I’ve created a monster.
The other day Don stopped at the grocery store on his way home from work. While he was there I got a call from him. “Do you think we could can asparagus?” he asked.
“O.k. It’s on sale for $0.97 a pound. I can only get five pounds though.”
So the next day I stopped at the store on the way home and got five more pounds. We washed, trimmed, removed scales from, and chopped up 10 pounds of asparagus. It was not fun but not unendurable, especially since we did it on the coffee table in front of the tv. 🙂 When all the asparagus was prepped I put it in a big bowl with a little water and a wet dishcloth for a cover and stuck it in the fridge. I canned one batch the next evening and another batch the evening after that.
Easy peasy. It was only later that I began to think this might be a prelude to the rest of my life. Hahaha.
This is the result of that effort – 16 lovely pints of canned asparagus. Yummy!
Now let’s calculate the cost for this adventure – $9.70 divided by 16 pints yields $0.61 a pint for the asparagus plus about $0.05 for the lid which equals about $0.66 total per pint. I wasn’t too impressed with that price until I popped over to Wal-Mart’s site and found that they are asking $1.98 for roughly the same size can of cut asparagus (it’s like $2.98 for whole spears). That makes the whole enterprise a little more worth-while.
Which brings me to my first point: Canning isn’t just for gardeners. It’s a great way to stretch your food budget. We could, of course have blanched and frozen the asparagus. That would be totally acceptable but that limits us to the amount of freezer space available and it also puts our food pantry at risk of power outages. Also, even though it’s a small amount, once the food is canned there’s no more power required to keep it.
My second point and a recent Aha! moment is this: Canning is not a lifestyle it’s a skill. What I mean is it seems that a certain mythos has arisen around food preservation in the recent past. That mythos says that food preservation is always a huge undertaking and the only people determined enough to suffer through it are survivalists or hippie back-to-the-landers. This is not true, or at least it doesn’t have to be true if we just change our thinking a little bit.
You may have noticed that I didn’t include the cost of the jars in my cost calculation above. That’s because during my aha moment I realized that jars are not an expense. They are an investment. A good glass jar, properly cared for will last many, many years. As will the rings and the canner. How many people when they consider the cost of a meal include the price of the pot? Or cooking utensils? Or the stove? You don’t because those things are tools for your kitchen. A canning jar is the same thing – a tool. Once purchased it can be amortized over it’s lifetime until the cost becomes negligible.
You don’t need a thousand jars and a five acre garden out back to make canning food economical. You don’t need a fallout shelter or a strawbale yurt to be a canner. An apartment dweller with a water bath canner and some jelly jars who takes advantage of a sale on strawberries to make their own jam and a gardener who grows and cans all their own food are practicing the same skill set. They both experience the same rewards. The only difference is scale.