Monday, February 14, 2022

What food preservation technique do you prefer?

A reader posted a comment on the blog post "Just in Case" as follows: "Back in about 2008 I joined a canning club, to learn how to can along with others. It was fun and we did a lot of MASS a group. We canned our own stuff too, then had trading times that were also fun, and you got to get jar of someone else's something! HOWEVER....I found I simply did not like pressure canning at home by myself. It was a chore, but I did some. Then a lot of time went in years. Well, I knew when it was time for every good prepper to start canning in earnest. ((( whining ))) BUT I don't like canning!! Anyhow, as of late, I am totally into and ENJOYING fermenting, pickling, water bathing, and filling my already overflowing pantry shelves with new jars of cools stuff!"

This comment made me chuckle because food preservation is such a personal thing. Just recently, as I was going through the process of canning some carrots, I remarked to Don, "I just love canning!" And I do. There's something about those bright beautiful jars of preserved food that makes me smile every time. And even though the process can be tedious and messy, somehow I don't mind it because I know what the end result will be.

How did I get started canning? It's an old story, and one some of you know. It all started back in 1990. Don and I were newlyweds and renting a small house in West Sacramento, California. Submitting to the lure of the soil, I planted a postage-stamp sized garden in the backyard consisting of two tomato plants and six corn plants.

I don't know what was in the polluted dirt of that micro garden, but those two tomato plants yielded more fruit than I knew what to do with. I remember picking two entire paper grocery bags full of red ripe tomatoes one evening and bringing them into the tiny kitchen. I looked at them and thought, "What on earth am I going to do with so many tomatoes?"

Vaguely in the back of my mind, I remembered hearing something about a technique called canning, but I knew nothing about it. My mother never canned. None of my acquaintances canned. This was before the internet. So I went to the library and found a basic book on the subject and began reading.

I learned there are two basic methods for canning: water-bath, and pressure canning. Pressure canning required some equipment I didn't own (namely, a pressure canner) but it looked like I could scrounge what I needed to water-bath can. And tomatoes, I learned, could be water-bath canned. I was in luck.

So I acquired the basic necessities and set to work teaching myself how to can. And when I pulled those first few ruby-red jars of tomatoes out of the boiling water and set them on a towel to cool, I realized one very important thing:

I was hooked.

I mean, I was seriously hooked. You've heard about adults who never knew they had a creative bent until they take a painting class, and suddenly realize they're artists? That's exactly what it was like for me. In that moment of pulling those jars from the pot, I conceived a life-long love affair with preserving food in jars.

But here's the thing: Not everyone has the same visceral reaction to canning, like the reader above. It might be too much of a chore, or they may not like the taste or consistency of canned foods, or any number of other issues.

I focus on canning on this blog simply because I love it. But there are many other ways to preserve food. Some prefer to ferment. Some prefer to dehydrate. Some prefer to freeze. Some prefer to freeze-dry.

What food preservation technique do you prefer, and why?

(By the way, a reader asked what size canner I have. It's an All American model 921. I can't seem to reply to comments; it's recent a Blogger glitch, so apologies for any unanswered questions from the comments.)


  1. Thanks for answering my question about the size of pressure canner you have.

  2. When I was a toddler in the 40's I can remember seeing canning jars of tomatoes and a few other veggies on a bottom shelf in a small pantry in our home. The clearness of the jars and the colors of the food still stick in my mind. Our family was poor and often putting a meal together was a problem for my mother. SO I knew well food insecurity. Over the years food security took on that old image of canned food, colorful and in clean clear containers. It is a warm and comforting feeling to see food canned and put away for later consumption.

  3. I used to be like the reader who hated canning, but no longer. I love canning (and freezing and dehydrating) the fruits and vegetables I grow, buy from local farmers, and receive from friends. People here share with their friends and neighbors. I have a large kitchen, and the countertops are typically covered with jars of canned goodness in the summer and fall.

    When I was a child, I remember my grandma holding up a jar of peaches, tomatoes, or green beans and saying, “Isn’t this pretty?” I thought she was crazy. It wasn’t pretty. It was just a jar of food. Now I hold up the jars I’ve canned and wonder at the beauty.

    There’s something satisfying about looking at the shelves of food in my basement and realizing that I had a hand in it. I remember the long days of stringing beans, peeling and slicing apples, and preparing everything for chow chow and pickles. (To say nothing about the work involved in growing it.) Some nights my back and hands hurt so badly that I had difficulty falling asleep. The fruits of my labor taste better than anything I buy at the grocery store.

    I used to get mocked by acquaintances and family for growing and preserving my own food. (“It’s stupid to waste so much time planting a garden and canning. You do realize you can buy that at the store, don’t you?” Laughter followed.) Circumstances in the last couple of years have silenced them. I lost count of the number of calls I got from people with questions about canning, freezing, and pickling foods. I answered their questions, although I did remind a couple of them about the nasty comments they directed towards me. Hey, I’m human. I’m happy to say that some of them now get excited when they hear the PING of jars sealing. With the shortage of metal lids and high prices when they can be found, we may have to invest in reusable lids and settle for the knowledge that the jars sealed.

    Those shelves in the basement have a lot of empty jars after we’ve enjoyed their contents throughout the winter. I’m already receiving seed orders for this year’s garden, taking stock of seeds I’ve saved, and talking to friends about seed swaps. I can’t wait to pull out my brand new All American pressure canner and start another canning season. I’m smiling just thinking about it. Whatever your method of preserving, I wish you a happy season!

  4. I watched my Grandmother can fish that my Grans Father and I caught. This always stuck with me.
    Now I like to pressure can. Everything from Meet (beef and chicken) to Chili and Stews that he wife and I make in a big batch. I love having the ability to co down stairs, grab a jar and have a good meal in a short time. It is also great to have a large store of food to count on if needed.
    Keep up the good work

  5. When I had a full house with family, I water bath canned relish and various stone fruit. The relish was to deal with an abundance of summer squash and cucumber. Due to both time and budget constraints, I didn't venture into pressure canning. Although in hindsight, I wish I had since I think it would have save me money.

    My first venture into canning was when I was seriously unemployed and the bluff near my house had an abundance of blackberries. I learned to can blackberry jam. No one in my immediate family or circle of friends was interested in canning. So I too am self taught.

    Now that I am on my own, I freeze the abundance. I also have a much smaller garden. I will bring out the dehydrator on occasion.

    As to the size of canner -- my two cents is to get the biggest one you can both afford and can handle.
    SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  6. I love dehydrating. You don't have to have a big batch of anything, but once the Excalibur is on I don't like turning it off. I tend to dry things together that don't clash, like peppers and onions, on separate trays of course. I don't dry fruits and vegetables together. And meats get done separately too.
    When I bought the Excalibur years ago I also bought a book called "The Dehydrators Bible ". It's full of how to dry most foods, and even more full of recipes for using them.

    One of the things I like best about dried foods is they take up so little space. I like to keep opened jars in the fridge. Meats cooked and dried store well in the freezer.
    Something else I like about dehydrating is taking advantage of store specials on produce. Canning is too labor intensive to just always be ready to do it at the drop of a hat and for relatively small quantities. That's the drawback on dehydrating. It's slow and you'd need several Excaliburs to process a lot. But if you're working,you can load up the dehydrator and leave it while you go to work. Or go to sleep. You don't have to do much babysitting.
    This year I want to try drying shrimp. So far they haven't lasted long enough to do this. One drawback is that I cook meats first and it's hard to not start eating shrimp!

    One thing about dehydrated foods is to try and avoid rehydrating with water. I throw them in with what they're going to cook with and let the sauce or juices flavor them. You may need to add more liquid to the sauce but thats ok flavor wise. For, say apples, rehydrate with apple juice. Then make your pie. You get the gist.

    I also like the freezer, but think of it more as a holding place for foods to be processed. It's also a good place to store spaghetti sauce or chile or other cooked meals for a quick defrost.

    If I lived up north and/or had a cool basement canning might be more of an option for me. But it gets so hot and humid down south and there are so many power outages. There's another sound that's just like the sound of jars sealing. It's the sound of them losing their seals, so until or unless I have somewhere reliably cool to store canned goods, it's not the best option for me.

  7. I love canning, too; and was self taught. The first few times I pressure canned green beans, I was afraid to blink for fear the gauge would go too high, and I actually sat in a chair in front of the stove to monitor it.
    I get such happiness out of seeing all the different colors of food on the pantry shelves, that I even canned beets once (a vegetable that I cannot gag down), just because they would look beautiful on the shelf (the beets were eaten by others).
    Something wonderful happened a couple of weeks ago. I wandered into a thrift store that I only rarely go to, & I found a bag of about 200 perfect, unused metal canning lids for $5.99. I almost ran to the checkout counter before someone else snagged them!
    D. in the Inland NW

  8. My first thing I canned was blackberry jam picked from my mother-in-laws. I used a water bottle sterilizer to water bath the jars until I bought a water bath canner.

    Many years ago a friend saw something canned on the counter. (I don't remember what it was.) I told her don't look at my floors. She told me I had my priorities straight.

    I love to can, hear the ping (which I miss w/ the Tattlers), and see all the jars with the different colors in my pantry.

    Debbie in MA

  9. I got addicted to canning almost two decades ago. But I didn't have much room. So I also learned dehydration. Each of these has different uses for me.
    Most Veg gets frozen because, for me, it retains more flavor. Fruit can be canned or dehydrated. My son prefers dehydrated.
    But I also can onions, bell peppers, soups, meats, etc. It really just depends on how I will use it.

  10. I do can, but like another reader who commented, dehydrating can be easy and convenient. I did something creative recently..I can't stand liver,but I know its very good for you, and it's cheap! I bought a couple packs of sliced liver, laid it out on the dehydrater rack, and forgot about it for a few hours. When dry I used a blender and made crumbles and powder out of it. Put it in a jar, and shake a bit into other dishes and don't even notice it's there! I even shake a little onto my pups food dish and she loves it. So for me, it kinda depends on what mood I'm in...pressure can, water bath, fermenting, dehydrating. All good!! Oh...and I 'water glassed' a bunch of eggs recently for the first time! Raw eggs in a glass jar, with water and some lime. Edible 3 months later! Maybe longer!

  11. When we visited my grandmother one a year as a child, she would always send us home with jars of her home-canned applesauce which I loved (and on the rare occasion our visit was at the right time of year, we'd get to help make it), and canned green beans which I hated, and potatoes from the root cellar. One year my mother canned a batch of raspberry jam from the bushes in our backyard (but banned the kids from the kitchen while doing so). SO... I am a self-taught canner. I prefer water bath to pressure canning, (although I do both) simply because water bath is faster. I like dehydrating, too. And freezing. This year I'd like to try some fermenting and pickling. Really, I like all of it because it is so satisfying to put my garden up and know we'll have lots of food all winter regardless of what idiocy the supply chain gets up to.

  12. I love to dehydrate with my Excalibur dehydrator!

  13. I use all methods of preservation, fermenting, dehydrating, freezing, freeze-drying, pickling, water bathing and pressure canning. What method I use depends on the food item I want to preserve; something are better dehydrated, like mushrooms and bananas. Some are better water-bathed, like orange slices and cheese sauces. Some are best freeze dried like herbs, peppers, brussel sprouts and okra. My favorite method is pressure canning because I know the food will last a long time and like Patricia said, it looks beautiful in those jars.