As some of you may know, I’ve been doing some research into what we call the old ways of living to see what skills and procedures, as well as equipment, tools and the like can be utilized in a long term survival situation today. There are several credible reports making the circuits today that indicate we may be very near a major catastrophic event that will cripple the nation’s infrastructure and make life as we know it today very uncomfortable. If we are to continue to be self reliant and not fawn on the government for our daily bread we need to learn the same skills and philosophies that our forbears relied upon, and one of the primary areas of concern is food and food storage.
I came across a book called Food and Freedom, A household book by Mabel Don Purdy from way back in 1918. The book is geared towards dealing with the need to ration and conserve assets because of the First World War, but the ideas on preserving food and nutrition contained within these pages are nonetheless relevant today.
I’ve taken part of the book for this space in the hopes that it will enlighten those who may be still wary of the process of home canning. Home canning is an excellent way to preserve your own harvest, and make you less reliant upon others for your food needs. Growing your own garden and harvesting food for your own table gives one a feeling of satisfaction that you cannot achieve in any other way. Read the piece, and then browse the web for more information on canning and food storage. And remember to place what you have learned into the section of your preparedness binder on nutrition and foods.
These are just a few tips and some of the information may not be relevant entirely to your equipment or needs, so make sure you familiarize yourself with your own equipment and requirements for food preparation and storage.
PRESERVING AND STORING FOOD
Prevent food waste by being ready to can, preserve, dry, pickle, salt, or store surplus fruits and vegetables. See that everything needed is at hand and ready to use. Do not have an empty container in your home as winter approaches.—From United States Department of Agriculture (c.1918).
If food products are left in their natural state, most of them spoil in a few hours or a few days, owing to the growth on their surface or in their tissues of bacteria, molds, or other organisms of decay. If such organisms can be killed, and the entrance of other organisms prevented, the food can be kept in good condition practically indefinitely.
There are many methods of preserving surplus food against future need—canning, drying, jelly-making, sweet “preserves,” salting, smoking, pickling, also natural storage and refrigeration. Of these, canning, drying, and storing are, perhaps, the most economical and practical for general home needs and common practice; jellymaking, and some forms of pickling, are desirable at times. The proper curing of meats requires special knowledge and skill, and should not be attempted without this. Under the present food stress, whatever method will best conserve possible food waste and produce greatest returns for the time and money spent—including materials, fuel, and containers—should be favored. Food not properly preserved, whatever the method followed, is wasted rather than conserved.
Reliable instructions and excellent recipes for all usual home methods of preserving food may be found in the books and bulletins listed at the close of this chapter. The following summary of principles and methods used in canning, jellymaking, drying, and storing may be helpful, however, and serve as a background for the successful application of more detailed knowledge.
The important point in the canning of foods, whatever the method employed, is the destruction of all organisms—in any state of development—which may be present on or in the food, and to prevent, by means of proper protection, all farther contamination. In canning, this destruction of organisms is accomplished by means of heat, and is known as sterilization.
The cold-pack method is now accepted as the easiest, quickest, and sorest method of canning fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and soups. It is taught by the United States Department of Agriculture to farming clubs all over the country. It is also the method in use in commercial canning factories. The sterilization, completed in a single period, is done after the food is packed in jars or cans, and partly sealed, so that bacteria or spores cannot enter containers again after sterilization is completed. The process is the same for all foods, the only variation occurring in the preparation of the food previous to packing, and in the time required for complete sterilization. This cold-pack method includes the following steps:
Assembling equipment; cleaning containers.
Grading, washing, special preparation of food as necessary.
Blanching in live steam, or boiling water. This is similar to parboiling; it varies in time from one to possibly fifteen minutes, according to quantity handled; it cleanses, removes bitter qualities, softens fiber. A cheese-cloth bag or wire basket is used for holding the food.
Quick dipping in very cold water—about fifty degrees Fahrenheit; draining.
Packing in clean, hot jars; adjusting new rubbers; filling jars at once to overflowing with boiling water or syrup; adjusting covers immediately; partial sealing.
Placing hot jars at once in canning outfit, and surrounding with hot water as required, according to outfit used; covering outfit.
Sterilizing in water-bath or steam-pressure outfit, as preferred, for such time as may be necessary.
Removing jars from outfit, securing lids; inverting to cool, testing joints, labeling, wrapping, storing.
Equipment for cold-pack canning:
For sterilizingj either a home-made water-bath outfit, or a commercial water-bath, water-seal or pressure-cooker may be used.
For small-quantity canning, the home-made outfit is practical. For this either a wash-boiler, large tin pail, or aluminum double roasting-pan may be used. It is necessary to place a rack in the bottom of the kettle on which to rest the jars. The rack used must permit water to circulate underneath; wood is best; do not use straw or cloths. Lifting-handles and a tight cover are essential. The water must surround every jar, circulate between the jars, and cover tops of jars by at least one inch. Count time after water begins to boil or jump over entire surface; see that water continues to boil during entire sterilizing period.
For large-quantity canning, commercial canning outfits are most efficient. The water-bath outfits are frequently constructed for out-of-door work which can be of great advantage; these are operated in the same way as the home-made outfits.
Commercial pressure-cookers save time and fuel, and are well adapted for corn, meats, and other foods where complete sterilization is sometimes difficult, and a temperature higher than the boiling-point is desirable. When using a pressure-cooker, water must come up to rack or platform, but not over it; the cooker must be steam-tight, and operated and regulated according to directions furnished with the particular canner used.
For containers glass jars are best for home use. Rubbers must be new when used, of the best quality, and tested before using. Other necessary equipment includes a sharp paring-knife, measuring-cup and spoons, a wooden spoon, a wire basket or cheese-cloth bag for blanching and dipping, clean towels, a “lifter” for hot jars, a pail for scraps, a good alarm-clock, and a stove or heating device.
Time for complete sterilization depends upon condition and variety of fruit and vegetables, upon altitude, and upon the type of canning outfit used. Freshly gathered fruit or vegetables require slightly less time than those which have been allowed to stand several hours. For altitudes above one thousand feet, time, as commonly given for sterilration, should be increased 10 per cent, for each five hundred feet. When a water-seal or steampressure is used, less time is required than when the water-bath outfit is used. A time-table is supplied with each commercial canner sold. When using a home-made water-bath outfit, time as follows:
Soft berries 12 to 16 minutes
Peaches 12 to 16
Apples 16 to 20
Hard fruits 20
Corn ‘ 180
Peas and lima beans ‘ 180
String beans 120
Sweet peppers 90
Typical Recipes (See Farmers’ Bulletin 839):
String beans: Grade; string; blanch in live steam 5 to 15 minutes, according to quantity; dip into very cold water; drain; pack immediately into clean, hot jars; adjust rubbers; fill jars to overflowing with boiling water, adding one level teaspoonful salt to each quart; seal partially. Place jars in canning outfit; surround with hot water as required for the particular outfit used. Sterilize in water-bath outfit one period of 120 minutes; or in water-seal outfit, 90 minutes; or in pressure-cooker—under 5 pounds—60 minutes; or in pressure-cooker— If very young and freshly gathered, less time may be required.
under 10 pounds—40 minutes. When sterilization is complete, remove jars at once, tighten covers, invert to cool, test, wrap in paper, store.
Clear boiling water, with one level teaspoonful of salt to each quart, is used for all vegetables with the exception of tomatoes; these require no water.
Peaches: Wash, grade, peel, halve and remove stones, leaving a few for flavor; rinse. Pack fruit at once into clean, hot jars; fill jars to overflowing with boiling syrup—thin or medium thin; adjust rubbers; seal partially. Place in canning outfit, and surround with hot water as required for the particular outfit in use. Sterilize in water-bath outfit, 16 minutes; or in water-seal outfit, 10 minutes; or in steam-pressure outfit —under 10 pounds—5 minutes. Remove jars at once, secure lids, invert- to cool, test, wrap, store.
Fruit may be canned with clear water, sugar syrup, or in cases, with a diluted corn syrup. In making sugar syrup, the density may vary from thin to medium or thick, according to kind of fruit to be canned, special need for economy, or individual taste. For sweet fruits—sweet berries, peaches, cherries—use thin syrup; for sour berries and other sour fruits, use medium-thick syrup; for hard fruits—pears, apples, quinces—thin to medium-thin syrup may be used.