Increase Your Food Security
Growing a garden, hunting wild game, foraging for wild edibles, raising your own chickens, and preserving the harvest are great ways to increase your food security and gain independence from the grocery store. I grew up in a family that preserved much of our own food for the winter, so it’s a way of life for me. My family feels more secure knowing that we have food on hand and ready to eat if the power fails, the grocery stores are cleaned out, or prices skyrocket out of our budget. We have at least a couple hundred jars of vegetables, stew, meat, pickles, and jam put up by the end of the season. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort.
Canning Food After the Collapse
But what if the world as we know it ends and there’s no power grid? How do you can food if the natural gas supply and electric service shuts down? Canning requires a clean environment and a steady supply of heat to boil water. Let’s face the facts here folks, you aren’t going to can food over an open fire in the woods. You also need to consider the weight of canning jars filled with food. They’re not light and easy to pack like foil pouches of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), so you’re not toting many of them into the wilderness in a back pack. Canning your food is definitely a project for bugging in or bugging out to a secure location with all the supplies you need already stockpiled. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle the hardships of food preservation if I’m in an off grid survival situation, so let me share my thoughts and plans with you.
Easiest Foods to Can
High acid foods like fruits and pickles are easier to can than low acid foods like veggies and meat. They can be processed in a hot water bath canner and require less time and diligence compared to a pressure canner. Low acid foods must be canned in a pressure canner to prevent botulism poisoning. You’ll need to have a source of food large enough to fill your needs during the growing season, with extra left over to preserve. Of course it could be tough to secure that much food if you don’t start working on your food growing capabilities now. Here’s a list of some easy to can foods to cut your teeth on…
- Sweet or dill pickles
- Jams and jellies
- Peaches and nectarines
- Citrus fruit
What Do You Need?
Make sure you have all the supplies you need for canning foods so there are no surprises when you get ready to can up part of the elk you just shot. Make a list of all the supplies you need and stock up in advance. Figure out how many people you’ll be feeding and how many canned goods will be needed to survive a tough winter, then add some for good measure. You don’t want to starve to death because you didn’t plan well.
What Kind of Jars Do I Need?
Start accumulating reusable glass canning jars, canning lids, and metal screw bands. Pint sized canning jars are a good size if you are preserving meals for one or two people. Use quart size jars for enough to feed a family. A lot of people save up the glass jars from spaghetti sauce and whatnot for reusing as canning jars. I don’t recommend this because the canning lids may not fit and they are more likely to break during canning than the Ball or Mason canning jars made specifically for canning food. Don’t buy the cheap crap from China either. Ball jars are made right here in the good ol’ US of A…that’s what I buy and I’ve never had a problem with them.
Tattler Canning Lids
If you’re survival plan relies on canning food for the winter, I highly recommend ordering a supply of Tattler’s reusable canning lids. Click here for my review of Tattler Reusable Canning Lids. Tattler’s lids are more expensive than the metal lids, but since they can be reused, you’ll save money and be more self reliant in tough times. The lids can be used for hot water bath or pressure canning, are indefinitely reusable, and come in small and wide mouth sizes. They have two parts, a heavy plastic lid and a rubber ring. You still need the metal screw tops to secure them on the jar, so stock up on those too. Be careful not to misshape or damage the rubber rings when storing them and opening the jars. Repeated use will also wear them out, so stock up on extra rings. Order more of everything than you think you need. In fact, order as much as you can afford and have the space to store.
What Other Equipment do I Need?
You’ll need a large pot with a lid and a rack to keep the jars from jiggling around in the boiling water and breaking. You can use other kinds of pans but the best is a hot water bath canner that will hold 7 – 9 quart jars. I have several of the enamel ones and they have served me well over the years. They also are great for cooking up a mess of stewing hens or your laundry. You’ll also want another pot large enough to cook up the meat, fruit, or veggies you’re canning. I have several sizes on hand because I use them a lot. If you can get a stainless steel pot that holds 12 quarts or more, that should suffice. If you want to can low acid foods, buy the best pressure canner you can afford. Invest in an extra seal, or, better yet, buy the kind that doesn’t need a seal.
Basic Starter Supplies
- Hot water bath canner
- Pressure canner
- Pint, 1/2 pint, and quart jars
- Canning lids – Tattler lids are reusable
- Jar lifter
- Large spoons and ladel
- Extra towels, pot holders, knives, sharpening stone.
- Kitchen timer (mechanical)
- Vinegar, salt (contains iodine), sugar or honey, spices
- Food preservation book with complete processing instructions
How Will I Heat The Water?
You’ll need to bring your canner of water to a rolling boil and keep it boiling long enough to sterilize your jars, fill them with hot food and liquid, and process them. This requires a steady source of even heat (especially for a pressure canner) and a clean environment for prepping the food. It’s not difficult to can your food on an electric or gas stove. I have a friend who cans his food over a propane burner outdoors to keep his kitchen cool. That’s great for today, but what about in a survival situation? If you have a solar array or a generator you’ll do great until your back up batteries die, it’s cloudy, or your fuel runs out. Ideally you’ll have a cabin or house with a wood cook stove large enough to hold two good sized pots, one for sterilizing and processing canning jars and one for cooking the produce to put in those jars.
You’re also going to need a good supply of dry seasoned firewood to fire up the stove for canning. Now remember that most of the fruits and veggies will be ready for harvest during the warm season, if you have one. So you will need to have more firewood for heating your living space in the winter too. Firewood could be hard to come by if you don’t plan ahead and have the necessary tools to harvest it. Plan ahead!
Plan Now to Survive Later
I highly recommend learning alternative methods of food preservation in case nature throws a wrench in your plans. An earthquake could destroy all of your fragile canning jars or a fire could ruin the rubber rings. Or you messed up, never practiced and now you realize you are missing important tools for the job. We’ll talk more about alternatives to canning in the future, so visit often and plan for success.
Most importantly, don’t wait until the SHTF to get started on canning your food. Practice makes perfect, right? The first few canning sessions may not go according to plan. In today’s world you won’t be so dependent on the outcome. If you wait until there’s no internet for research, no running to the store for a book, no phone to call Mom for help…you’re more likely to fail. And in this case failure can be fatal.
Join us next week for more information about Tattler’s canning lids. I’ll share my experience so you can learn from my mistakes.