Healthy Living in the North

The dying art of canning

Dionne with her canned foods.

Dionne, with her vast selection of canned foods.

Whether you want to prepare for the zombie apocalypse or deal with your overflowing garden, and make sure you have delicious local veggies on hand throughout the long winters, canning can help you achieve this! I had the opportunity to learn to can in May, and I was surprised at how easy it really is! I started to look forward to the growing season and dreamed of all the great things I could stock my cupboards with!

One of my favorite foods is pickles and in August, my neighbour, my husband and I embarked on four fun-filled evenings of canning. The end result was 61 jars of pickles, closer friendships and a hunger to want to can more!

After that, I took a trip to the Okanagan to visit family and friends, and on the way back home, my vehicle was filled with 131 pounds of fresh produce. Let the canning marathon begin!

Over the next seven days of straight canning, I thought a lot about why I wanted to learn to can so badly. There were many reasons that came to mind:

  • It gives me a connection to my grandmothers who canned.
  • It costs me less to buy in bulk when the food is plentiful.
  • It’ll be convenient to go to my cupboard and have a meal ready to go or good wholesome products to put into the meal I’m making.
  • If I, or my family, have health considerations, I can ensure that those concerns are met; for example, by using sugar-free pectin or adding less salt.
  • I’m supporting local farmers and building relationships with my community through food.
  • The quality, flavour and nutrient content of the food will be better because it was picked at its peak ripeness.

Of all these great reasons to can food, there were two in particular that struck me most.

Firstly, I love how tastes and smells can teleport you back in time. I made an Italian tomato sauce which I thought was rather tasty when I tried it, but when I gave it to my husband to try, his eyes opened wide and he instantly thought of his Nanny. With one taste of that sauce he was teleported back to her apartment and the memories he had there. That’s powerful stuff!! The opportunity to produce something that took him back to a fond memory with someone he loved gave me the drive to turn around and make another two batches of that same sauce. Although I knew it would be an investment of time and energy on my part, it was worth every minute to give that gift to him.

Secondly, I realized that in my house, I have control over the types of food that are consumed. I shop for groceries, I grow a garden in the summer and I cook about 90% of the meals in the house. So the choices that I make about eating aren’t only for me, but for my loved ones as well – and this means I had better be making the best choices. When we eat the canned foods I made, I know exactly what’s in it, so I feel more in control of what we’re eating and I don’t have to worry about what preservatives may be there.

The time, energy, love and patience that I poured into each of the 147 jars of food I now have is something that I’m very proud of and it has been empowering. When I asked my grandmother what she thought about all the canning I’ve been doing, she said, “I think it’s wonderful. It’s a dying art and it’s nice to see that it will carry on.”

For all of you that want to dive into the world of canning, please ensure that you use recipes that have been previously tested and if you have any questions regarding safe canning practices, you can contact an environmental health officer at your local health unit. Don’t be afraid of canning, embrace it! And please remember to respect it!

Have you ever tried canning?

Dionne Sanderson

About Dionne Sanderson

Dionne is a public health planner with Northern Health’s public health protection team. She enjoys pushing her boundaries by trying new things and is ready to embrace the winter activities the Peace region has to offer this year! To stay healthy and active, Dionne enjoys working in her garden and taking long walks with her German Shepherd. (Dionne no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)