Thursday, November 4, 2010
Home Canning in the Tropics
I've been doing some research lately, on home canning. As our family adjusts to our new, rural lifestyle, I've had to figure out what new activities we should incorporate. Canning wasn't something I was certain would be of benefit to us, for several reasons.
First, I figured that people living in the north (not northern Honduras - I mean like in the US and Canada) store foods through canning because they only have appropriate weather for gardening during a small portion of the year. By canning seasonal foods, people in colder climates have a way to save their home-grown produce, or produce purchased at a low price when a certain food is in season, for use during the winter months. Here in the mountains of western Honduras, our climate is fairly consistent all year long. We have months when we receive more or less rain during the year, but our temperatures only range from highs in the mid-90's down to around 40 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course). So, theoretically, the climate in our area should make it possible to grow some vegetables and fruits pretty much year around. Additionally, our family doesn't depend on our own gardening for our food - we currently purchase almost all of our fruits and vegetables. Although we hope to change this, it will be a gradual process, as I learn (likely through a good bit of trial and error) how to successfully garden here. So, I wasn't sure that there was a good reason for me to do any canning at all.
Second, there are costs related to the process of canning. There is the purchase of a pressure canner, jars, and lids, plus the cost of gas or electricity used during the canning process. The amount of time involved also must be factored into the equation. I wasn't sure if these costs would be offset by a significant enough benefit to the family.
The more research I did, however, the more I became convinced that canning foods would be a useful tool in my family's repertoire of cooking skills. Last Christmas I gave myself a canner and a small collection of canning jars as a present. The equipment arrived in our shipping container, along with the Gifts for Gracias donations. It took us months to dig our house out from the arrival of the container, and it wasn't until that was mostly under control that I found the time and motivation to actually start experimenting with canning.
Now that we're in a comparatively quiet time of the year, we've begun. So far, we've canned green beans (14 quarts), chicken in broth (also 14 quarts) and orange sections in light juice (7 pints). It's barely a start, but I have to say that we've found some significant benefits for us, even here in tropical Honduras!
I'll expand on this in the next post.