R. Ann Parris on Preserving The Harvest: Canning Jars


Preserving Harvests: Canning Jars by R. Ann Parris for Preppergroups.com

Many preppers eventually turn to the idea of producing food, and in turn, preserving that food. Most commonly, that starts with kitchen garden fruits and veggies and “traditional” canning methods.

(Fun fact: Bottling produce is actually a relatively modern technology. Salting, drying, col pits/cellars and fermenting in crocks predominates most of humanity’s active preservation history. Good ol’ Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with kicking off the craze that resulted in glass-jar and tinned foods becoming common military rations in the early 1800s. Home canning took a few more decades to catch on.)
If we’re planning on making that leap, it’s going to take a mighty mountain of jars.

Preppergroups.com’s associated prepper forum has a topic with a number of charts that can help as a starting point for how much produce we’ll want here https://preppergroups.com/forum/index.php?topic=949.0 (you’ll have to join to view it if you’re not already signed up specifically for the forum). The compilation includes suggestions for how much we need to plan to bottle up for the non-harvest seasons as well as some expected planting and harvest guidelines.

One of those charts comes from the now-defunct Grannie Miller blog. It’s a nice all-in-one starter, although like any guide, we have to apply liberal amounts of salt. For a family of four, for 300 days with two cups of veggies per day, she calls for 800 quarts.

That’s sixty-seven flats.

That, my peeps, is a heap of jars. That’s building a counter of nothing but canning jars that’s 2-3’ tall, two-flats deep, and better than 8’ long.

(Fun Fact: Until we start talking about dry stuff and some of the pastes, pint jars will hold about a pound and quart jars will hold about two pounds. Typically pints weigh close to a half-pound and quarts about a pound, so we can quickly tally how strong our floors/shelves need to be by factoring 1+0.5=1.5 and 2+1=3 for each filled jar.)

**I will normally just (try to) ignore any typos that escaped me in these posts once they’re up, but one was recently pointed out that just had to be fixed. I originally said 2+2=3 for quarts+food weight, leaving people trying to figure out what-how-where with those numbers. I do apologize for any confusion.

And again, that’s just veggies.

She lists a suggestion for dry-storage potatoes, but doesn’t talk about canning them. There’s some wiggle room and inconsistencies in there, as well, and the expectation of eating only fresh from the garden for 2+ months. She also doesn’t include fruits like apples or berries, or making jams.

Nor does it include dry-storage grains or beans, shelf-storing winter squashes (she suggests canning them), or any meats or fats. If we want to preserve those in jars, we’ll need more. And thus, more space and more sturdy storage for them.

Still, it’s a handy guide all on it’s own due to the numbers.

After all, it’s the fruits and veggies that most people will be able to augment or provide as well as preserve, and we now know that for four people to have four half-cup servings per day, we need those 800 quarts.

We can divide that if we like to develop some baselines (although, hedge, because she general breaks her “family” into two working adults and two kids). 800 quarts is 3,200 cups, or 6,400 half-cup servings. Per person, it’s 200 quarts or 800 cups, and 1,600 servings.

*If you’re Mathing as we go, you got “five and a smidge” servings for her 300 days, and if you paid attention, you recall that she’s suggested additional potatoes to be part of the daily serving but didn’t can them, so they’re not part of that count. At this point I remind you of the “wiggle room” and “inconsistencies” also mentioned. She does, in part, mitigate those on her chart by suggesting guests and gifts.

**It also gets closer to 4 servings when divided by 365 instead, and since she grows, she’d be inclined to not 100% depend on a garden producing adequately all seasons and years. Breakage/spoilage can be considered as well, although she doesn’t mention it.

Back to Basics” also takes a stab at suggesting planting and canning amounts in each iteration. The old Victory Garden guides can also be helpful.

Decades ago, the Ball canning guide books also included a chart for how much the average family might want to consider preserving.

*If you have one of those, please scan it or take a picture and toss just those pages up there in the forum (I’ll ensure proper credit is given), or respond here with the year/volume of your copy. I’d love to get my hands on those pages again.

Other books and blogs and articles have also taken stabs at “food for a year” growing and preserving numbers.

They’re all valuable, because they help accentuate just how few jars most of us have.

They also highlight just how few there actually are on many store shelves even during high canning season, which is why I give that countertop example.

The massive number of jars, plus their lids and the inputs for even pressure canning are one of the reasons I push dehydration for people with reliable water sources — it just takes up so much less space — as well as field-to-shelf crops like winter squash and some of the root veggies.

Even so, we’re likely to want to can more than we currently do if we lose easy, affordable electricity. Crunch the numbers to make sure we actually have as many as we want/need if we’re counting on bottling garden yields to get us through winter and spring in a crisis.