Labor Day is a reminder that it’s that time of year here in the South—people start getting ready to plant their fall crops and preparing for hunting season. Depending on where you live, this preparation may take place sooner or later in the year. The important thing is…that it takes place!
Now that you’ve got a lull in the summer harvest, this is a good time to take your pressure canner and go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Look for pits on the inside and outside of the pot that could compromise the structural integrity of the canner. Any weak spot in the wall of the canner can cause a potential failure in the metal when put under pressure, and a resultant injury if it comes apart during the canning process.
Take the pressure gauge to your local extension office and get them to test it for accuracy. If the thing has seen its better day, now is the time to get a new one. They run anywhere from $12 to $20 online, and usually you can get one from your local hardware store. An accurate pressure gauge is a key to canning successfully.
If you have a typical pressure canner, check out the lid gasket and note if it’s time to get a new one. One that fits sloppily or allows steam out of the pressure canner anywhere but at established vents needs to be replaced. There may be a small rubber gasket around your vent as well. These gaskets are relatively cheap, and you should keep a couple of them on hand. Replace any that have seen their better day.
Now is also the time to take advantage of the end-of-season sales going on at stores all over the country. For some reason, retailers seem to think that canning season ends after the summer harvest, and they discount everything to clear out their inventories. This is the time to stock up on jars, lids, rings, tools and supplies. Even if you don’t plant a fall crop, stocking up on canning supplies while there’s a sale going on is always a good idea. You can really never have too many jars or lids on hand.
You should seriously consider practicing your canning skills on meat harvested from the hunt this year. In my area, deer, rabbit, squirrel and young feral pigs are all fair game for getting stuffed in a jar! There are plenty of recipes that use chunk meat, and canning a rabbit (yes, bones and all!) makes it easy to pull a jar from the shelf, pull the meat off the bone, and whip up a quick meal of gravy and meat with biscuits. I like the ability to prepare a meal in minutes compared to hours the “conventional” way!
And don’t think that chunk meat is the only way to can either. Practice canning your venison patty sausage this year. Form your patties, pre-cook them, then stuff them into jars. Pour the jars no more than 2/3 of the way full with the grease from the patties (you can use less), then pressure can them at about 10 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes in pint jars and 90 minutes in quarts. You can also can crumbled sausage the same way, and have instant meat for pizzas, spaghetti, or soups.
While it may seem easier to put your greens, fall crops and meat in the freezer, training yourself to go off grid means training yourself to look at ways to preserve food without having to depend on the modern convenience of electricity. Should you be hit with a power outage for any reason, then spoiled food won’t be one of your concerns, and you can concentrate on more immediate issues.
If you’re new to the prepper community and want to learn how to can foods, then Solutions From Science’s Food Storage Secrets DVD set is an invaluable tool to help you get started. Go to www.foodshortageusa.com to order your copy.