Psst! There’s a discount hidden in here! And it will help you get started canning your own food.
About the Episode:
There’s nothing quite like a pantry full of bright and colorful foods in glistening glass jars to make an old-fashioned heart swoon! I fell in love with canning in 2020 for very personal reasons, but the habit has stuck because it’s such a valuable life skill. Never preserved food before? Then this episode is for you!
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- A quick run-down of all the kinds of food preservation that you can do, from dehydration to canning
- Why food security is so much more than just prepping for the end of times
- How I got started canning in the dead of winter, and you can too!
And so much more!
Follow me on Instagram @FarmhouseVernacular!
Hello and welcome to The Vernacular Life Podcast, where we talk about anything and everything that goes on in our turn of the century, vernacular farmhouse. I am Paige, your host as usual. And today we’re going to talk about something a little different. This is becoming one of my favorite hobbies, and I really haven’t talked about it much because I kind of learned it on my own and now I’m into it.
And I’m like, “This is the best.” So we are going to talk about food preservation. And in general, keeping food on hand. There are a lot of different ways to do this, a lot of different reasons to do this, a lot of different ways to get started, so I kind of just want to give you an info dump on what I’ve learned so far in the last year of this being my newest hobby.
And hopefully, it’ll be interesting for you, hopefully inspiring, and maybe get you to put a little bit of food aside just in case. So let’s start off by saying, what do I mean when I talk about food preservation and food prep? I’m not talking about doomsday prepping. I’m not talking about end of the world prepping. That’s not really what I’m talking about.
But one of the things that happens when you move out to the country is that you just don’t have as many conveniences as you used to. And I’ll never forget, I had a DM conversation once with a woman when I was talking about wanting to keep a decent amount of food on hand just in case. And she asked me, “Why would you ever need to do that? Why would you want to keep a month or two months or six months of food on hand? I just don’t see the need for that.”
And I asked her, “If you couldn’t get to the store, how long would the food in your house last for your family?” And she came back to me and she said, “Wow, actually, I guess it would only last a couple days.” And I said “That, right there, is the exact reason that I started to look into food preservation.”
Because in the country, we’re not even that far out and you never know what can happen. If we have a massive windstorm and there’s 15 trees down on our road, we can’t go anywhere. We can’t Doordash pizza. Actually, we had pizza delivery for about six months when we moved here and we ordered it two or three times. And then I think they decided that we were too far out and they changed their delivery locations and now we don’t get pizza’s delivery anymore.
So we don’t have any kind of food delivery at all out here. We basically have UPS, post office, normal delivery, but no kind of special food or grocery delivery or anything like that. So we kind of touched on this a little bit in the Moving to the Country episode. But when we are out here, you kind of have to learn to do for yourself.
And exactly how much you want to do for yourself is sort of an independent thing, but it would be incredibly ridiculous in my mind to have to be stuck at home for three days and not be able to go anywhere and run out of food. In my mind, and this is actually literally why I started looking into canning is I was like, “That’s a stupid reason to die.” If everything goes bad and you don’t have food for three days, that’s a dumb reason to go.
So that’s kind of why I started to look into food preservation and food preparation. And so I want to talk about both food preservation, the different aspects of it, how you can get started, and how to start building up a pantry. And you don’t have to have a huge pantry, but pantries come in handy for lots of different things. If someone loses a job and you don’t have a paycheck for a while, or your paycheck gets good in half, you can live off your pantry and still feed your family without having to go to the grocery store for quite a while.
If there’s a power outage and you need food, you have a pantry. If you have family members who are sick and they need help, you have a pantry. There’s a lot of good reasons to have a good shelf, stable, workable pantry in your house.
So we’ll start with food preservation. There are a bunch of different methods of food preservation, and I’ve gotten into some of them and not gotten into others. So the first one is obviously canning. And we’ll talk about that in depth in just a little bit, canning is just the process of putting food in jars with a lid, sterilizing it, and sealing it so that it has a decent shelf life.
There is dehydrating, either in the oven or in an actual dehydrator where you can remove all of the moisture from a food, store it, and then you can rehydrate it with water later and use the food again. There is fermenting, which I don’t have very much experience with this at all. I tried babies first ferment earlier this year with some banana peppers from my garden, and I forgot about them and they started to smell weird.
So I’m not a very good fermenter so far. But this is sauerkraut and beets, and there’s a lot of things that you can do involving fermenting, which I think is mostly a brine when you let it sit and it kind of changes flavors and stuff like that. So fermenting is one that you can keep food. Vacuum ceiling and freezing is a big one where you can pull all of the air out of something and put it in the freezer and then it will preserve it that way.
And there’s also a root cellar. Now, a root cellar and a cellar are not the same thing. A root cellar is designed to mimic the conditions of dirt. So you want it just above freezing, 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit, very moist, and a lot of your root vegetables, your carrots and your potatoes, will live totally happily down there until you’re ready to eat them.
So this is very old information. This is old knowledge. And I don’t know if I would consider myself a history buff, because if you sit down and you try to explain wars and politics to me, I will fall asleep on you in two seconds. But I love the history of how normal people lived. I love thinking about how they made pies, how they made bread, how they sewed their clothes, how they lived, how they slept, how they used their houses.
Practical life history, I love. And this very much falls into that that. I’ll talk more about the individual preservation methods. And I will talk about canning in just a second. So let’s talk about canning first, because that’s the one that I taught myself about a year ago. I started in, I think it was about September-October of 2020, because we had a bumper crop of crab apples, and I wanted to do something with them.
And I made a crab apple syrup and a crab apple jalapeno jelly, but I didn’t use any pectin and I used too many jalapenos. So none of what I made was edible the first time. But it really kind of kicked off the canning bug in me. And so canning, basic idea is that you take a food and you heat it up so that all the bacteria in it is killed.
And then you hold it at a high enough temperature for long enough to guarantee that all of that bacteria is killed. And you have a special lid on your jar. And then when you pull that hot jar out of your canner and cool it down, all of the stuff inside the jar shrinks. So when it’s all hot, it’s all expanded and it’s all kind of bubbly, and it’s all big, and it’s all good and sterilized.
And then when it cools down, all of that air and all of that food shrinks a little bit, and that pulls a vacuum on the lid on top of the jar. And that’s what makes canning work. You have this food that’s totally sterilized, that’s totally clean, that has no bacteria. And then you pull a vacuum on it, much like you do when you vacuum seal something.
And then no bacteria is in there. No bacteria can get in there. And your food is preserved for at least a few years. There are two main types of canning. There is water bath canning and then there is pressure canning. And pressure canning is always the one that scares people, but quite frankly, it’s my favorite.
Water bath canning involves a big pot of water boiling. And then you submerge your jars in that boiling water and you boil them for a certain amount of time. This works for something called high acid foods. So acid and pH value matters a lot in canning, because that is a type of preservative.
Higher acid foods will preserve themselves better than low acid foods because they’ll just kill off more bacteria. So things like jams and jellies with sugar, some fruits, some tomatoes, pickles, a lot of those things you can do in a water bath canner, because that gets hot enough that it will kill anything that’s a problem. And then the acidity and the food will take care of anything else.
The problem is that with canning and low acid canning, because there’s not that extra acidity in the food, you can’t guarantee that all of those bacteria things will be killed at the temperature of a water bath canner. So water bath canner, the hottest it can possibly get is the temperature of the water boiling, which is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees Celsius. It physically can’t get any hotter than that because that’s the temperature that water boils at.
Now, a pressure canner, there actually is a chemistry law that goes along with this, it was taught to me is the pressure canner law, that says when you hold volume constant, which is what you’re doing with a pressure canner, because you put the lid on, you tighten the lid down and that volume doesn’t change. When you hold volume constant and you increase the temperature, you increase the pressure, or when you increase the pressure, you increase the temperature.
So what a pressure canner does is it allows the temperature of everything inside the pressure canner to reach a higher temperature than you can with a water bath canner. And it’s usually not terribly high, a water bath canner is about 212 degrees. A pressure canner runs 240, 260 degrees, somewhere in there.
So it’s not much higher, but that higher temperature is what allows you to perform the canning process on low acid foods. And what do I mean by low acid foods? Things like carrots, chicken, beef,. I think corn is pressure canned. Butternut squash is what of my favorite things. Anything, vegetables, meat, chicken stock, all of that stuff needs to be heated up to a higher temperature in order to kill everything off and be safe to eat. So that’s why you have to have those two different canning methods in order to properly preserve the food. You need to be able to kill every thing that’s bad inside it.
Specifically, a little bit of a personal story here. I started canning at the end of 2020 when my mom got really sick. At this point, I fully know that I was canning as a coping mechanism. I was like, “Life is out of control right now. I need something to do that is good, that is going to be good for my family.” And so I found canning. And I’m kind of a whirling top most of the time, I spin around all over the place and I do my thing, and I’m doing a million things at once, and I always have an audio book playing, or watching a video, or listening to music or something.
But canning, I found, is one activity that completely shuts my brain off. I find it so peaceful. I don’t need an audio book. I don’t need a movie playing. I don’t need a video playing. I don’t need to be talking to someone. There is a very calming precision that goes along with the canning because you have to be clean. You have to wipe your rims. You have to carefully fill the jars.
You have to add the salt. You have to do all of these things in a specific order. And I find that so grounding. I love it. I love canning. So last year, I taught myself to can, and I was canning chicken, and I was canning chicken stock. And I started to build up a little stash of food. And I was like, “Wow, this is really comforting. I can buy 10 pounds of chicken at the grocery store.
“I can put them into 10 pint jars and put the 10 pint jars on my shelf and know that I have basic 10 meals for my family if I need to.” And I really started to find comfort in that. Again, not from a, “Everything is terrible, the world is ending,” perspective, but from a, like, “I have quick meals if I need it.” And when my mother was sick, we ended up using them quite a lot.
I made food for my dad and brother who were up here when she was really sick. And she’s okay now, she’s fully recovered. Don’t worry. But we’re all stressed. And suddenly, I can pull out beans, and a can of ground turkey, and a can of tomatoes, and I can dump them in a pot with some chili seasoning. And I’ve very quickly and very easily made dinner for my family in a really bad time. And so I just started to see the value in having this pantry and see the value in having things put away and put aside for my family.
So the next thing I want to talk about is, where do you start building up a pantry? Because I remember I thought, “I want stuff on my shelf,” but how do you even do that? When you start to actually think about how many different foods you use all the time and how many are fresh, and “How am I supposed to can apples? And how am I supposed to preserve bananas? And what do I do with flour?”
I just want to give you some advice about how I learn to start building up a pantry. And something you will notice is that people tend to not show their pantries. It’s really hard to find people who are serious about this, who are willing to show their pantries. And it’s understandable because you don’t want to be like, “Hey, I’m out here. If things go bad, I have all this food.”
But I think this is valuable information. So I do want to at least tell you how to get started with your own pantry. So this advice came from The Needy Homesteader. She is angel. She taught me to can. I spent hours watching her videos last year. I found her so calming and the way she makes her YouTube videos, it just feels like you’re hanging out with her in the kitchen.
And it feels like she’s just lovingly guiding you along and gently saying, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. And it’s so good, and you’re are okay, and we’ve got this.” I was watching a video of hers and this is where I heard of it. So if you want to start building up a pantry, you want to start building up some food store, what you’re going to do is you’re going to write out seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and seven dinners that your family likes a lot.
Try not to repeat them unless your family really, really likes it. But you’re going to write out all of those. And then you’re going to write out all of the ingredients for them. So if one of your breakfasts is scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and strawberries, and that’s just something that your family really likes, you are going to write out all of the ingredients that go into that.
So the scrambled eggs might be oil, eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper. Then there’s bacon. And if you make bread, you might have flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, salt, water, whatever. So you’re going to go through those breakfast and seven lunches. And you’re going to write out all of the ingredients for all of them. And then you can multiply each of those ingredients by 30. The first time I did this exercise, I was like, “Holy crap, people eat a lot of food.” You know you eat three meals a day and you know everyone in your house eats three meals a day. But when you multiply it out to look at like, “Okay, how much food do we eat in 30 days?” It’s a lot of food. It’s a lot of meat, and a lot of fruit, and a lot of drinks, but this is such a good exercise.
So you take your ingredient list of seven breakfast, seven lunches, seven dinners, and you multiply it by 30. This will basically give you your inventory list that you want to have in your pantry. So it might be 30 pounds of chicken, 15 pounds of ground beef, 45 cups of cheese, whatever it is based on these meals, that’s what you’re going to start wanting to keep in your stockpile.
And when you see this, you will automatically see some problems. You’re like, “Okay, this says, I need eight dozen eggs. How do I preserve eight dozen eggs?” And then this kind of gets you down the path of, “How do I preserve egg?” And then you say, “I need 45 pounds of chicken. You know, I could freeze that. I could can that like how can I preserve that and keep it on my shelf in a shelf stable way so that my family can use it?”
This is really how I got started, is I figured out what meals we eat all the time. And I made sure that I had all of this stuff on hand. And so you can just start with 30. That’s just 30 things. That’s one month. If you bought all of that and had all of that shelf stable, you would feed your entire family without going to the grocery store for one month. And then once you do that, you could buy it all again. And you could have two months.
Now, the biggest thing about having a pantry is that you have to have a pantry that you’re going to actually use. You need to have a pantry of things that your family actually eats. And I have made this mistake before, because if you go around on YouTube and you look for people who are telling you how to set up a stockpile and you’re looking for people who are telling you, “Okay, how do I do this? How do I set up my pantry? What are good things to have in my pantry?”
They’re going to suggest things. And in the moment you’re like, “That’s a good idea.” And then you buy it and you realize that you never eat it. One of the ones that I have is instant mashed potatoes. I’ve never had them in my life. I have real potatoes. I use real potatoes and we don’t even eat them that often.
And yet somehow, I decide it was a good idea to buy a couple bags of mashed potatoes. Would we eat them in a pinch? Yes, but it’s not something that we eat standard enough to really warrant it being in my pantry. So when you’re adding things to your pantry, it’s not just what seems like a good idea at the time. You want to add things that you absolutely know you will use.
And when you’re starting this kind of food preparation pantry or stash or whatever, it’s not a bad idea to start very, very basic pasta and pasta sauce and canned ground beef. Like that’s a meal with spices, with salt, with very, very basic things. I mean, if you are eating the same seven meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a month straight, it’s going to get kind of boring. It’s not that flashy, not that exciting.
But if you start with that kind of boring base, and then maybe your goal is a year, maybe you want to build up to a year of food. So you take of these seven breakfasts, seven lunches and dinners and you multiply it by 365 and you buy all that stuff. That’s when you can start adding in things like jams, and jellies, and pie fillings, and things that will add a little bit of color to your pantry if you had to eat off of it with nothing else.
I don’t want you to get overwhelmed. I don’t want you to get worried and I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend $6,000 to get your pantry set up. Any little bit of extra food that you have set aside will help as long as you are buying it for a very thoughtful, very specific, very targeted, very planned reason. If you’re going to go out and panic buy, you’re not going to end up with a pantry that you use well, which is why I recommend starting with this. So you have your seven breakfasts, seven lunches, seven dinners, multiply it by 30, you get your ingredient list. And then you say, “Okay, what can I afford every week? I can afford $10 a week toward my pantry.” So maybe one week that buys you 10 boxes of pasta.
And another week that buys you five jars of pasta sauce. And another week that buys you 25 pounds of flour. You start very slowly adding to what you have and it’s the slow, consistent effort. That’s going to get you the pantry that you want. Of course, if you decide that this is something that’s really important to you, and you can put a hundred bucks a week towards your pantry, more power to you. Do it.
But if you can’t do that, if you can basically only put pocket change toward your pantry every month. That’s okay. It’s okay. It’s the mindset of thinking about, “What can I buy that I can make go farther? What can I do? Can I dehydrate something that I can put aside for the future?” And some people this doesn’t resonate with and that’s okay. Some people, this is just not something that’s interesting to them.
They don’t find it relaxing. They don’t find it peaceful. And that’s okay. But if food preservation is something that you find interesting, I really hope that this helps you. And that this maybe gives you a little bit of a boost to start on that. I’ve actually put so thing together because I started canning in the winter. And canning season is normally the mid to end of summer. That’s peak canning season, because everything’s coming out of the garden.
You’ve got fresh salsa. So you’ve got fresh tomatoes. You’ve got banana peppers, you’ve got all this stuff coming out of the garden and people can a lot of that. That’s not when I learned to can. I learned to can after canning season was over. I learned to can on jams and jellies. And as I was learning to can, I realized that the winter is the time that people do a lot of meat and they do a lot of chicken stock and they do a lot of things like that.
So I put together an intro to canning course. I will leave a link down in the description. You can use the code podcast for 10% off. I put this together simply because I love canning so much. I have found so much peace from it. It held my brain together when our family was going through so much difficulty last year. And I think it’s a wonderful life skill to have. I think it’s a wonderful way to who provide for your family.
I think it’s a wonderful alternative of something to do instead of scrolling your phone all the time. I could scroll my phone for three hours or I could put up 20 pounds of chicken, have that on my shelf for the future. So I put together this course and it is everything that I know about canning. We talk about why I can… Specifically, we talk about the different types of canning.
We talk about canners and what to look for in canners. We can a bunch of things. We can some basic salsas in just a water bath canning. We do a very basic jelly. We can meat. We make our own chicken broth. We can one of my absolute favorite things, which is butternuts squashed because I use that instead of pumpkin in pumpkin pie and it tastes so good. But I wanted to put this little course together for you because canning changed how I view food and it changed how I stock my pantry.
And we’ve benefited many times over from it, both me and Brandon directly, but then also my wider family. I’ve given canning things as gifts to neighbors who have helped us out. Not only do I think it’s a really wonderful life skill to have and to know how to do, but I think it’s a dying art and I think it needs to be done.
And I think it will benefit you to know how to do this. So there is a link to that, that little course, I made it super affordable so that anybody can get into canning this winter and you don’t have to be super overwhelmed by all of the, “We’re going to can 200 pounds of tomatoes or anything.” You could just get into it just like I did, learning with meats, learning with the pressure canner, learning with jams and jellies, and then build your confidence all winter. Really understand how your pressure canner works.
Really understand the fundamentals of canning, and then maybe start a garden next year and have your own produce can in full canning season next year. So there is a link to that wonderful course down in the description. Again, use the code podcast for 10% off. I don’t know what else to say other than I really, really hope that you will do this and you will learn this skill and you will preserve your own food and give yourself that food security and learn that art.
I mean, if you can’t tell, I absolutely love canning. So that’s kind of what I just want to talk to you about today. It’s something I don’t talk about a whole lot because it’s not exactly what I normally do around here, but it is something I’m becoming increasingly passionate about and I’m always for people learning how to use their hands and for people doing things that will make them stronger people. And I really think that this will.
So that’s my little bit of a rant, my introduction to food preservation, to stocking up your own pantry, to why I preserve my food, to why I think you should. And then of course, this wonderful intro to winter canning course that I created that I really hope that you will take advantage of and love. So if you have any questions about that specifically, you can send an email to me or my team at [email protected] I really hope you enjoyed this. You can find all the resources to this in the show notes at farmhousevernacular.com/podcast.
And otherwise, I really appreciate you hanging out and listening. And I hope this was interesting, and I hope you’re inspired to can, or at least look into it, or think about building up your pantry. So anyway, thank you so much for hanging out. I really appreciate you being here and I will see you next time. Bye.