning things that are either expensive to buy or that taste better home made.
In the past I have canned Concord grape jelly from local grapes and every year I can a year’s worth of strawberry jam that only contains strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Since we can also take the family to a PYO strawberry place, the adventure triples as a family outing as well as teaches the kids about where food comes from. All over win, really.
This year though I decided to add Mr. Tucker’s delicious (supah sekrit) BBQ sauce to that list. He often makes only one batch at a time but I asked him to double it so we could preserve a year’s worth of sauce. As a bonus, we also made little jars to use as gifts: just add a ribbon with an info card and a dollar store basting brush and VOILA! Awesome gift of deliciousness.
We haven’t spent much on canning because we lucked out after a friend’s wedding. They had a country-themed wedding near our city because it was a central meeting place for both their families who lived literally on opposite sides of the country. Given that they were both living near the arctic circle at the time. When it was all over, we became the happy recipients of all the custom mason jar candle-holders they had made for the wedding (and the cool dress-up clothes from the photo booth that the kids still use). So all told we have received over 100 mason jars of varying sizes (and their unused lids).
By my calculations we have spent about $10 in ingredients to make 5 quarts of BBQ sauce. That’s $2 a quart. The fact that it is thicker than most commercial brands and has no thickeners or fillers is also a welcome bonus. In our city, you can often get a thin, water sauce on sale for $1 but you have to use twice as much and it tastes like bargain basement ketchup and burnt onions. So I call our little experiment a win.
“Isn’t canning hard?”
When I posted on facebook that we were planning on canning some BBQ sauce a few friends questioned whether or not it was worth it. The answer is: it can be (*groan*). The key is that it has to be something that can be waterbath canned, which limits you to high-acidity foods. High-acidity foods can be done in a large stockpot (as long as the water covers the top of the pot). Low-acidity foods have to be done in a pressure canner due to botulism concerns. I don’t have the money, time, or access to cheap, fresh produce that would make pressure canning a viable thing for my family. Unless you have a farm (or other access to lots of fresh foods, cheap) the cost of a pressure canner + supplies wouldn’t have a decent payback, especially considering the hassle.
So while it’s not always financially doable, given the massive amounts of lids, jars and supplies we have, water bath canning is definitely within our reach and does lead to decent savings and better food. In fact, my father has a large garden where he grows a wicked amount of tomatoes so this year I plan to grab some of those and can huge batches of fresh, organic, crushed tomatoes. Being able to crack open a jar of summer in the middle of a snow storm will be a welcome comfort when the winter comes.