Adventures in Home Economics

18 thoughts on “Adventures in Home Economics”

  1. I am down to my last canned chicken and I left my large pressure canner and Diamant grain mill when we left the country for our urban life. Please keep up your healthy, nutritious and delicious lifestyle. I miss providing most of my own food and all of my own animal protein. Fond memories.

    1. Yep, I’m made sauerkraut and pickled veggies before, although those were just experiments so far. I’ll be branching out to dehydrated garden produce and more fermented stuff later in the year.

  2. Enjoying your blog – thank you!

    I noticed you are leaving the rings on for your canned soup. I learned (the hard way) to take rings off after I’m sure that the canning has happened properly. Sometimes they end up contracting and are incredibly hard to get off. Mostly I noticed this with applesauce. Food was still in perfect shape even after two years but rings, what a pain! So I take the rings off now.

    Of course, triangulate this with an actual authority on canning but that’s my experience. 🙂

    1. Yes and no. Immediately after canning I remove the ring, wash and dry the jars as well as the rings, then place the rings back on oh-so-loosely so they’re barely screwed on at all. Mostly they’re just resting on top of the jars. I don’t have any place to store that many rings…

  3. I recently discovered the late David Fleming’s ‘Lean Logic: A dictionary for the future and how to survive it.’ Fleming’s extraordinary breadth brings many insights to the eventual
    aftermath of industrial market economies. General competency in home economics will become increasingly important over time, as will competency in a vast range of areas: governance, defense, food production, education, health, etc.

  4. Have you done any cost comparisons between home-canned meats and commercial canned meat (spam, corned-beef, chicken)? It’s easier to make the case for preserving fruit and vegetable production when it’s fresh and free (from your own garden), but there may be economies of scale for the canned meat business vs. the cost of bringing raw meat safely to your store.

    My home-fermented sauerkraut experiment is still working very well. I found that a yeast colonized the top of one (unsealed, unrefrigerated) jar, but after removing it, the product down in the brine was still good (and I’ve eaten the whole pint with no ill effects). It seems prudent, though, to refrigerate a jar after I start eating it, since the uneaten part of batch is not necessarily staying down under the brine any more. It does taste salty, from the brine, so it’s a good complement to other foods to which we would otherwise usually add salt. (Ham and sauerkraut? Not a good idea.)

    1. You need to place a weight on top of your sauerkraut to keep the cabbage down in the liquid. A heavy ceramic or wood disk (sometimes called a “stone”) works well. https://www.lehmans.com/product/striped-european-style-fermenting-crock-3-gallon/fermenting-pickling

      And yes, I get this kind of question all the time. “Isn’t it just easier and cheaper to buy stuff at the store?” For me… that’s not the point. Of course there are all sorts of things that I do buy all the time. But my primary concern isn’t disaster or the end of civilization. It’s actually unemployment. If you don’t have cash on hand you don’t have the ability to buy things. Once your last can of whatever is used up you’re in trouble. My goal is essentially “import replacement.” If I can grow it in the back half acre and can it up myself I can skip the store if I really had to. That might someday include chicken, duck, and rabbit. I’m not there yet, but I’d like to have the tools and experience on hand for future reference.

      1. I see your point about “having preserved food when you need it”, but that doesn’t address my question. Suppose I have have cash on hand and start building my deep pantry “today”. I can buy either canned chicken, or fresh chicken and can (jar) it myself. I can buy canned soup, or make soup and can it myself. Either way, I then have the reserves. But how does the cost compare?
        Cost isn’t the only consideration, though. I’ve found home-made applesauce to taste distinctly better than store-bought. I don’t know whether it’s the variety or ripeness of apples, the process, or something else, but there’s no going back. When apples are in season, I buy “scratch & dent” apples (farmer’s market) for half the price of “choose your own”. Apples are acidic enough, by the way, for water-bath (no pressure) processing.

        1. You’re making a false choice. It’s an “and” not an “or.” And for many people the cost difference between home canning and store bought canned goods is a rounding error. I’m in favor of having the equipment and experience on hand even if it costs slightly more than the stuff on the supermarket shelves.

          1. There’s a knock-on effect here, too, which lathechuck alludes to when he mentions buying scratch-and-dent apples. Joel Salatin suggests to non-farmers who ask, “What can they do?” that they go to the farmer’s market and when the tomatoes or cucumbers or whatever is rolling in, buy the surplus and can it. That margin is HUGE for the farmer in most cases, and may even be a bargain for the buyer (not counting the labor of canning).

            Your earlier posts on canning prodded me to take up the practice this year (still under snow where I’m at), but as it is I buy liberally from my primary farmer (on top of the CSA), and try to buy some from the others, too. Once I understood how much money in tax subsidies go into the products at the grocery stores (subtly hidden, as you pointed out in your piece about the HOAs that have to pay their own way), the local farmer’s “high” prices actually seemed very reasonable, and having spent more than a little time at his farm I know how far those few “extra” dollars go out there.

          2. We’re in complete agreement that acquiring the tools and learning the processes are good enough reasons to practice home food preservation. As consumers of canning supplies (jars & lids, maybe pectin and citric acid too), we help keep the producers in business, and so we “preserve” the supply chain.
            One advantage of glass jars: if the “manure hits the spreader”, they’re less easily looted. You could sweep a shelf of metal-canned goods into a bag and run off. With glass jars, not so much. If you need to evacuate, though, the advantage becomes a liability.
            For portability, it’s hard to beat dehydrated foods. When apples (for example) are cheap, I’ll slice and dry them to pack into jars, too. Potatoes need a boiling-water bath before hitting the drying racks, but could go into a tasty soup mix.

            1. I’m not planning on the collapse of civilization. It’s far more likely that things will continue to limp along for a very long time – with occasional bumps in the road. If we experience an earthquake (I live in San Francisco) or other pressing event I have a place up in the Sonoma countryside that I could eventually get to once the dust settles. I have preps up there as well. 1) Shelter in place. 2) Have a Plan B location.

          3. Plus, think of all the money you’re not spending entertaining yourself while you’re busy canning. Doesn’t take too many nights at the local pub or movies at the local theater to pay for a nice canner.

  5. Thank you for writing these posts. I find them very motivational as my own family slowly tries to increase our resiliency (by gardening, preserving food, capturing rainwater, putting in low-tech backup systems, etc.)

    Would you be willing to share the references (books or online) that you’ve found most useful as you’ve learned to preserve foods? We have Putting Food By (Hertzberg / Greene / Vaughan) and Wild Fermentation (Katz) but I’d be very interested to hear what other sources you found valuable.

    1. I enjoy “How To” books that have a narrative to them.

      Novella Carpenter’s “Farm City” and Sharon Astyk’s “Independence Days” are on the top of my list.

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