Home Canning: Putting Food By the Old-Fashioned Way


We looked to our readers to find out why home canning is experiencing a modern revival. Their answer: Canning produces flavorful, high-quality food that saves money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories.

We’ve compiled everything you need to start canning, including a list of recommended how-to and recipe books, places to find your supplies, a list of our favorite canning products from Etsy, and even an app or two. Find it all in our Home Canning Guide. 

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It’s Saturday morning and you’ve just popped out your back door, your bare feet making an impression in warm dirt. You inhale the familiar scent of tomato foliage as you reach for the fattest, reddest tomato on your vines. It’s so ripe, it almost falls into your hand. This tomato was intended for the omelet pan that waits inside, but you have to have it here, now. You clutch it like a baseball and bite into it like an apple.

You can’t buy a tomato like this in any store. With a taste this rich and multidimensional, it can only be homegrown. Don’t you wish you could bottle up that taste and enjoy it all year long? There is in fact a way to capture that kind of flavor and pride: You can, if you can.

Even if you don’t have your own garden, you’ll enjoy safer, better-tasting food if you buy in bulk from a local producer and can it yourself. You can can almost anything — mint jelly, potato soup, barbecue sauce. With the proper equipment, the sky’s the limit. Laying by some or all of the food your household will require over the course of four seasons does require foresight and skill, but putting food by is also an art; a comfort that helps us feel secure.

Extending the shelf life of our foods dates back to early Mediterranean civilizations who dried figs in the sun and the ancient Egyptians who doused fresh herbs with olive oil. Home canning came along in France in the early 19th century, when Nicolas Appert invented a way to safely store food by vacuum-sealing it in jars. Whether to dry, freeze, ferment or can is a fundamental food preservation question, and canning is often the best answer.

More and more people are deciding to learn how to can food at home. The University of Missouri Extension, for example, has doubled its available food preservation classes. Fran Blank, a food preservation instructor with more than 40 years of experience, says she has been amazed in recent years by how popular her classes have become. Last year, Ball Canning reported a doubling in sales of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

We asked our more than 85,000 Facebook fans what they thought of home canning and were overwhelmed by the hundreds of responses. They told us they enjoy the rows of colorful jars that sit on the pantry shelves like treasures. Canning food provides a deeper wealth than dollars and cents — and that’s only one among many reasons people have taken up the art.