Canning: It Preserves More Than Food

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Hi everyone, this is Zach Troutman, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension – Yadkin County Center.

When it comes to home food preservation methods canning is typically the first one that comes to mind. It’s a technique that played a vital role in the growth of society in modern history because it allows food that would spoil without intervention to be preserved and consumed months or years later, depending on who does the processing. What we see as a standard aisle in the grocery store now revolutionized how society operated 200 years ago. This process allowed for new methods of exploration, war, and food availability and was one of the initial stages that allowed our society to move into the industrial revolution.

While this aspect of canning shows the technical importance of the process I think there’s also a lot of sentimental importance around canning. During my time with N.C. Cooperative Extension, my view and appreciation of canning have grown. I understood that canning was important for some individuals but similar to many of the other old-school methods of doing things I encouraged people to seek other ways to preserve their food at home and only recommended canning as a last resort for those that didn’t have space or equipment to do things like freeze or dry their food. This position has opened my eyes so that I now see canning as a significant part of our history where things were slower and more purposeful. These methods were handed down through the family like rights of passage and this led to traditions and sentimental recipes being passed from one generation to the next and I’ve seen these recollections make people’s eyes go starry with those memories.

Canning for home food preservation isn’t for everyone and without specific and purposeful uses is often not the money-saving tool it once was. However, this doesn’t take away from the sentimental nature that this technique brought to many kitchens over the last hundred or so years.

While all of this is true and holds great reverence, it’s my responsibility to educate people on how to practice these preservation methods safely. I’ve had many conversations with people asking what I think about a recipe they were given from a grandparent or friend or found online. In these conversations, I always discuss the importance of following recipes that have been tested for safety, and yet, with the majority of these discussions, I walk away feeling like they think I was belittling them or the person that shared the recipe with them regardless of my attempts to explain why I can’t recommend them to use the recipe. There are ways to still enjoy those sentimental recipes, they may just not be able to be safely canned at home using the methods available to us.

Canning is a wonderful way to preserve food and get others in your household in the kitchen to share time together and create memories. Just please follow a tested recipe. I highly recommend visiting nchfp.uga.edu for recipes and resources on all things home food preservation. I’m also more than happy to talk with you about anything food and nutrition-related and can be reached by email at zach_troutman@ncsu.edu or by phone at 336-849-7908.

If you’re interested in learning more about canning and would like some hands-on experience canning apple butter please contact our office to register for my fall canning workshop. It will be held at the Yadkin County Agricultural & Educational Building, located at 2051 Agricultural Way, Yadkinville, NC 27055 on November 1, 2022, at 10 a.m. The registration fee is $10 to cover the cost of materials for the workshop.

 As seen in the Yadkin Ripple.