There was a time when many of us lamented the slow passing of canning, that old reliable method of food preservation. I have fond memories of going through the whole process with my grandparents. I’d help them in their large garden all summer, then, just when it seemed the summer heat was at the peak of it’s fury, it would be time to spend two or three days standing over boiling kettles of water for two days.
The result was a root cellar with rows and rows of jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and more. It was hard work that paid off in the dead of winter, especially because my grandparents had very little outside income and had to rely on their garden to make ends meet. As an adult, I know how to can food but I rarely did it because it’s just so labor intensive. And, I never seemed to have the knack my grandmother did.
By December, I’d find half my jar lids popped up, rendering the food inside unsafe. There are other reasons, not the least of which is that I’d rather be on the back porch with a glass of tea than sweltering in the kitchen. It may be a character failure on my part, but it’s one of the reasons our freeze dryer is a beloved part of the family.
Though I have good memories of canning food with my grandparents, the truth is the nostalgia has to do with the time I spent with them and not at all with the process of canning. Canning is hard, it’s hot, the results are unpredictable, the food has a short shelf life (in the grand scheme of what’s possible), and all those breakable jars take up a room of their own. Not to mention there’s a limit to what lends itself to canning. When it comes to long-term self-reliance – canning can’t meet the need.
If you want to can for the sake of nostalgia, I completely understand the urge. However, my grandkids will grow up learning to freeze-dry food for the winter, for emergencies and for long-term sustainability.
We’re still going to work in the garden together and snap beans on the porch, but then we’re going to put those beans in the freeze dryer and go do something fun. My freeze dried summer vegetables take up about a sixteenth of the room they would in jars, and they’ll last up to 25 years should I need them to. For the sake of enjoying my time in life, I’ve also given up breakable jars, spoiled food and sterilizing equipment.
Freeze drying is the new canning, and it’s a change that many of us reformed canners welcome.