There is a blog called "Thoughts From Frank and Fern" that I regularly read. If you don't, you should. They are a wealth of information on homestead related subjects as well as communications. Fern just posted a question to her readers concerning sustainable gardening. She wanted to know what folks would do with their gardens if they knew that a catastrophic event was just around the corner. You can read the article here. I'll wait.
Now Fern's article got me to thinking. There are many of us who, for a myriad of reasons, can not garden. In my case, health issues prevent that activity. And I live in a small apartment in the burbs, surrounded by concrete and asphalt. The very best I can do to grow food are buckets of tomatoes on the communal deck of my building and herbs in pots on my windowsills. That's not going to go very far to keep me alive for a year. So I have come up with a few solutions to the problem that might give others in the same circumstances an idea or two.
If you can afford to invest in a pressure canner, jars and lids, do so. I realize that the initial cost can stretch a fixed income budget, but it is well worth it in the long run. Also look into the price of a dehydrator. It should have the ability to set the temperature for various foods. There are blogs and videos out there that tout the wonders of the top of the line canners and dehydrators. They would be nice to own, but not necessary. I have a pressure canner that cost around $60 at Walmart and another that cost a bit more that was a gift from one of my sons. Together they cost less than the top of the line canner, and both work just fine. My two dehydrators are from Fleet Farm and together cost less than half of the top of the line dehydrator, even with the addition of extra trays and plastic mesh liners.
So if you don't have a garden, what do you can, you ask. I'll tell you.
I can meat - hamburger, meatballs, beef roast, beef cubes, pork roast, pork cubes, ham cubes, chicken breast chunks, chicken breast cubes, whole chicken thighs, turkey shreds (cooked, removed from the bones and cut into about one-inch pieces), broth from cooking the turkey, bacon, sausage, pepperoni. And if I am lucky enough to have a hunter in the family who gets a deer, I can venison. All but the venison are purchased on sale at the grocery. I freeze enough sale meat for about two weeks of meals and can the rest. Should I lose electricity for a length of time, I still am able to can up the meat in the freezer before it goes bad. Home canned meat will keep for years if stored in a relatively cool, dark place. And it tastes good. And doesn't get freezer burn.
I can vegetables. The Farmer's Market is my favorite place to find these. I have canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato sauce with green peppers and onions, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, cabbage, sauerkraut, Amish slaw, potato cubes, potato chunks with carrots, potato cubes with peas and carrots, and butternut squash, all from the Farmer's Market. Except the peas.
My local grocery runs an occasional sale on frozen vegetables - usually 10 for $10. When this sale occurs, I stock up as much as possible. Then I can the frozen vegetables. And why would anybody in their right mind can frozen vegetables, you ask? Because they keep longer in jars than in a freezer. Because I can most of them in half-pint jars that are just right for one or two people, and some in pint jars for meals and other uses. And because I can't grow them myself, but I still want jars of canned vegetables on my shelves. And because most of the time it is cheaper to can the frozen vegetables than it is to buy individual cans at the store. At present I have on my shelves from frozen:
Sweet corn, peas, peas and carrots, mixed vegetables and green beans. All taste just like the canned vegetables sold in stores with the exception of the green beans. Those are just a bit softer, but that doesn't bother me although some might not like them.
I can fruit in various forms. The city stores don't seem to carry lugs of fruit for canning, but the outlying farming community stores sometimes do. I have canned both peaches and pears from those stores. We have a number of apple orchards in my area. Most are tourist trap places where there are pony rides and camel rides and those inflated bouncy things for the kids and restaurants and gift shops that sell everything apple related and oh, yeah, you can pick your own apples at highly inflated prices. I no longer go to those places. There are a few smaller orchards that sell bushels of apples for cheap, if you don't care that each apple isn't the perfect size or the perfect color or it has a blemish on the skin. I don't care. I'm going to peel them and cut them up and make something from them. As long as the quality of the apples are good inside the skin, I don't worry about appearances. I'm kind of that way with people, too. Anyway I make and can applesauce and apple pie filling, mostly. If have made apple jam and may try some apple butter this fall. I also make jam and jelly out of whatever fruit I can find. And I get cases of cranberries from the Farmers Market that are used for cranberry juice and cranberry sauce.
I think we all like homemade soup. This can be successfully canned as well. I make turkey vegetable, ham and bean, split pea and ham, vegetable soup and chili. All are great when you just want a quick meal. Just open a jar, add a pint of meat if you want, heat it up and dinner is served. I also keep canned Great Northern beans on my shelves. That is sort of like a convenience food because I don't need to soak the beans overnight or wait a length of time for them to cook. They are cooked and ready to use right from the jar. I may can a few other varieties of beans just to have on hand for quick meals.
This post is already too long, so I will talk about dehydrating tomorrow. There are many other foods that people home can, according to their own families' likes and dislikes. What I have listed are the basics that are on my shelves. I tend to can ingredients except for the soups and then put dishes together at the cooking stage of things. Works better for me that way. And this post is not intended to be a brag fest about my canning abilities. It is all about putting an idea or two out there with the hope that someone else in my position - retired, living on a fixed income and being an apartment dweller - may find this helpful.
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