Tuesday, July 20, 2010


this photograph inspires admiration, envy, and frustration (because its not in color!) I am longing to spend days in the kitchen canning jams and pickles and tomatoes and ketchup and veggies of all sorts. Last summer, 6 quarts of ketchup and a dozen jars of zucchini pickles were the extent of what I could manage (we moved in late July). There is something so secure and comforting to me about seeing rows of jars on my pantry shelves. I recently won a new canning book at another blog called "Putting Food By". Can't wait to get it!

A Salon article describes canning as just another hipster craft that doesn't actually save any money. If you're buying fruit at Whole Foods and factoring in the equipment costs in comparison to a jar of Smuckers then clearly the home canned stuff is going to cost more- maybe exponentially more. But if you are reusing jars across years, growing your own produce or purchasing cheaply in bulk and comparing your cost to the things you would purchase otherwise (assuming that you, too, are avoiding HFCS and sprayed fruits) the home canned jams are clearly the winner. My anticipated costs for 12 quarts of no-spray blackberry jam:

a box of jars- $8.90
12 lbs blackberries @ $1.55 - $18.60
6 cups sucanat - $ 3.32
1 oz Pomona Pectin @ $42 lb- $ 2.63
total- $ 33.45 for 12 quarts

I currently buy my jam from a talented local producer and supplement with a compromise brand at the store. We run through about a pint per week at a total of roughly $10 a pint average. 12 quarts would cost me $240 to purchase or $33.45 to produce. Jam can be done by anyone with a large stock pot- no pressure canner required. Even if I didn't already own ladles, funnels, and the special canning tongs or wanted to use twice as many smaller jars, the savings would still be significant.

Last year I calculated costs on my ketchup and found it was more than twice the price of purchasing a jumbo squeeze bottle of Heinz in the store but I think the flavor is better, there is no waste to recycle and I will have jars to re-use this year. My current mayonnaise making ventures are either a huge financial success or a terrible loss, depending upon what your priorities are. Production costs for a quart of mayo run about $5 for my homemade. I could purchase the same amount of Helman's for $ .50 to $1 less but if I purchased the only commercially available mayo that meets my standards (no soy, no canola, organic, GMO free, no transfats, no HFCS) I would pay $15 for the jar + shipping. Given the speed and ease of making mayo, I can't justify the price difference. Making mustard, however, is never going to happen. Organic, cheap, and acceptable mustards can be had for $1.50 a bottle through the co-op. Miss V expressed a desire for pickled peaches today but noted that the idea of being able to afford peaches and putting them in jars rather than eating them all out of hand, one after another, was a little offensive. Maybe we'll get a good sale soon.

What are you canning this year? Why do you do it?


Laura said...

I have to say I love to can just about anything. Green tomatoes, beet relish, pepper relish, jams, jellies, pickles, pickled veggies, apple sauce...don't stand still I can you!

I have been canning for 15 years, anyone who sayd it's a hipter thing to be doing is only looking at the hipsters doing it--what about the people who really live like that? Do they get a say? Or are they lumped in to the only hipsters are canning group? definitely NOT a hipster--although I am rather hippie and hippy...

Aelwyn said...

I love canning! Strange for someone who grew up just outside of urban Baltimore, but once I get going with it, I love seeing the finished product. I do salmon (when I can get it), jams (this year raspberry, rhubarb cardamom, and black currant vanilla - I think), and pickled carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini. I also do a lot of blanching and freezing. This is all homegrown stuff. If it would stop raining so that I could get more than one pumpkin growing, I would try pumpkin butter this year.

Mary Beth Feldman

Steph said...

Mary Beth- I didn't think that you could can pumpkin/pumpkin butter because of the density?I know you can't can pureed pumpkin...How do you do it? None of my pumpkin plants has survived (Ignorant northern gardener + no moose fence+ wet summer + ADD= not much of anything)