Pandemic revives the dying art of home food preservation

For Peggy Cunningham, 82, canning has been a way of life since she was a child.

She learned to canning from her mother who had a family of eight to support in the 1950s.

“We didn’t have freezers when I was a little girl, so everyone was canning everything,” Cunningham said. “My mother canned a lot of things in half-gallon jars because there were so many of us in the family. We had a lot of things to save for the winter until we could grow another one. garden the following year.”

Cunningham still preserves today because she loves good food and doesn’t believe that store-bought foods are as good as homemade canned foods.

Cunningham, who can make green beans, tomatoes, plum jam, salsa and other products, passed on the canning skills to his children and grandchildren.

For Cunningham, canning season was a little tough last year when supplies like jars and lids were hard to come by with so many people developing an interest in canning.

Cornerstone Homestead cans and sells homemade jams at the market.

Canning, a method of preserving food in jars at high temperatures that dates back to the early 1800s and has fallen out of popularity for some time, has experienced a rapid resurgence with the onset of the pandemic.

Home food preservation, considered by many to be a dying art, can now be seen by many as a means of self-preservation.

The shortage of food on grocery shelves has led some to look for other ways to garden and preserve their harvest to feed themselves and their families.

For others, according to Tracy Robinson of OSU Ext. Office has become a hobby for some as a way to spend time with family during lockdown or quarantine.

Sami Schott, educator, Noble County OSU Extension, who learned canning from her grandmother, thinks the COVID-19 pandemic may be responsible for reviving the dying art of canning.

Sami Schott, educator.  OSU Ext., Noble County, shows some of the tools and instruction manuals used in their canning courses.

Schott thinks the initial popularity dates back to the days of family farms and large families and waned as family sizes declined and ready-to-eat foods increased.

“There are working families now where previous generations had mothers who didn’t work and could take care of all that stuff,” Schott said. “But with the pandemic and everyone being at home, they’re looking for things to do to get the family involved and I think anytime you’re gardening or cooking with canned food, get the whole family involved. That definitely has revived that art that we were beginning to lose.”

The OSU Extension Office has seen an increase in calls from people looking for information about starting canning and with questions about canning supplies.

Schott noted that many calls were questions asking what to use to replace jar lids that were in short supply as more people got into canning. For a time, jars and lids were almost impossible to find in stores.

According to Schott, the National Food Preservation Team through OSU EXT., Consumer and Sciences, held canning webinars last year, and due to their popularity, they hosted another streak year.

Schott said she believes the rise in gardening and canning began with shortages of items in stores and limits on how much can be purchased.

“I think people were a little nervous about where the food was going to go, so everyone started setting up all these gardens and realizing, wow, I’ve got all this now, what should- I do.”

Green beans are one of the most popular and easily stored foods.

According to Schott, some of the popular items people can include, any tomato base like salsa and sauce, potatoes, green beans, and in the fall, venison. Schott said it seems like people are focusing more on the vegetables than on the longer lasting jams and jellies.

Schott cautions against using social media groups for canning tips and instructions and advises making sure the information comes from a credible source such as the USDA, OSU Ext. Office or specialty canning websites such as https://www.freshpreserving.com/canning-guides.html

Additional information about canning and information about the services and courses offered by OSU., External Office can be found at www.go.osu.edu/food-preservation.

This is one of the positive aspects of the pandemic. People were ready to bring these ancient arts back into everyday life,” Schott said. “The pandemic has kind of concretized the feeling that we have to somehow become independent to some degree with all the shortages that have happened in our local grocery stores. “