Tomato Sauce

September 22, 2008 - Home canning makes a comeback in Blairsville, Georgia

Home canning is making a comeback in Union County. Ingles, Bi-Lo, Save-a-Lot, and Foodland have all had to order extra Mason jars during the past months to keep up with demand. Due to a poor economy, rising food prices, and a bumper crop of fruit in 2008, many younger couples are learning how to can and many experienced home canners are dragging out their equipment and starting the practice back up.

Home canning started centuries ago when armies needed a way to preserve food for their troops. The first canning consisted of wide-mouthed hand-blown glass "bottles" that were filled with cooked foods, fitted with hand-cut corks, sealed with lime and skim milk compounds, and then finished off in a boiling water bath. Back in the "old days" spoilage and poisonings were common. (It all sounds pretty horrible compared to today's standards.)

Inventive minds soon started experimenting with container sizes and shapes, with glass, tin, wax, lead, and various lid-clamping machines. Eventually molded and threaded glass jars were made to accept a zinc screw-top lid. By the time of the American Civil War two-piece lids made air-tight with disposable rubber rings (or gaskets) were becoming popular. The Mason jar, named after Philadelphia 's John Landis Mason (1832-1902), was next and air-tight home canning was becoming an acceptable form of food preservation.

Many recipes and countless varieties of foods are home-canned in today's kitchens. Because of the risk of food poisoning if canning is done incorrectly, the USDA considers it critical that consumers follow proper techniques. Many pamplets and books are available from reliable sources for anyone who wants to learn how to can.

Many older people in Union County laugh when they hear about their neighbors trying to "can" for the first time. Some folks around here are actually famous for their delicious canned jellies, pickles, relishes, and other vegetables. Charles Totherow, Margaret Payne, and many others have canned all their lives. It seems funny to them when newcomers to the art of home canning get excited about the process.

Various supplies are needed to start home-canning. Mason jars, lids and rings, a boiling water bath canner, a pressure canner, jar lifters, strainers, jelly bags, enameled or stainless steel cookware, slotted spoons, and of course fresh produce.the list goes on and on with things people can buy to make canning easier. Of course, the basics will do and once they are purchased, most of the supplies can be used for many years.

Why should you do home canning when canned goods can be purchased at the grocery stores for under a dollar per can? Home canned goods taste better, there are more varieties of produce available to home gardeners, there are no harmful additives, and there is the joy of seeing brightly colored jars sitting on the pantry shelves.