There are a lot of good reasons for preserving foods through home canning. In fact, the list is rather long, but there are also a number of disadvantages to it as well. As many tend to focus on the benefits of canning food for use in the future, it is equally important to be aware of some of the downsides related to processing fruit and vegetables for home use.
Probably the greatest disadvantage to canning at home is how long it takes. The amount of time one must invest in this can be far too great for beginners. For example, time must be spent in selecting what to process. If you have a garden, time will be needed to harvest the crop you intend to preserve. If you don’t have a garden, time will be spent shopping and collecting the produce from other sources. That’s before you begin the actual canning.
Then there’s time spent preparing the food for home canning plus the preparation of equipment required to process the food. This includes cleaning and sterilizing preserving equipment as well as cleaning, peeling and any other food preparation required prior to canning. There is also the time spent processing (canning) the food, allowing it to cool and seal and all clean up tasks. It is quite possible to spend full days in the kitchen during canning season.
When it comes to home canning, you can’t just soak jars in a sink of hot water to seal them. There is a long line of preserving supplies that have been created specifically for the processing of food. This includes everything from large canners (to boil water) and pressure canners to racks, tongs, measuring tools, pH test tools, temperature gauges and recipe books. Additional equipment required will range from jars and sealers to lids, caps, labels and more.
The foods you intend to process are also part of the supplies you will need for preserving. Depending on your recipe, this will also require pectin, sugar or pickling spices, herbs and salt. All of these items will also take up space so you will need to have an area large enough to store all the equipment you will use with easy access to those pieces you will use more frequently. The best part is that the majority of your large supplies can be used over and over with other supplies, such as jars, requiring replacement on a regular basis.
It is only fitting to add to this list of disadvantages to home canning the cost of all the supplies you will need. The items listed above will take a fairly good chunk of change to pay for but, there is a silver lining buried in here. In the case of canners and many of the larger pieces of equipment, you will only have to buy them once. Other smaller items, such as pH test paper, jars, lids, caps, labels and rings will be replaced on a regular basis.
Some items in the home canning process can only be used once with others reusable a number of times before you will need to replace them. Food products you are processing, unless they come from your own garden, will also add to your cost of production. Overall, keep in mind the majority of your costs will come from your ‘start up’ phase purchasing equipment you don’t already own or have not either inherited or had given to you by a friend or family member.
Losses From Home Canning
Nutrients are defined as the components found in food that an organism requires in order to survive and grow. The canning process removes a lot of nutrients from the food being processed. This comes from the fact that in order to properly can fruit or vegetables, a cooking step is required. This cooking step brings a halt to the natural enzymatic action that is used to assist in the ripening of these food items. Left alone, the enzymes cause fruit and vegetables to over ripen and spoil.
When they are cooked, minerals, water soluble vitamins and other nutrients can be leeched out of the foods being prepared. They then end up being left behind in the boiling water that eventually gets poured down the drain. By comparison, fruits and vegetables that have been canned contain far less vitamins and minerals than they do fresh. On average, they lose up to 65-percent of these essential items when canned.
Potential Health Risk
Okay, so you’ve got the recipe(s) you like, all the home canning supplies and equipment you need, food to process and now we’re talking about health risks? Well, it is something you need to be aware of if you are preserving food for yourself, family, friends or going into the business of selling products canned at home. The risk to health comes from contamination. This can occur to any level of home canner and must be monitored.
The contamination results from the acid levels in the fruits and vegetables being canned. Remember seeing pH test strips listed earlier as canning equipment? The reason why we included that was to keep you aware of the fact that you will need to test frequently for proper pH levels. Various forms of bacteria do not survive the heating process of canning provided salt and acid levels are correct. To be sure, follow only proven recipes and study what pH levels are safe for the specific food items you are processing.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of the fact that home canning is a great way to extend or share a harvest with others, it does take a fair amount of work to complete. Add to this the cost of equipment and supplies and the potential loss of nutrients – as well as the risk of contamination – and preserving food may seem to be an intimidating venture for anyone. As stated above, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. It is only up to you whether or not you are prepared to become a home canning expert or not.