Thursday, January 22, 2015

We Shall Have To Begin To Think Very Differently

   A blog that I read had a recent discussion revolving around whether they (or me or you) had enough canning jar lids. The consensus was that, no indeed, they did not have enough lids stockpiled. People commented that they bought a box or two every time they went to the store and though they had 4,562 lids purchased that wouldn't see them through the apocalypse (OK I just made that part up, but you get the idea.) Let me tell you what our philosophy is and you can decide which approach you think will work the best for your family.

     My thought is that you can never, never, NEVER accumulate all of the lids that you will need to continue canning hundreds of jars of food for the rest of your life. The very thought exhausts me. Should a collapse happen I will immediately scale back what I can, not increase it. I will no longer can green beans or carrots or indeed any low acid food; if it can't be jammed or pickled then I probably won't can it. All of the jam that I make is with homemade pectin, you might want to consider learning to make jam the old fashioned way, by cooking until the jelling point rather than the faster sure-gel way. As an aside, jam made this way doesn't even have to be sealed, the sugar acts as a preservative and the jam won't spoil. I may can some fruit, but dehydrating just makes more sense for most things. Root crops will be stored in a clamp, green beans will be dried in a solar dehydrator as will sweet corn. Eating seasonally will become de rigueur for us here as it already is in many parts of the world.

     As I've mentioned before, I use a lot of bail jars but since most folks just don't have a ready supply of those I'd recommend one of two things. Either invest in Weck jars or Tattler lids. There is a learning curve to using any of these methods, but so too is there for modern bands and lids. Some people have begun reusing jar flats citing that the old timers did it. Well, that may be so, but jar flats 40 years ago were designed differently, they were a lot beefier and had a much thicker gasket. Jar lids are designed today to be single use, on purpose.

     Meat will either be eaten fresh or we'll dry that too. Traditionally, hams were smoked to preserve them and they were stored after they were very dry. That's why old cook books usually mention boiling ham and not baking it like we do today. We have these old fashioned hams here locally, Clifty Farms has the closest thing to farm preserved ham that I've ever bought. Another option is potting meat, Granny Miller talks about that here, so I won't repeat it. And though I've posted a picture of a loverly old crock, beware using antiques as they can have lead in the glaze. Stick with new ones unless you're certain.

     In order to meet our family's caloric requirements we will have to learn some old methods and some new ones as well. As with most things, the time to work out the kinks is now, not when you have hungry little ones hanging off your skirt.


  1. Excellent post. There are a number of methods to preserve food that us modern folk have never heard of nor tried. In fact, I believe that mayonnaise was a way to preserve eggs and now, people are terrified to leave mayo out longer than 15 minutes. My mother (aged 74 yrs) says they never refrigerated mayo, mustard, ketchup, peanut butter, jam, butter or eggs.
    I've read some folks who reuse regular 2 part lids. Although I might agree that lots of us are overly paranoid and have been thoroughly brainwashed to think a certain way about food safety, I must confess, I am very hesitant to give away my food in the off chance someone gets sick and tries to sue me. Because it will happen. If it already hasn't...hence the over-the-top attitude about home production food safety.
    If you have any suggestions to share about period cookbooks that instruct on food preservation, please do share. I have one from Colonial Williamsburg but it is somewhat hard to understand ("f" and "s" are interchangeable which are a few of the quirks of this reproduction cookbook).
    Thank you for sharing your world with us.
    Pam Baker

    1. Pam, thank you so much for your thoughts! Here is the link to the wonderful Feeding America collection, you can browse recipes to your heart's content!

      I have a copy of Mary At The Farm & Book Of Recipes, there's so much wisdom there. It's also available on line here: