Food preservation has been around for centuries. Ice houses have been around since at least 1700 B.C. Self-contained household refrigerators are a thing of the 20th century, and they first came into common use in the 20s. However, canning had been used as a way to preserve all sorts of foods from fruits and vegetables to meats in glass jars since the 1700s. It died out somewhat in the mid-20th century, but due to the rising costs of out-of-season foods and the “foodie” movement it has gained in popularity again.
What has made canning popular again?
Long term food storage is something people do for different reasons. Gourmet cooks like to use canning methods for large batches of jams and jellies, clarified butter and pickled vegetables. It’s less time-consuming to make a large batch of these foods than it is to make each item from scratch in small amounts every time. It’s nice to preserve a food and have it on hand, tasting about as fresh as it did when it went into a canning jar months later.
Those looking to save money on canned vegetables and meats also like to use canning as a long-term food storage method. The reason for this doesn’t have as much to do with enjoying fresh gourmet food without having to constantly prepare it. It has more to do with buying fresh vegetables and meat and preserving them for a cost that is lower than buying fresh all the time, especially out-of-season.
Buying manufactured canned goods is seen as a potential health risk to many. Others grow vegetables in their own gardens over the summer and would rather preserve as much as possible for the winter season. While the cans used in the commercial manufacturing process are much safer than they used to be, many feel that the vegetable quality is lacking or that there is too much sodium used.
How long is “long-term” when canning?
Generally speaking, most home-canned foods will last for around a year. Some foods last longer than others. Jams and jellies, for instance, when stored properly in a cool, dark space will last for a couple of years. Most other food items if stored in the same environment will last longer than if they were simply stored in the cupboard at varying temperatures. After about a year, canned foods start losing their nutritional value. So, they should be consumed prior to the year ending.
Canning supplies are relatively inexpensive and the jars and lids can be reused repeatedly. The seals (the part that goes between the lid and the jar top) are a one-time use item. Because of the sustainability of the process, canning is certainly a good way to ensure the food that’s being eaten is of the utmost quality and nutritional value.