Auburn, Alabama—The saying “you are what you eat” has never been more true than in today’s society. In a culture where preservatives and chemicals almost cannot be avoided ingredients in foods, it can be hard to find genuine fresh foods to eat. Canning fruits and vegetables at home is a great way to preserve fresh foods in a safe way that also will not break the bank.
Going to the produce market every week is a viable option, but incredibly time sensitive and expensive. The National Gardening Association states that 37 percent of all American households, an estimated 43 million households, have started home gardens over the past decade.
These households are growing their own food for a number of reasons: to save money on grocery bills, to ensure better food quality and to prevent the usage of harmful pesticides on plants. However, regardless if the fresh fruits and vegetables are grown from a home garden or bought from a local market, it is important to know how to preserve them.
“There are more health benefits when you can at home because you know what is going into the jar,” Treadaway said. “You know where the product was grown if you grow it yourself or buy locally,” she said.
The amount of different foods that can be canned are not just limited to traditional fruits and vegetables. Other popular items to can are salsa, applesauce, apple-pie filling, jams, preserves, broth, beans, pickles, poultry, seafood and meat.
Helen Jones, a regional Extension agent in human nutrition diet and health, has worked as a nutritionist for more than 37 years. She often recommends that her clients eat foods that are high in fiber such as beans. However, store-bought, canned beans can contain high amounts of preservatives, salt and chemicals.
“We always want to increase the fiber in our diets and beans or legumes are a great source of fiber,” Jones said.
There are many benefits to home canning even though the process for a beginner can be complicated.
“Canning food is somewhat simple but you do need proper training to do it safely,” Treadaway said.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is one of the only organizations that provides useful information and clinics about home canning methods. There are different classes offered in every county of Alabama that cover the basics in home canning.