I recently started canning food. The original impetus for this was silly enough- too many vegetables. As soon as I started, though, I encountered a new, intense sensation of liberation. I was storing value, but not in a bank!
This all began when Kara and I joined a CSA for the first time this year. It provides us more veggies than I am currently skilled enough to eat. We’ve probably doubled or tripled our vegetable intake, but I still fall behind. The truth is that I did not grow up eating a lot of fresh vegetables, and most of the cooked ones were horribly mushy, overcooked nightmares- traditional anglo fare, in other words.
As you can see from the picture, we were getting a LOT of veggies each week. Yes, that is one week’s share from the CSA. I didn’t want them to go to waste and I gave some away, but I was still left with the feeling that value was slipping through my hands with no way to preserve it…
A-HA! Preservation! I’d read about that once or twice (or fifty times) in my crazy survivalist homesteading library. I could CAN some of the produce. Of course, some vegetables, like lettuce and the like are simply not amenable to canning. Still, I’d never done it before. My mom (who grew up on a farm and happily left farm life behind) only did it once in my memory- the infamous Summer of Endless Blackberry Jam. So I bought a book.
The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, to be precise. It broke down a lot of the basic information I had read in other books so that I could wrap my mind around it. After reading that, I ended up purchasing quite a few other items- wide mouth pint jars, a pressure canner, pickling salt and vinegar, a few tools, and some calcium chloride to help keep my pickles crunchy. I had loads of spices and such, so that wasn’t a problem. In an amusing act of synchronicity, I shortly thereafter inherited a second bag of pickling salt from my brother and his wife, who recently moved out of the area.
Anyway, since then, I’ve run two batches of pickles- one of zucchini dills and one of cucumber dills. Both were fresh-pack, water bath jobs. Pretty soon I plan on pressure canning some carrots, some beets, and some small potatoes. I happen to like canned potatoes. They’re really good for making soups and stews quickly. I harvested about a can’s worth from my Boiled Dinner Garden.
What I find really interesting about canning is that it carries the same warm fuzzies as putting money in the bank, yet I’m not directly saving any money. Honestly, I could buy plenty of canned veggies at the MegaMart. Plus, if I amortize in the cost of my canning equipment, the jars, and so on- I’m probably not actually saving money.
But I feel like I’m saving value, which is perhaps more important. I know that the vegetables I’ve canned so far are organic. Not “organic”, but actual farmer-grown plants that grew up on a little patch of dirt nearby. I know everything that went into those jars because I put it there. Those pickles are mine in a sense that no jar of MegaMart pickles ever could be.
In way, that is the fundamental difference between modern banking (and money) and the old value storehouses of haylofts, root cellars, and granaries. While money in a bank can earn interest and is very convenient to spend, it is never wholly yours. Modern money is a construct, a fiat, a fiction. Such money has no value but what we mutually agree to ascribe to it. But a jar of canned potatoes on a winter evening…
That’s soup for the pot.