Q & A: Why Do You Can?

We’re about to kick-start our summer canning series on Simple Bites and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it! I’ve actually been canning in my sleep, if that gives you any idea.

Coming up we have nine solid days of Canning 101 with recipes, how-to’s, helpful links and discussions. I don’t yet consider myself an ‘expert’ canner, so for this series I’ve enlisted the input of several canning-savvy and very capable ladies.

You’ll see posts from experts such as this one — but I’m don’t want to give too much away. It’s going to be awesome!

Today, however, I want to do something a little different. I want to hear from YOU. Especially those of you who can, preserve and pickle all summer long with the enthusiasm of the lady in our ‘Canning 101’ button.

More specifically, I want to hear WHY you do what you do, year after year, for we don’t all can for the same reasons. Agreed?

Here are just a few reasons one might find us sweating over the stove on an August afternoon:

  • Financial. Buying produce in season when it is cheap and plentiful for preserving can be an economical way to stock the pantry.
  • Preserve Personal Harvest. Overrun with cukes and tomatoes? Pack them into jars and avoid waste.
  • Sentimentality. I’ll admit it, making my own jam is a huge boost to the ‘Holly Homemaker’ in me. I just love how much like a domestic goddess I feel when I hear those jars go POP as they seal.
  • Passion. You think knitters are passionate about their craft? People who are seriously into putting food in jars are a more than worthy rival.
  • Necessity. It is becoming a less common reason, but in remote areas some folks still can and preserve to provide for their family’s basic needs.
  • Health. Concern for BPA in many commercial canned foods such as tomatoes is on the rise, and a huge incentive for home cooks to can their own. Plus, you’re looking at healthy, preservative-free foods that contain no harmful additives or pesticides.
  • Eco-Friendly. When you can your own food,  it reduces the waste associated with pre-packed foods. Jars are reusable, for one thing.

My hope is to inspire potential first-time canners; to give them incentive to get started.

If you’ve never canned, take a minute to read the responses and perhaps you’ll consider sitting in on our little series!

So, please speak up and share with us: Why do you can?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Taste, pure and simple! In the dead of winter, nothing tastes better than a jar of homemade raspberry jam or peach butter. It’s like inviting summer back into your home for that moment!

  2. I’m really looking forward to this series. Canning is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

  3. I’ve been canning for about 35 years. I can for several reasons the foremost being that I know *exactly* what is in a jar of food that I have canned. And, second, nothing tastes as good as home canned. I’ve never found a store-bought pickle, salsa or jam that tasted anywhere near to my home canned goods.

    I’m also passionate about helping new canners learn the proper, safe techniques for home canning. Too many new canners do not understand the importance of using a tested, pH balanced recipe or the difference between acid and non-acid foods and which can be safely water bath canned and which must be pressure canned. I’ve seen so many “canning” recipes on the internet that are not safe and the potential results from using those scare the beejezus out of me.

    Look forward to reading your series. I’m posting a recipe for kosher dills on my site later today. Please drop by if you have a minute to spare!

    • I’m a new convert for homemade salsa! The purchased stuff doesn’t even come close.

      Thanks for the head’s up about your pickle recipe. Mmm.

  4. Margaret says

    I can because it is fun and I get a GOOD quality product. Tomatoes, pears, pickles, jams. And it makes great gifts.

  5. I grew up canning with my family (we lived on a farm with a huge garden). Now that I am a “city girl” I have my gal pals come over and we can in quantity. My friend had 130 huge mangos on her tree last year and we preserved every one in many different forms! Wal-Mart had pumpkin on sale for 1 cent a pound after thanksgiving – bought 100 pounds and we canned pumpkin butter for 2 days! We just put up pickles and corn last week.

    Why? Taste. Quality. Plus, it’s a hobby that I don’t mind spending some money on because we enjoy the results year-round. It’s also my gifts for friends and family. Also, I feel like I am keeping my a family tradition alive. I love canning. Water canning. Pressure canning. All of the above. I am a die-hard!

    • Wow, mango preserves, that sounds incredible. I made pumpkin butter last fall with vanilla bean and it was soooo incredible.

      You are so right about taste and quality. Especially taste. =) My mother still sends me jam for berries picked on her property and it’s like a home coming every time I take a spoonful.

      • We preserved large mango chunks, made mango jam, mango chutney, mango rum sauce, mango glaze and mango salsa. I just opened my last mango chutney the other day for crock pot chicken. Good thing the new crop will be ready in a few weeks!

        I also have a canning friend driving back to Florida through Georgia and she’s picking up as many peaches as she can fit in her car! I’m super excited – we don’t buy canned food from the grocery and I haven’t had a well-preserved peach in about 6 months!

  6. My answer: Keeping My Hands in the Toilet (http://bit.ly/934b72). It’s about why I garden, but the end result of our garden is hundreds of filled jars and two stuffed freezers, so I think it relates.

  7. Trudy Garvey says

    I love to can for several reasons. They are in no particular order:

  8. Trudy Garvey says

    Sorry about the cut off comment about – hit a wrong button!

    Reasons I can are (the short list):
    – Quality of food being used beats the stores
    – No chemicals in my foood
    – No waste of produce when there’s extra in the garden and with me, there always is
    – Enjoy the process of canning
    – Love the flavors in winter time

  9. I can all YEAR long, actually. I am trying to focus our family on as much local food as possible, and being able to have strawberry jam in December really makes you appreciate the work that goes into growing the berries, picking, and then canning. Plus knowing exactly what is in the jam, pasta sauce, ketchup, etc. is important to me.

    This weekend is actually my pasta sauce weekend. I’ll have 25 lbs of tomatoes just ready to be canned when I get home from work. Sure it takes some time, but I get such satisfaction from seeing all those jars in my pantry.

  10. Hi Aimee! I am so excited for your canning series! I grew up in a family of canners and love to do it myself as much as possible. I adore the preservation of summer flavor and the new flavors that I can make up while I can. It’s so much fun experimenting with adding herbs and syrups to fruits and vegetables – there are endless varieties! I am making a video of my Dad and I making his famous Bread & Butter Pickles in a couple of weeks, when it is finished I will send you the link!

  11. Laura @ PARING DOWN says

    My mom did a little bit of canning when I was young but not enough for me to really remember the process.

    I’ve just been freaking out a little bit about BPA in our canned food, so this is timely and very interesting to me.

    I’m totally ready to learn more!

    🙂 Laura

  12. I became a canning enthusiast 2 years ago. I started canning to keep our food costs down – I’m a diehard organic food buyer. Last year I discovered pickles. Yesterday I put up my first 3 pints of blueberry jam (love Pomona pectin!!). Recently I’ve been researching the nutritional aspects of canning and now I’m leaning towards fermentating (I know, sounds gross, but it’s really not!) and drying. I’ve been using honey instead of sugar in my jam, but I’m worried that cooking the fruit and then boiling the jars destroys too much of the good stuff the fruit offers. I’d love to hear your thoughts on nutrition and canning in this series. Thanks!

  13. When I was a newlywed, I made my mother-in-law teach me how to can and now I’ve taught my mom and my friend from Japan (she takes homemade jam to her family now when she visits. Awesome!). Every fall I can jam, apple pie filling, applesauce, and salsa. I think I’m going to be brave this fall and try using a pressure canner, so any help you can give with that would be most appreciated. 🙂

    So why do I can? One reason is that I’m a jam snob now. I can only eat homemade jam (I love my raspberry jam, made from my homegrown raspberries. I also make pluot — a cross between an apricot and plum that grows like crazy in my in-laws’ yard)– jam every fall). Another reason I can is that I love controlling what goes (and what doesn’t) into my food. But more than anything, I feel the same sort of sentimentality you mentioned in your post — I feel this sense of connection to my grandmothers who used to can out of necessity. Canning feels almost like a dying art (seriously, an art. In my small hometown, they still judge jars of canned peaches at the county fair), so I feel proud to carry it on. I’ve had elderly ladies in lines at the grocery store comment a few times when they saw my cart full of jars, pectin, and lids, suprised that ‘kids’ my age (I’m 28) even know about canning.

    Anyway, I could keep going. Funny how much I love it. I wrote a post on my blog about all my reasons last year: http://theparsimoniousprincess.blogspot.com/2009/09/yes-you-can.html

    • You make some very valid points, Heather. Our generation needs to carry on the baton of canning.

      – I just may be a jam snob, too. =)

  14. I just got through canning some jams and posted them on my blog. My number one reason would be for sentimentality. My mother canned and I love the sound of the jar lids pinging! Making something that people enjoy and love receiving is very satisfying to me, and I like giving the jars away more than eating what is in them! I give these away as gifts throughout the year but especially at Christmastime.

  15. Taste, taste, taste. And fun, fun, fun! Even on a sweaty hot late August afternoon, chopping up tomatoes for soup, marinara, or salsa is one of my favorite ways to spend a few hours. Just knowing that summery fresh goodness will be on my pantry shelves in February is a great motivator. Even better are the canning marathons with friends, when we pool our produce, jars, utensils and recipes and churn out huge kettles and talk endlessly and drink too much iced tea. Can’t wait for this year’s marathons!

  16. Canning is many things. It is the celebration of that exciting moment in the summer when a good deal is found on cases of some fruit or vegetable. It is coming home to can it and then getting to hear that telltale, satisfying ‘ping’ of the lid snaping down. Canning is an art form that is truly beautiful and delicious to enjoy on a cold February day. Canning is a way to say enough to the large corporations that attempt to ‘own’ our food process. Canning is a way to ensure that my family will have enough throughout the year regardless of our income or life challenges. Canning is one way to ensure that I am thankful for my food, I worked for it, I don’t want to waste anything that comes out of my jars. Canning is a connection to family, community and land. Canning truly is one of my favourite parts of summer and looking at my full shelves in October as I place the final jars in their places make all of the late nights and purple hands beyond worth it.

  17. I can because I find the process fascinating. I mostly make fresh jam and love to open a jar in the midst of winter and taste summer. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert canner-so I’m very excited for this series! It is so intriguing!

    On a separate but similar note, will UtHC be hosting a virtual swap this year? I hope so-I’ve got my submission already! 🙂

  18. I just started canning this year because it seemed like it would be fun. I enjoy making homemade, from scratch food, and this seemed like the next logical progression. As a SAHM, I want to try all of the “lost arts” of homemaking, and so here I am, learning to can. I’m still such a rookie, though, so I’m so excited about this series.

  19. Veee Schenk says

    I love the product. So much better that “store bought.” Maybe I just like my own cooking! LOL I don’t have a big freezer so I can stock, pasta sauce, chili, etc. There are only 2 of us in the house and it is so nice to have something in the pantry after making up a big pot of something.

  20. Canning! I love to can. Why? I do it because I know how, I think it is a lost art form, and I get to make stuff I can’t find anywhere else.

    What? I usually make a jam or two – last year I made Apricot Reisling – super yummy. Ever year I make a Chile sauce – recipe from my in law side of the family that is nothing like what you can buy in the store. And I also like to make salsa when I can.

    This year I think I might also do my own pickles too.

  21. I love the flavor of homemade jam and the Holly Homemaker aspect of it. Last year I went overboard and made too much jam-really-more-like-syrup-since-I-tried-to-avoid-commercial-pectin. Any suggestions on what to do with the excess?

  22. I plan on canning for the first time this summer for several reasons:
    frugality: it will save us money in the long run and I don’t want to waste food from our garden
    the yummy factor: there’s nothing like opening a jar of peaches in the middle of winter
    health: I want to reduce our dependence on mass produced foods
    self-reliance: I don’t want things like canning to become a lost art–I want to be able to provide for my family the way my mom, grandmas, and great-grandmas did.

  23. Elizabeth says

    Yeah! The series I have been looking forward to! We will have delicious but way too many tomatoes soon. I am looking forward to trying out canning so we don’t let any go to waste.

  24. yippee…i am so excited you are doing this series. I have checked out every canning/preserving book that my local library has on canning/preserving and love more ideas. My motivations are several: know what is in the food my family eats, we are growing our own vegetables in our organic garden, avoid chemicals in cans, avoid artificial preservatives, save money, hearken back to a simpler time, satisfaction of eating something you grew from a seed and took all the way to a final product, give as gifts, the reasons keep growing.

    Can’t wait for the series!

  25. I’m brand new to canning this year (I put up my first jars of marmalade in February), but I’ve made 5 kinds of fruit preserves since then. The main reason I’m doing it is because it’s FUN, but I also really enjoy using the bounty of the fruit trees in my neighborhood. We are blessed with a crazy amount of yard fruit where I live in California and I *can not stand* to see it laying on the ground rotting as I walk around my neighborhood. I’ve told all of my immediate neighbors that I’ll take any extra fruit off their hands to make preserves with this summer.

    I also love labeling my jars. Crazy, but true! I think it’s fun to come up with silly names for my jams and making cute labels to match like these and these.

  26. I’m Ukrainian, I don’t know how not to can. Seriously. My Baba had a literal root cellar filled with fruit, jams, pickles, sauces, relishes, and more. This doesn’t include the two deep freezes (once they got power) so full that she kept rocks on them to keep them shut.

    Canning is in my blood, it is tradition, and after growing up with it, a bought pickle or jam just doesn’t taste the same.

  27. I can for many reasons. I think it started because that’s what my parents did but as time passed and my family grew it became needed to help pay bills. lately, I do it because I know what is in there and whether it’s safe or altered or chemical filled. This has become a growing concern for our family because of health issues. So, the canning season is upon me and will continue until the last jar of applesauce and apple butter for the season are put away.

  28. To add to “Sentimentality”, I like canning because my parents have always canned, and their parents, and probably their parents, and on and on. I love having this link to my family.
    And, it’s just yummy!

  29. Hi, Aimee. I really enjoyed this post, so congratulations on a fine overview.

    I would add a bit more to it, because it’s fun (though I do like Bernardin’s tagline, “because you can”). It is also a great way to have ever-ready home-made “hostess” gifts for a dinner party, birthday, Xmas, etc. Sometimes, you just don’t have time to make something and grabbing a jar of your own making is always appreciated!!!

    I just started last year and find it to be an adventure – similar to baking, which I also love to do (in measuring and timing) but lasting much longer than fresh-baked goods. Canning also creates more useful and versatile items, in many ways (after all, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, and other baked desserts are limited to just that: desserts…OK, a snack or sometimes a meal, if you’re bad.



  30. I have always wanted to do this but thought it was out of my league for some reason. I’m super excited to learn all I can so that I am successful.I’d like to cross off canning & preserving from my “bucket list” & I am very excited to share the goodies with my family & friends as gifts!

  31. Just sitting down after I finished a days worth of canning and mindlessly typed “Why do you can?” What a fun read!

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