Fear of Canning

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Gardening blogger

For several years now I have talked about doing it.

Toyed with taking a class.

I even sat through a YouTube video demo about "putting up" my home grown tomatoes.

Even so, the idea of me home preserving the fruits and veggies I grow here hasn't come to fruition yet.

When I share my reservations about dangerous home preservations -- serving up home grown botulism in a jar or can --  out loud with my food friends, these amateur canners, picklers, fermenters and so on always look at me cockeyed.

And, they usually interject that extending the life of your produce can take a lot of forms, and isn't hard to do. That statement is invariably followed by this one:  countless generations of  women and men have been "putting up" jars and jars of jams, jellies, pickled veggies and shelf stable containers of tomatoes and fruits in their kitchens, so why can't you?    Underscoring that point, they add in that right now  is the perfect time to engage in this age-old agrarian practice, because it is a treat to pull out a jar of whatever after the season in which it was locally grown has waned.

Still, my fear of missing a significant step in the food preservation process, or by mistake doing something not safe along the way, is real.

So, instead of annually, and ritualistically, canning tomatoes in September, or going through the process of pickling them, I choose to sauce and freeze 'em.

Sometimes, I simply make vitamin-rich tomato juice we drink in a day.

One of my University of Illinois Extension Master Gardner buds says she enjoys the smoky taste of sun dried tomatoes, and uses her dehydrator to do that.

This weekend I'm hoping to try that, too.  But instead of cluttering up my kitchen with one more gadget, I plan to use the oven method, even though it does take hours and hours.

Please don't wonder if I'm ranting or whining.  Just know that I am.

I'm not comfortable with the canning thing yet.  

And for now, I'm eating our heirloomtomatoes fresh from the vine within the week that I pick them. 

I know, I know: I should be making batches of them shelf stable.  That's the thrifty and sustainable thing to do, and the whole reason I'm doing all this edible gardening.

Is it time for me to rethink and overcome this "canphobia" of mine?

Of course it is.  But since everyone knows that a successful home gardener's best friend is planning and patience, how about next year?

Reader Comments

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Lisa from Oak Park  

Posted: October 10th, 2013 10:51 AM

I just started canning a few years ago. Trust that you know what you are doing, and join the fun. Look me up next year and we can do it together:)

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