Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Canning and Drying Part 1
You will find that among the Amish and Mennonites there still exists the same frugal methods of food preservation that were an institution among all mothers and grandmothers in the early 20th century. It is regrettable that the household skills of the past have been almost completely rendered extinct by our crippling reliance on commercialized food. It is time that these skills be revived in the home. This following excellent exposition on the canning and drying of food is so simple and comprehensive that there is no need for the editor to further elaborate. Such as a text as this is an excellent starting point for daughters and mothers to begin the study and practice of canning and drying in the home.
NECESSITY FOR PRESERVING FOODS
1. The various methods of preserving perishable foods in the home for winter use originated because of necessity. In localities where the seasons for fruits and vegetables are short, the available supply in early times was limited to its particular season. Then foods had to be preserved in some way to provide for the season of scarcity. It was not possible, as it is now, to obtain foods in all parts of the country from localities that produce abundantly or have long seasons, because there were no means of rapid transportation, no cold storage, nor no commercial canning industries.
2. In the small towns and farming communities, the first preservation methods for meats, as well as for fruits and vegetables, were pickling, curing, drying, and preserving. Not until later was canning known. It was this preserving of foodstuffs in the home that led to the manufacture and commercial canning of many kinds of edible materials. These industries, however, are of comparatively recent origin, the first canning of foods commercially having been done in France about a hundred years ago. At that time glass jars were utilized, but it was not until tin cans came into use later in England that commercial canning met with much favor.
3. Both canning in the home and commercial canning have had many drawbacks, chief among which was spoiling. It was believed that the spoiling of canned foods was due to the presence of air in the jars or cans, and it is only within the last 50 years that the true cause of spoiling, namely, the presence of bacteria, has been understood. Since that time methods of canning that are much more successful have been originated, and the present methods are the result of the study of bacteria and their functions in nature. It is now definitely known that on this knowledge depends the success of the various canning methods.
4. Since commercial canning provides nearly every kind of foodstuff, and since cold storage and rapid transportation make it possible to supply almost every locality with foods that are out of season, it has not been deemed so necessary to preserve foods in the home. Nevertheless, the present day brings forth a new problem and a new attitude toward the home preservation of foods. There are three distinct reasons why foods should be preserved in the home. The first is to bring about economy. If fruits, vegetables, and other foods can be procured at a price that will make it possible to preserve them in the home at a lower cost than that of the same foods prepared commercially, it will pay from an economical standpoint. The second is to promote conservation; that is, to prevent the wasting of food. When fruits and vegetables are plentiful, the supply is often greater than the demand for immediate consumption. Then, unless the surplus food is preserved in some way for later use, there will be a serious loss of food material. The third is to produce quality. If the home-canned product can be made superior to that commercially preserved, then, even at an equal or a slightly higher cost, it will pay to preserve food in the home.
5. Of the methods of preserving perishable foods, only two, namely, canning and drying, are considered in this Section. Before satisfactory methods of canning came into use, drying was a common method of preserving both fruits and vegetables, and while it has fallen into disuse to a great extent in the home, much may be said for its value. Drying consists merely in evaporating the water contained in the food, and, with the exception of keeping it dry and protected from vermin, no care need be given to the food in storage. In the preparation of dried food for the table, it is transformed into its original composition by the addition of water, in which it is usually soaked and then cooked.
The drying of food is simple, and no elaborate equipment is required for carrying out the process. Dried food requires less space and care in storage than food preserved in any other way, and both paper and cloth containers may be used in storing it. When storage space is limited, or when there is a very large quantity of some such food as apples or string beans that cannot be used or canned at once, it is advisable to dry at least a part of them. When used in combination with canning, drying offers an excellent means of preserving foods and thus adding to their variety.
6. Canning has a greater range of possibilities than drying. A larger number of foods can be preserved in this way, and, besides, the foods require very little preparation, in some cases none at all, when they are removed from the cans. Practically every food that may be desired for use at some future time may be canned and kept if the process is carried out properly. These include the perishable vegetables and fruits of the summer season, as well as any winter vegetables that are not likely to keep in the usual way or that are gathered while they are immature.
Many ready-to-serve dishes may be made up when the ingredients are the most plentiful and canned to keep them for the time when they are difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. Such foods are very convenient in any emergency. Often, too, when something is being cooked for the table, an extra supply may be made with no greater use of fuel and very little extra labor, and if the excess is canned it will save labor and fuel for another day. In the same way, left-over foods from the table may be preserved by reheating and canning them. Many foods and combinations of foods may be made ready for pies and desserts and then canned, it being often possible to use fruits that are inferior in appearance for such purposes.
Soup may be canned. It may be made especially for canning, or it may be made in larger quantity than is required for a meal and the surplus canned. For canning, it is an excellent plan to make soup more concentrated than that which would be served immediately, as such soup will require fewer jars and will keep better. Water or milk or the liquid from cooked vegetables or cereals may be added to dilute it when it is to be served.
Meat and fish also may be canned, and many times it is advisable to do this, especially in the case of varieties that cannot be preserved to advantage by such methods as salting, pickling, or curing.
7. The preservation of foods by canning and drying should not be looked at as an old-fashioned idea; rather, it is a matter in which the housewife should be vitally interested. In fact, it is the duty of every housewife to learn all she can about the best methods to employ. Canning methods have been greatly improved within the last few years, and it is a wise plan to adopt the newer methods and follow directions closely. Especially should this be done if foods canned by the older methods have spoiled or if mold has formed on top of the food in the jars.
In order to preserve foods successfully and with ease, the housewife should realize the importance of carrying out details with precision and care. The exactness with which the ingredients are measured, the choice and care of utensils, the selection and preparation of the food to be canned--all have a direct bearing on whether her results will be successful or not.
By observing such points and exercising a little ingenuity, the economical housewife may provide both a supply and a convenient variety of practical foods for winter use. For example, one single fruit or vegetable may be preserved in a number of ways. Thus, if there is a very large supply of apples that will not keep, some may be canned in large pieces, some may be put through a sieve, seasoned differently, and canned as apple sauce, and some may be cut into small pieces and canned for use in making pies. Apple butter and various kinds of jams and marmalades may be made of all or part apples, or the apples may be spiced and used as a relish. Combining fruits of different flavor in canning also adds variety. In fact, neither quinces nor apples canned alone are so delicious as the two properly combined and canned together.
In the same way, if the housewife will watch the markets closely and make good use of materials at hand, she may provide canned foods at comparatively little cost. Of course, the woman who has a garden of her own has a decided advantage over the one who must depend on the market for foods to can. The woman with access to a garden may can foods as soon as they have been gathered, and for this reason she runs less risk of losing them after they have been canned. Nevertheless, as has been pointed out, it is really the duty of every housewife to preserve food in the home for the use of her family.