I can because I save money. I can because I like to use a skill I possess. I can because it’s healthy for my family. But most of all, I can because I feel like I get to do a little something extra for my family with each jar that I put on the shelves in the basement. I love to make peanut butter sandwiches with my own jelly. I love to know that when I feed people I actually did it all by myself, standing in the heat of my kitchen, scrounging up those precious nap times so I could be productive. Last week was hard, but I know that come January when I still have shelves full of the summer’s produce, I won’t begrudge one bit the tomato stained finger nails and late nights. Instead, I will open each jar and savor the moment as I remember this summer and all I learned about myself.
I started canning the summer after I got married. I had been on a mission to learn how to really cook food and somehow, canning my garden’s bounty seemed to fit into this. That first year really all I canned was salsa, tomato sauce and tomatoes. The tomato sauce was a disaster; thin as water and over seasoned. The tomatoes were so insanely time consuming and I hardly got any jars for all the work I put in. The salsa was edible, though. That salsa was what told me the next year to go back to the farm stand and get more tomatoes and try again. 2008’s harvest left me with a freezer that was stocked, shelves filled with my home canned goodies and confidence.
I didn’t can a darn thing in 2009 under the misconception that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with a newborn. He was colicky for sure, but I just didn’t know yet how to manage my time. Last year, I did everything I could, and was really proud of myself. I didn’t meet my goals for the year, but I still enjoyed opening my cabinets and seeing the product of my work. This year, I made my canning goal list out before Sylvia was born and with my guide to the Ohio produce availability, marked out my plan on my calendar and made my plan. I’ve managed to pass my goals in everything and I even learned how to operate a pressure canner without terror. The only left for me to do is figure out how much Sylvia likes applesauce and work accordingly.
I can for several reasons, not the least of which being that I know exactly what is going in my family’s bodies. I know where all my food came from since I either picked it myself or know the growers. The food is fresh when it goes in those sparkling clean jars made from glass… no chance of BPA there! Every year, I reuse what I had from prior years and add to the stash as needed. I recycle my jar lids (and the rings as needed). It would be a lie to say that I don’t get sad as I watch my stash slowly dwindle through the winter and early spring. I love that my grocery bills are low through the winter because when I need diced tomatoes, just head to the basement and draw on what I’ve already done.
Prices around here have gone up dramatically. Even store brand canned corn is over a dollar a can and it’s rarely on sale. Last week, canned tomatoes were on sale for 69 cents. Regularly, that brand of tomatoes sells for $1.19. I bought a bushel of tomatoes for 10 dollars and 36 pints of tomatoes. This breaks down to 28 cents a pint. And I didn’t clip one coupon. My pickled peppers? 19 cents a pint. By taking the time and the effort over the summer to save money, I can then take that money I would have spent on canned goods and put it into buying more organic and natural products for my family.