When my husband first started planning for an apocalypse, he asked if I could find someone from my home state of South Carolina who could show us how to can food. I looked at him perplexed and stated, “I know how to can food. My grandmother taught me.” Immediately, he asked why we were waiting for the bombs or zombies to arrive to get started when our historic foodways had benefits needed now. Though I believed the frozen or dried foods we had been consuming were both safe and tasty, I was not going to win that argument. I returned to canning that week.
I use both the boiling and pressure methods; however, I realized that most people stopped preserving foods unless they also planted their own gardens. We have ample green space surrounding the home and with the pandemic fostering rising produce costs or empty store shelves, we moved easily back into gardening.
Later, in a conversation with my grandmother, I asked why gardening and canning had all but gone the way of the wildebeests. Without flinching, my grandmother surmised that the culprit was freezer culture. Freezers offered shelf life to an abundant amount of fresh foods, while affording busy professionals an opportunity to simply warm up ready-meals that are already prepared.
“Why would I buy the jars and spend time over a stove when I could purchase it frozen for less,” she concluded. Convenience made Americans dependent upon the grocery store. Our survival as it relates to substance is totally dependent upon something other than ourselves. That reliance also places the overall nutritional value of those pre-packaged foods in the hands of those who use preservatives, fillers, and additives to give products longer shelf lives.
Americans saw the glaring frailty of dependency upon grocery stores during the 2020 lockdown when our food distribution system grinded to a slow crawl. We are still reliant to a great degree, but are also, now, more aware. One misstep within the flow of picking crops to delivery could crash the entire system or drive prices so high that it loses its affordability.
This realization has resulted in more home gardens according to research from Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, which surveyed mostly individuals who live in urban areas. The study reported that food-related challenges significantly predicted whether someone would take up gardening.
The fluctuating prices at the grocery stores combined with having to visit multiple stores to obtain everyday household goods continues to frustrate many Americans. This social challenge has revived old ways of self-sufficiency such as gardening and canning. And I am not alone. Recently a co-worker asked if I knew how much egg prices had fluctuated in recent weeks. I had not really paid attention. She told me that she stopped paying attention to it after the prices went to $3 a dozen and she decided to invest in chickens.
Self-sustaining measures are a necessity not only because of the costs, but because buying certain foods like fruit from the store can prove a gamble. Some containers are ripe, and others are not. Not every type of fruit has a trick to determine its ripeness. Once produce becomes ripe, it begins to spoil. The rate at which produce spoils varies. This is hardly a rally against supermarkets or grocers, be clear. It is a reminder that there are somethings you can manage the growth, quality, and sustainability of on your own. Canning allows you to lock in the ripeness and prevent the spoiling process. In turn, you can eat different, ripe produce in and outside of its growing season.