Put Up or Shut Up: 5 Preserving Myths Debunked {Budget Organic No. 6}

Put Up or Shut Up: 5 Preserving Myths Debunked {Budget Organic No. 6}

Wow! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this sustainable eating challenge for six weeks already!!  No dilly-dallying.  Let’s get straight to it!

Why aren’t you preserving food?

A couple of weeks ago I had something happen that I’d been really DREADING since I started my foray into  water-bath canning a year or so ago: I had a jar break in the canner.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.  I lost a quart of tomatoes, and the rest of my jars were sticky and covered in tomato bits when they were done, but nobody died or was maimed or even really terrified.

Having a jar break was one of my biggest fears about learning to preserve things, and it really wasn’t that scary at all, in the end.  My mother would say we just had to sacrifice one to the canning gods. 😉

So, in honor of those canning gods, to whom a whole quart of gorgeous tomato sauce was offered up, I’m going to debunk all your biggest excuses about preserving food, because Sustainable Eating Tip No. 6 is…

Stock Up


Put up or shut up

If you’ve read my e-book (and if you haven’t, why the heck not? It’s FREE!), you probably remember that one of my top tips for saving money buying organics is to stock up when food is at its peak—and prices are at their lowest.  That especially applies to produce, and especially right now when the late summer harvest is ROLLING in.

My tomatoes? Cost less than half their regular price because I bought a 20-pound box of “seconds” from my local farm stand.  And they were gorgeous!  I was really sad to lose that quart… (But I’m not bitter or anything…)

Lots of people think that preserving means “putting up” food like their grandmothers or great-grandmothers might have done, ie: canning. But canning is only one way to preserve food.  If you’ve ever frozen something, you’ve preserved food.  You’re a preserver!  Good for you!

Preserving can mean freezing, drying, pickling, or canning.  Even drying a bundle of herbs counts!  But if you’re still not convinced that preserving is for you, here are five big myths of preserving: DEBUNKED.

1. Canning stuff is hard and takes FOREVER!

WRONG.  First of all, water bath canning is super simple. In fact, if you can boil water, you can preserve lots of different fruits and veggies.  Check out these simple canning tips from MarthaStewart.com or this super simple getting-started guide from Ball. Look for “small batch” canning recipes to keep your time over the stove to a minimum. I like Eugenia Bone’s book, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods.

2. I’m not going to spend all winter eating dill pickles and strawberry jam. Yuck.

Honestly, if you think that’s all you can do with a jar and some produce, where have you been living?? Preserving is undergoing an amazing renaissance and the recipes are outstanding.  Just check out this Pinterest board of preserving recipes I’ve made for some awe-inspiration. I guarantee you’ll find something worth making.

3. You can’t freeze that…

Actually, you probably can.  Just look at this Freezer Storage Life guide. And since we’re all so used to using frozen fruits and veggies we buy at the grocery store, this may just be the easiest entré into preserving you can try.

4. You can’t do anything with dried foods.

No? How about sun dried tomatoes? Or dried mushrooms?  I bet you use dried herbs quite a bit.  And DIY fruit leather (ie: your own fruit roll ups!) is super easy to make. All we are saying, is give dried peas a chance.  😉

5. Canning is dangerous.

Well, it is and it isn’t.  With modern canning equipment, practices, and recipes, a lot of the risk factor has been taken out of the equation.  I was afraid of the possibility of breaking glass, and I lived through it!  In fact, it wasn’t even that scary.  If you’re afraid of things you can’t see—like foodborne pathogens—there are just a couple of good rules of thumb to follow.  First, err on the side of more: more acid or sugar than you think you need; more processing time in the canner.  Don’t make up your own recipes as a newbie; find a reputable recipe source and stick with it. And then, as long as the little pop-up top on your jar stays down, you’re good to go!

So what are you waiting for? Take action now! Comment below and tell me what you’re going to preserve this week to make your eating more sustainable. And have a great week!

I’m challenging myself to eat more sustainably over the next year—and documenting the steps I take in this series, inspired by an article in the Jul/Aug 2010 issue of Whole Living Magazine.  Want to join me?  Leave a comment below and pledge to eat more sustainably this year!

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