The 5 main disadvantages of home canning
There are many good reasons to preserve food through home canning. In fact, the list is quite long, but it also has a number of disadvantages. As many tend to focus on the benefits of canning food for future use, it is equally important to be aware of some of the disadvantages associated with processing fruits and vegetables for home use.
Probably the biggest downside to home canning is the time it takes. The amount of time one must invest in this may be too great for beginners. For example, time must be spent selecting what to process. If you have a garden, you will need time to harvest the crop you want to keep. If you don’t have a garden, you will spend time buying and collecting produce from other sources. That’s before you start the actual canning.
Then there’s the time spent preparing food for canning at home, plus setting up the equipment needed to process the food. This includes cleaning and sterilizing holding equipment, as well as cleaning, peeling, and any other necessary food preparation prior to canning. There is also the time spent processing (canning) the food, allowing it to cool and seal and all the cleanup chores. 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 list of canning supplies that have been created specifically for food processing. This includes everything from large canners (for boiling water) and pressure canners to racks, straps, measuring tools, pH testing tools, temperature gauges, and recipe books. Additional equipment required will range from jars and sealers to lids, plugs, labels, and more.
The foods you intend to process are also part of the supplies you will need for preservation. Depending on your recipe, this will also call for pectin, sugar or pickling spices, herbs, and salt. All of these items will also take up space, so you’ll want to have a large enough area to store all the gear you’ll be using with easy access to the parts you’ll use most often. The best part is that most of your large supplies can be used over and over again with other supplies, like jars, that require regular replacement.
It’s appropriate to add to this list of downsides to home canning the cost of all the supplies you’ll need. The items listed above will require a good chunk of change to pay for, but there’s a silver lining buried here. For canneries and many of the larger pieces of equipment, you only have to buy them once. Other smaller items such as pH test paper, jars, lids, caps, labels, and rings will be replaced periodically.
Some items in the home canning process can only be used once and others can be reused multiple times before you need to replace them. The food products you are processing, unless they come from your own garden, will also increase your cost of production. In general, keep in mind that most of your costs will come from the “start-up” phase of buying equipment that you don’t already own or have inherited or been 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 to survive and grow. The canning process removes a large amount of nutrients from the food being processed. This is due to the fact that in order to properly pack fruits or vegetables, a cooking step is required. This cooking step stops the natural enzymatic action that is used to aid in the ripening of these foods. Left alone, enzymes cause fruits and vegetables to overripe and spoil.
When cooked, minerals, water-soluble vitamins, and other nutrients can be removed from the food being prepared. They then end up staying in the boiling water that is eventually poured down the drain. By comparison, canned fruits and vegetables contain far fewer vitamins and minerals than fresh ones. On average, they lose up to 65 percent of these essential items when they are canned.
Potential health risk
Okay, so you’ve got the recipe(s) you love, all the home canning supplies and equipment you need, foods to process, and now we’re talking about health risks. Well, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re preserving food for yourself, family, friends, or getting into the business of selling home canned goods. The health risk comes from contamination. This can occur at any level of the home cannery and must be monitored.
The contamination results from acid levels in canned fruits and vegetables. Do you remember seeing the pH test strips listed above as canning equipment? The reason we included that was to keep you aware of the fact that you will need to frequently test for proper pH levels. Various forms of bacteria do not survive the heated canning process as long as the salt and acid levels are correct. To be safe, follow only proven recipes and study what pH levels are safe for the specific foods 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 takes quite a bit 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 food preservation can seem like an intimidating undertaking for anyone. As stated above, the pros far outweigh the cons. It is only up to you whether or not you are prepared to become a home canning expert or not.