With freeze-dried foods and survival seeds vying for your dollar–not to mention emergency gardens full of fresh foods–pressure canning just doesn’t feel necessary to many people in the preparedness world. If that sounds like you, your feelings are wrong.
Having come to preparedness late in the game, I empathize with the overwhelming urge to learn everything at once, and the need to then prioritize everything. At Pantry Paratus, we spend a lot of time helping people do just that, and I frequently recommend that new preppers start by dehydrating food. The initial cost is low, it has practical daily uses (especially if you get a box-style dehydrator that allows for dough rising and yogurt making), and the margin for error is low.
But that doesn’t mean you should scratch canning off the list. Here are my top 10 reasons why every prepper should learn how to pressure can food:
1. Not everything dehydrates or ferments well. And even things that do, like the tasty treat of dehydrated peach slices for instance, get old after awhile. When it comes down to it, water shortages could limit your ability to rehydrate food. But with canned food, you can enjoy it fresh and juicy as God intended.
2. Canned foods can be eaten straight out of the jar. They’re perfect for camping trips or situations where there will be no means of cooking, or time for rehydrating (have you ever clocked the time it takes to sufficiently rehydrate carrots?).
3. It tastes better. Canned foods are delicious straight out of the jar, and if your only memory of canned food is something metal from the grocery store, then you’ll just have to take my word for it.
4. It’s healthier. Nothing compares to the freshness of home-canned food without all of the preservatives, added colorings, or BPA from the metal can. You thought the BPA thing was settled already? Actually, no Campbell’s soup, among others, are still working towards their long-term plan to remove it (but haven’t yet). And on that note, have you ever read the salt content of canned soups? Yuck!
5. Creative license. I love canning my homemade soups; I love preserving my favorite recipes and creating new twists on old favorites, too. It’s always fun to try something new!
6. Speedy meals. Nothing is faster than opening and heating a jar of food. There isn’t always time to do anything else. Having home cooked meals on the shelf will help you eliminate your dependence on other temptations like freezer foods or fast foods. Daily choices are the first step towards true independence from our modern food system.
7. Harvest surplus. If you truly must grow or barter your own food for survival, then you’ve got to have ways to stretch that surplus long past growing season. Fermenting is a fantastic way, but losses can be great—especially if you don’t have a climate-controlled cellar to keep the jars cool. Dehydrating is also good, but it isn’t always delicious or even practical with every fruit or vegetable.
8. Meat. How much jerky do you plan on eating, anyway? Learn to pressure can meat so you can eat stews, tacos, casseroles, and not another jaw-breaking piece of salty bear-jerky. Oh, and by the way, pressure canning meat is the best way to tenderize it! That old goose will never win culinary awards, but you will find it greatly improved by the tenderizing effects of pressure canning. The chicken and beef just melt in your mouth! Plus, they’re already cooked and make extremely fast meals.
9. It’s good for bartering. Pressure canning is a lost art. When everyone else is on day 274 of freeze-dried food and water rations, they’ll give just about anything for a jar of spiced pears or homemade applesauce.
10. It’s a useful survival skill. Congratulations, you can add it to your growing list of skills that you learn in order to protect and provide for your family. And you can actually see the jars lined up on the counter! Beyond bartering jars of delicious food, you can barter or share the knowledge with others so they can further secure their pantries, too.
Really, I should have made this a list of eleven because you will also have a serious sense of accomplishment! That sense of accomplishment isn’t just the first time you can your own food, but every time those jars line up in formation on the kitchen counter, reminding you that you are taking care of your family by preserving the harvest. You will have something to show for your efforts every time you gaze into your full pantry.
If you’re interested in learning how to pressure can food, I recommend the All American pressure canner and for many great reasons–they’re made in America and have both a pressure gauge AND a weighted gauge (a weighted gauge works off of basic science and you don’t have to take it to the local county extension agency every year to check it). It’s also the SAFEST one on the market. There are no gaskets to break or replace, and there are multiple safety valves for peace of mind. With such a range of sizes available, there is one to fit your canning needs perfectly.
Thanks for reading!