Canning Food Without Electricity

May 2, 2013

Food Preservation

canning foods , survival skills , how to can food , survival canning

You need to plan ahead and stock up on supplies if you want to can foods after TEOTWAWKI.

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
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peaches and nectarines
  • Plums
  • Pineapple
  • Citrus fruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries


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Some of the tools to add to your food preservation arsenal.

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.

canning foods , survival skills , how to can food , survival canning

Tattler canning lids are reusable, but the rings can wear out. Stock up!

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
  • Funnel
  • Tongs
  • 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.



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About Lisa Lynn

I grew up on 400 acres of farm and woodland, foraging for wild edibles, learning to preserve food and raise livestock. My favorite book was my Dad’s army survival manual. Everywhere I’ve ever lived I started a garden, stocked up on non-perishables, and planned my escape route. My husband, Tom, and I spent way too much time in the purgatory of suburbia before moving to a small agricultural property. Here we’re learning new skills to survive without the infrastructure that most people take for granted. We plan to move to a larger, off grid property where we can expand our efforts in self sufficiency. It’s my mission to share what I learn with likeminded individuals. I’m sharing my preps with my peeps here and on The Self Sufficient Home Acre

View all posts by Lisa Lynn

26 Responses to “Canning Food Without Electricity”

  1. Terri Rochenski Says:

    Excellent post. I’m going to print this out for future use.


  2. Carolyn Partin Says:

    I grew up on a farm and remember using the iron pot on the firewood to can. Now I can a lot of food and give a lot of it away. I have a grandson who only eats Ol’daddy’s green beans that I have canned. I now can my on sauces and veg soups. My daughter comes to by house for a lot of her groceries. But I really enjoy canning I also work a full time job and will be retiring this year and hope to do more . We have a garden of about two acres. thanks for the information.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      You grow, girl! 2 acres is a great size for your garden…awesome! It’s great to hear about your experiences with canning over firewood…it sure takes some know how! Thanks for stopping by Carolyn!


  3. Ellie Choate Says:

    I am ready. I picked up a small RV stove top at the flea market and used an old 10 gallon aquarium stand to mount it. Using a bbq grill propane gas tank for fuel and viola! I can can outdoors all season long. I pick up the gas tanks as I find them at yard sales and flea markets. Keeping them filled and ready. Happy Canning!


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Great idea Ellie! The propane tanks are an excellent source of fuel as long as they are available. It’s great if you can diversify and stock up on firewood. Thanks for sharing. :)


  4. Betty Heffner Says:

    My Mom, Grannie’s and Aunts canned on a wood stove when I was a kid, and I have cooked on a wood stove. I think some of us could handle it if we had to. We have the know-how to make great outdoor cook-tops and ovens. A wood fire takes more attention to keep the temp right, but it was second nature with my mom and grannies.


    • floyd elliott Says:

      I,remember growing up farming 3 1/2 acres of everything unimaginable. 6 kids and Long fun filled summers,tilling,planting,can’t forget weeding-lol. The process of harvesting and Mom canning 10 cases 1/2 gal.jars of most everything grown. Canning was with the hot water bath on a wood stove. Hard on Mom but miss it now as well as the flavor.


      • Dave Says:

        There’s nothing quite like home grown food!


      • Lisa Lynn Says:

        That’s a great memory, Floyd! I like hearing about people growing up like I did. My parents used an electric stove for canning, but we used to cook out over a campfire a lot. It sure makes me feel good that so many people will know what to do if there’s no electricity for preserving their food. Thanks for visiting, Floyd!


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      That’s awesome that you have those memories and can cook on the wood stove. It’s an important skill to have and you’ll be way ahead in the game if things go south. Keep up the good work Betty!


  5. Sue Says:

    As far back as I can remember, my mom always did her canning outside in a galvanized tub (held about a dozen quart jars) set up on concrete blocks with a piece of tin for the lid. She placed dish towels around the jars to keep them from jiggling against each other, then filled the tub with water to cover the jars. She built a fire under it with wood and kept a close eye on it and kept feeding the fire as necessary to keep the water boiling. This process takes a little longer but is definitely budget friendly. She always canned vegetables this way and not once did any of us get botulism poisoning. Considering this is the way it was done before the pressure canner and water bath pots were invented, I guess our ancestors knew a little something about food preservation.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Hey Sue,
      Awesome info to have tucked away in my brain for later…thanks! My Dad is good friends with their Amish neighbors and he has seen them do their canning over wood fires. It takes a lot of patience…but you’ll have food in the winter! Thanks for stopping by. :)


    • KathyB. Says:

      I like the idea of wrapping dish towels around the jars to keep them from jiggling. Even in the new canners the jars sometimes jiggle. I am going to remember this tip.


      • misiek Says:

        in my familly with put small bricks at the bottom of the tub to avoid direct heat.them a cloth the jar and again cloth and jar.


  6. KathyB. Says:

    I bookmarked this post for future reference. I do a lot of canning and over the years have burnt out my fancy kitchen stoves. They really don’t make stoves the way they used to . 3 years ago my husband bought me a BIG 2 burner propane camping stove for my canning and it is also the stove I use for dying big pots of my handspun wool yarn.

    I am definitely going to check out and probably invest in the lids & rubber rings you suggested. My husband & I prefer canning our fruit and veggies over freezing because we often lose power to our home and a freezer needs electricity. Canned goods last thru bad weather. Besides, there is something so satisfying about seeing rows of home canned fruits, beans, jams, etc. lining the pantry shelves, don’t you think?

    I really think we should all do some prepping because it only takes a bad storm or local catastrophe to knock out your power long enough to prevent you from having the basic necessities such as water, heat, and food, and when that happens the local stores and gas stations are also out of power. Thanks for this post and hosting the Farm Hop !


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Hi Kathy,
      That’s great that you are prepping with your home canned goods! Thanks for taking the time to comment too!

      Check out the new article on Tattler canning lids for my suggestions on using them…there is a learning curve involved!


  7. Homestead12 Says:

    I can’t agree more with recommending Tattler lids. I did a “test batch” with a dozen last year and was so pleased that I bought the other 6 dozen they had at the store… They haven’t stocked them this year, so I may have to order more online. I do most produce in pints, so I need quite a few.
    I recommend continuing to use metal lids for some jars if you share your bounty. Even friends who are used to returning empty jars are prone to not return the lid. In a trade/barter scenario, the Tattler & jar might be more valuable than the contents.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Very good point about getting your lids back. I never send the Tattler lids off with friends. Like you said, they are not as likely to return. I have trouble just getting my jars back! So I’ve gotten a bit more stingy about who I give my home canned goods to. If they don’t return the jars, they are very unlikely to get any more homemade jam from me! The trade/ barter situation is very true…you would be better off trading dried goods than your canned goods.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with us!


  8. misiek Says:


    i live in europe,my familly always did canning and still you(fruits,vegs,jams,stews,roast,poultry and more).we use glass jar with the lid attached(wire,we find them in most grocery store this time of the year) and the only thing you need to buy again are the plastic joint to seal(it’s cheaper and better i believe).i did as well bought a metal can sealer (a bit expensive if you buy new) and that as well is good(ok you can only use the can once but if you cut them down with the right tool you can use them again).an other thing if you live in a city (like i did for a few years) and don’t have a garden go to the slaughter house for cheap meat,or the local farmer for fruits and vegs(they got plenty that they can’t sale because of the shape ,color,or too ripe) and it’ll cost you less to.


  9. georgia estes Says:

    I grew up in Africa and remember my Mom canning with a wood stove much like you described. Thought I would add that she melted paraffin wax and poured it over the jellies to form a seal when she ran out of lids. I do NOT remember her using it for veggies, so am not sure it would be safe enough for tomatoes or meats.


    • janet Says:

      My mother always used paraffin wax to seal her jellies, jams and preserves. It kept them fresh throughout the winter for us.


  10. Dineen Says:

    I just had the thought about preserving food in case of long-term SHTF situation(s) and wondered about canning seals. I found your blog through a web search, so thank you very much for the information about the reusable Tatler seals.
    I look forward to learning more as I explore your other posts.


  11. Summer Says:

    Good article, but you mustn’t use iodized salt for canning! Your food will get slimy and turn orange. Iodized salt will indeed be essential in a survival situation, but only canning salt should be used for canning and preserving.


  12. Live Peachy Says:

    Hey Lisa,

    Firstly, awesome suggestion on the Tattler lids. One thing to add is that they are a must have if you’re canning meat or other fatty/oily foods as they seal far better.

    I do have to echo what Summer said, it’s best to not use iodized salt. It’ll work, but it does add some unsavory appearance to the canning. You can use sea salt, kosher salt, canning/pickling salt. Really, any that don’t have anti-caking or other additives.

    I’ll have to check out your Tattler review to see if there’s anything I didn’t know about them :-)

    All the best,


  13. Dave Says:

    Any thoughts on using a rocket stove or two to maintain the boiling water?


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