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The Pros and Cons of Canning Your Own Food

Canning food has been a long standing method to storing food in your food storage. You can create and preserve delicious foods and meals for yourself that will be able to store on your shelf for years to come.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages to canning your own food? Below are a few pros and cons to canning your own food:

Pros

1. Less Expensive
Canning your own food is definitely less expensive than buying cans at the store or buying other food storage options like dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. By canning food at home, you’ll be able to save a lot of money that you would spend on the same kind of food at the store.

2. Can What You Want
When you can your own food, you have the luxury of choosing the ingredients that you store in your food storage. You know exactly what kind of food is being placed in the can, so you can ensure that the ingredients are fresh and blemish free.  canning veggies 

This is especially useful for those who have specific diets or food allergies. For example, if you are diabetic, you are able to can foods that meet your diet and store food that will keep you healthy no matter the situation.

The same goes for food allergies. Whether it’s dairy, gluten, nuts, etc you can make sure that these ingredients don’t make it into your canning so your food will be safe to eat without any allergic reaction.

Canning is also a great option for those of you who just want to be healthy and store the best foods in your food storage!

3. Make Specific Recipes
The possibilities for recipes and combinations of food are endless when you learn how to can your own food. You can recreate your favorite recipes or develop new ones specific to canning. You can always store basic fruits and vegetables like cucumbers and peaches, but you can also use some creativity. 

diy canning

You can can corn and jalepeños together to create a delicious corn relish, or make sweet treats like raspberry chocolate sauce. You can also infuse cheeses with different herbs for delicious flavor. There are endless recipe options that you can use in canning to put your favorite flavors on the shelf.

4. Self Sufficient
One of the best pros of canning your own food is that it helps you to become more self sufficient. You can do everything yourself, from growing your own fresh ingredients to canning them and putting them in your food storage, everything can happen by your own hand. You can have the assurance of knowing that if anything were to happen, you’ll be able to rely on your canning and live off of your own food if you need to do so.

While canning your own food has many great benefits, there are also some obstacles to be aware of as you consider if canning is what you want to do.

Cons

1. Lots of Knowledge
Canning is not as simple as putting food in a jar and screwing on a lid. It is a process that takes a little bit of knowledge. So before you start canning you’ll need to educate yourself about all of the steps, processes, and skills you’ll need to can your own food.

 

2827108025_1fb4c401b7There are two different types of canning: the water bath method and the pressure canning method. The water bath is the more simple method of the two and doesn’t require as much equipment. Pressure canning is more complicated and you’ll need to invest in more equipment in order to do it.

Both of these methods have different recipes and foods that you can can with them, so you’ll need to make sure you know what foods can and can’t be used depending on the method you are using.

2. Equipment
Before you begin to can your own food, you will need to invest in the necessary equipment you’ll need in the process. The water bath method requires less equipment, some of which you may already have in your home. Some equipment necessities include cans or jars with lids and a pot large enough to boil your cans. A jar lifter may also come in handy for removing your jars from the boiling water.

As the name implies, pressure canning will require a pressure canner, as well as jars and lids. These can be more expensive to purchase but allow you to can a wider variety of foods.

3. More Time Involved
There is a lot of prep involved with the process of canning your own food. You will need to go through everything like picking out the ingredients, preparing them to be canned, filling the jars, wiping the rims, screwing on the lids, and then following the process for whichever canning method you have chosen. can shelf life

4. Shorter Shelf Life
Canning your own food as opposed to buying dehydrated or freeze-dried food has the downside of having a shorter shelf life. Canned foods can be safely stored for one year on the shelf as compared to the 20 to 30 year shelf life of dried foods. After that they will begin to lose their flavor and nutritional value. If the cans are stored at a temperature above 70 degrees F, the shelf life will be much shorter. For cans to last for a year, they should be stored between 50 and 70 degrees F.

Canning is a great way to store your own food with your own favorite flavors and recipes. But before you start canning, make sure that you realize the knowledge, time, and equipment necessary for the canning process. If you do, your food will be great for storing and safe to eat when the time comes. If not, there are many other options out there for your food storage.

10 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Canning Your Own Food”

  • Northwoods Cheryl
    Northwoods Cheryl September 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

    My experience with home canned foods has been that they are really good for 2-3 years, "good" for an additional 2. After that, they begin to lose flavor. My son works as an engineer in the food canning industry. He said peaches WILL turn "grey" in a fairly short amount of time unless there is a tiny piece of iron in the can/jar. Now, we don't add any "iron" to our peaches as we can them, but in the commercial industry, there's a tiny piece of iron welded into the can for this. He said Americans are so used to having perfectly yellow/orange peaches at all times that they wouldn't accept them any other way. In Europe, gray peaches are perfectly "normal". My storage area is always at 55-60 degrees year 'round, and pretty dark. My peaches will still turn gray, but the flavor is fine. If yours turn gray, don't just throw them out. Besides the usual vegetables and fruits, I also can a LOT of meats, butter, cheeses and soups/stews. It can be safely done at home. If you can see it in a can or jar at the store, you CAN do it at home. The USDA would not approve, I am sure. But, they seem to want people not to can ANYTHING, and are nothing but a discouragement. If you go on You Tube, there are several really good videos on canning about anything you can think of. That's a great resource!

    Reply
  • Fauna Smith

    I am all for dehydrated and freeze dried food! My personal experiences with food storage, however, is that wet pack food can taste delicious right out of the jar - even if you don't always heat it. Somehow, I seem to always have something to can, I even hire people to help can the abundance I end up with, and I enjoy it for many years. I even enjoy the older fruits and vegetables...as long as the seal is good...I will throw in an old jar of (fruit) into my bread mixer along with my usual ingredients and it seems to bind the bread to where it is not so crumbly as the straight wheat recipe I use. Often it is even so much yummier!!

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  • Paul G

    I too, can whatever I can find that is worth canning. I have also canned butter in my pressure canner. Used it over a year later with no issues. (although Canned butter does have a slightly different taste then fresh butter, but I still like it.)

    I agree the FDA and local extensions will tell you NOT to can the Fats (or even fatty foods) but as Cheryl points out, if it can be "Canned" in the store, it can be canned at home. I have heard arguments about how the industrial canning process is very much different from home canning. I believe this is true, but I also think it's more a result of "Additives" (such as Nitrogen being forced in to force out oxygen, or other chemicals to combat bacteria) and not that the process is so much better. I take "CARE" in my canning to be avoid contaminating my food. I also trust my senses when using it. First check the seal. If it's "Popped" then it doesn't even get a second thought. Next is the look, smell, taste. If it looks ok, smells ok and tastes ok, then I am confident that it IS ok.

    I have canned fruits (apples, applesauce), Jams/jellies, chicken, venison, chili, tomatoes, beans, pickles, relish (I love Zucchini relish), broth, spaghetti sauce, soups, etc... On and on. Lot of good information on You Tube, but don't just watch ONE video. Watch several to get a better perspective and be safe when you do it.

    Happy Canning.

    Reply
    • Northwoods Cheryl
      Northwoods Cheryl September 17, 2015 at 12:55 am

      My son is an engineer in the food canning industry. I agree with Paul here. Home canned foods are done much differently that commercially canned foods. A home canner puts MUCH more care and quality in their product, while leaving out all the additives.. Making sall batches at home compared to millions of them in a factory setting.. there IS no comparison!

      Reply
  • Daniel

    I loved the article, and have to remember, when someone puts something like this out there, they are making sure that they don't say something that may get someone killed! So the recommendation of a year shelf life on home canning is the "safe" line in the article. But as many commenters have mentioned, what is "safe" and what is realistic is very different. We have eaten canned foods that are several years old, with great results. When opening canned food you know IMMEDEATELY if it is ruined! It usually smells nasty or has something interesting growing in it! LOL. That is not very scientific, but I am no scientist. But I can tell you when something is nasty. Root cellars and under the house will extend the life of canned foods by more than double. Thanks again for the article!

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  • Catherine

    Regarding this statement in the article- "The possibilities for recipes and combinations of food are endless when you learn how to can your own food. You can recreate your favorite recipes or develop new ones specific to canning". -
    I wanted to pass along some wisdom that was imparted to me by a Montana University canning teacher. Until I took an official canning class, I was under the impression you could use any recipe from any cookbook for fruits and veggies and throw it in a jar to preserve. I was totally wrong. Because of the density of certain foods, lack of acidity, cooking times, and other issues, approved canning recipes are best used, especially if you are a novice. Some foods must be processed in a pressure canner, but other can go through a water bath just fine. She also made a point of explaining that families can hand down techniques and recipe,s (stuff that great, great Grammy did,) that are not safe, but because nobody has become sick, they continue to be used. In fact, people preserve foods and use recipes that are not approved of by experienced professionals and somehow escape illness. As I was told, we can choose to do what we want, but using approved foods and recipes for preserving, (like those in Ball canning books and University canning manuals), prevents you from playing Russian roulette with your food. Botulism is serious stuff, and if you are in a situation where medical help is not available you could end up in deep trouble. Encouraging people to create their own recipes could be a risky suggestion, and is a task that really should be left to those who have oodles of experience. I suggest contacting a local university to see if they have trained staff willing tol conduct a public canning class for those who want to learn the safest way to preserve foods. It is time well spent.

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  • Cathy

    Another drawback of home canning is the weight of the jars. Home canned is much heavier, so your planning needs to take that into account.

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  • Faylinn

    There are a lot of us women at my church who are really interested in canning our own food. We would even pitch in and buy a can seamer that we could all use, because we are really interested in how much less expensive it would be on our grocery budgets. However, I don't think that we realize that it means that the food would have a shorter shelf life. Yet, how does that time frame compare to store-bought cans? http://melvinaseamers.com

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  • Sammi

    I've been canning for years. I started with water-bath canning, and progressed to pressure canning, to be able to can a wider variety of foods. The recipes for very basic canning, like peaches, corn, and meats, come from the Ball book (which changes, depending on what edition you have), which is the USDA/FDA bible. Then I found YouTube, and the wonderful ladies who can, and show/help others to can.
    My personal opinion is that the USDA/FDA are the folks who approve GMOs, allow food companies to add MSG (and to call it "spice" to sneak it in), and permit many, many weird chemicals to be added to our commercially canned foods, and THEY are going to tell ME what's "safe"? Sorry, I pushed one of my own "buttons".
    One of my favorite "pros" is that the liquids in home canned foods are available for rehydrating freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Another reason to can is that the combination of freeze-dried and home canned makes for a much more appealing meal. While I freeze a number of things, if the power went out for more than 3 days, I would be in my kitchen canning like crazy, so my freezers are basically "holding areas" for great buys on meat & poultry until I have the time to can.

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