Here’s my new pressure canner. This particular model can hold 19 pint jars or 14 quart jars at a time. I took one look at it and named it Hilda after my great aunt from the Polish Jewish side of the family. She’s a kind generously proportioned woman with an ample bosom who’s still going strong in her 90’s. So what’s the deal with a pressure canner?
I’m working my way through a series of techniques and practices to increase my own household resilience. This particular strand of re-skilling (learning things our great grandparents did as a matter of course) started when I had entirely too many fresh guavas from the garden and couldn’t eat them or give them away fast enough. So I experimented with water bath canning to preserve them. The result is similar to apple butter. A more experienced person would have done a better job, but it’s not half bad on toast in the morning.
But the water bath method only works with high acid foods like fruit. The pressure canner allows me to preserve low acid things that require higher heat and more precise sterilization like meat and vegetables. Freezers are wonderful so long as there’s electricity. But having home made shelf-stable ready-to-eat meals on hand solves a lot of problems and compliments my already well established pantry. I started by making a big batch of chicken soup. The next day I took a jar with me to work for lunch. Super easy.
Beef stew came next. The day after I canned the stew I gave it a test drive for lunch. It was perfectly good, but a bit bland. Next time I’ll be more aggressive with the salt and spices. The point here is to have a wide range of every day foods available that also have the side benefit of being great for emergency preparedness. Keep in mind, an emergency could just be a stretch of unemployment and needn’t involve a single zombie.
My goal is to build up a supply of various jarred meals over the next few months. I have a limited amount of storage space so I’m gradually reorganizing some existing shelves in the garage. (FYI in this part of the world the temperature in the garage is about 55ºF – 65ºF year round. Don’t try this in Toronto or Phoenix.) There are 12 pint jars per case. I can fit 8 cases on one shelf. If I use 3 shelves I’ll fit 288 jars in a space that’s about 4′ x 4′ x 2′. That’s almost a five month supply of lunches and dinners in a super small space. I’ll use these meals a few times a week and gradually rotate and replace the stock.
Yes, yes. I know. Buying canned soup at the store is easier and probably no more expensive than making it at home. And no, I’m not raising my own cattle in the back yard. The concept here is similar to the $78 home grown tomato. Why bother gardening when the stuff in cellophane packages is so cheap and easy? That’s really not the point. Once a productive garden is established and the tools and habits of preserving the bounty become routine a subtle but powerful shift occurs. Buying everything you need from the store is easy. But it requires cash. So long as you have a cash income everything works beautifully. But if your income goes away or diminishes, or if the modern just-in-time supply chain wobbles for any reason your critical dependencies will make life tedious.
Being resilient isn’t about going off grid or becoming “self sufficient” or hunkering down in a bunker waiting for the Apocalypse. It’s about detaching yourself from the arrangements that make you vulnerable to forces beyond your control. I personally take great pleasure in gardening and tinkering in the kitchen. And I sleep better at night knowing I have a built in set of cushions to help me weather a storm. Call me crazy.