Sunday, October 5, 2014

Home Canning and Preserving

It's October and up here in Canada, that's canning season for all that garden produce you've harvested from the garden before the frost hit, or managed to hide under old blankets and such to prolong the growing season. You've probably canned all the fruit as it came in, and frozen the corn, peas, and beans, but there's still the carrots, leeks, beets, and other root vegetables, and all those tomatoes you've tucked away to ripen between layers of newspapers.

This wonderful poster on food preservation has this notation: World War I-era poster shows Uncle Sam pouring out a cornucopia full of fruit and vegetables. Jars of preserve stand in the foreground. Published by Geo. P. Thomas, N.Y.; Artist: Housh, ca. 1917-1919.

1917-1919 Preserving Poster, courtesy of WikiCommons

As you can see in the above poster, there was a variety of jars to choose, from jelly jars to zinc lidded, and from narrow to wide-mouthed. Here are some jars I found online at the McCord Museum of Montreal...

Preserving jar | | M992.6.234.1-2
Preserving jar, North American Glass Co. 1883-1891, 
M992.6.234.1-2 © McCord Museum

Preserving jar | | M965.19.2.1-3
Preserving jar, Dominion Glass Company
1897-1900, M965.19.2.1-3 © McCord Museum

Preserving jar | | M992.6.253.1-3
Preserving jar, Diamond Glass Company
1891-1902, M992.6.253.1-3 © McCord Museum

Although you can't see it, the above jars have 3-piece lids made from these components:

  • a  rubber ring placed on the top ridge of the jar opening
  • a thick glass insert placed over the rubber ring
  • the zinc screw band you see in the photos

The jars were closed, but not too tight as the sealing process needed room for air to escape in order to avoid food spoilage.

I recently acquired a 6.5 inch x 10 inch  51-page booklet published as a revised edition in 1921 by Margaret Macfarlane under the authority of the Dominion of Canada Department of Agriculture. Each of the ten Canadian provinces contained an Experimental Farm where they would test horticulture products to see which grew best for their soil conditions, climate, etc.

Cover, 1921 edition Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables for Home Use,
Bulletin No. 93 Dominion Experimental Farms

This particular booklet contains information and recipes based on food preservation testing in 1917, 1918, and 1919. Unlike today where recipes specify exact cooking and sealing times for safety reasons, this booklet shows, "the different methods tried so as to impress on those who are about to preserve fruit and vegetables the necessity of adopting the best methods."

Page 4, 1921 edition Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables for Home Use,
Bulletin No. 93 Dominion Experimental Farms

You know those old copper boilers you always see coming up at the farm and estate auctions? The dented ones that rarely have the oval lid? Well, that's what they used as a water bath canner, as shown in the following photos:

Page 13, 1921 edition Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables for Home Use,
Bulletin No. 93 Dominion Experimental Farms

Note the photo on the top right where she's placing the jars upside down... it took a lot of nerve for me to do that before I understood the sealing process of the water bath canner. Of course, some foods like meat and meat sauces must be sealed via the pressure canner like in the bottom right pic, but since I was always scared it would blow up on me, I only took that route when my husband was there to run that particular piece of preserving equipment.

If you're researching post-WW1 food facts, this booklet would be a great asset as it not only gives the best method of preservation, including 3 drying methods, but it also shows how long sealed jars last when canned under certain conditions. You may be someone who likes looking at rows of colorful jars, but is the food inside safe?

Page 24, 1921 edition Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables for Home Use,
Bulletin No. 93 Dominion Experimental Farms

You often see the pint jars in the above photo as made with blue glass and are quite the collector's items now. Although I'm a sucker for blue glass, I wouldn't use one of these jars for actual food preservation as I'd be too worried about breakage. I'd rather show them off beside the old copper boiler, albeit dented and blackened from use and age.

Finally, since it's October and the pumpkins are appearing in the markets and roadside stands, here's one page of the above booklet showing recipes for Sauerkraut, Pumpkin Chips, Marmalade, and Green Tomato Mince Meat:

Page 16, 1921 edition Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables for Home Use,
Bulletin No. 93 Dominion Experimental Farms
If you started at the top of the page and are wondering what method they're talking about for the Sauerkraut, the previous page says it's the Fermentation in Brine Method.

If you're interested, I have a similar recipe for Green Tomato Mincemeat on my recipe blog which uses different portions and thus makes a smaller batch requiring only requires 2 hrs to cook. When Christmas comes, I open a jar, spoon out the mincemeat into store-bought frozen tart shells, and pop them into the oven. No suet, no fuss, good eating.

So, what are your canning or preserving memories? Do you or does someone in your family preserve food in this manner? Do you have something you'd like to share on this topic? Pull up a keyboard and I'll pull up a chair. :)


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer Tales of Faith and Family, Guideposts Books, October 2013, and a 2nd short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, is published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at


  1. My maternal grandma grew her own grapes, boysenberries, raspberries and strawberries, then she made her own jams and jellies. We would take pomegranates off our tree to her and she would make pomegranate jelly which was awesome! She also made her own relish.

    We have a lady in church who grows everything you can think of in her garden and then cans them. She also puts up pickles every year and she always shares everything with the pastor and his wife (that would be my husband and me).

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    1. Cindy, what a blessing to receive the fruits of labor from someone in your church. It makes the food that much tastier when you know the effort involved.

      As for your grandma, that must've been a great smelling kitchen. I've had pomegranate, but never in a jam/jelly form, and I don't believe I've had boysenberries in any form. However, my Finnish grandparents introduced us to Lingon berries and that's what I have on my toast whenever I'm visiting my mom.

      Thanks for sharing with us today, Cindy. :)

  2. I've always had a fear of the canner/pressure cooker.. My mother blew the top of one once & what a mess! Thankfully no one was in the area at the time... I do like to make jellies & jams . . no canner :) I have seen many of these jars. Interesting today.. d_stevens310 (at) outlook .com

    1. Deanna, it sounds like a good video for AFV but I would've been bawling if it had happened to me.
      Thanks for sharing.

      Sorry I'm so late answering. I had tech trouble on the 5th and then forgot to come back and check due to all the social media promotion of the Christmas Cheer books.

  3. My grandmother made jams and jellies and preserves, but since we lived in the city, we had no garden. After I married and visited my husband's family in Arkansas, the myriad colors of the jars of canned vegetables fascinated me. I did learn to make jelly and preserves from my grandmother, but I no longer make them. I do have a collection of Mason and Ball jars that I use for various other things now in my cooking. Thanks for a very interesting post.

    1. You're welcome, Martha. And sorry for the late reply. I know that people say you can garden in the city, but I've lived in urban and rural places and I always found the former a frustrating gardening experience. Probably because I always had a big garden because I liked growing not only a variety of veggies, but actual different varieties of those veggies.

      It's nice to know that the jars are being recycled. :)

  4. I canned over 600 quarts a year for my family of eight. Many happy memories were made as we all chipped in to help preserve our food supply for the long Maine winters! We still have an applesauce canning tradition as well as jelly. I also collect old canning jars!

    1. 600 quarts? Goodness, Lisa, wherever did you store it all? And how many days vacation did you take when canning season was over?

      Yeah, I know... there was no time for rest when there's a family of eight. Kudos to you for calling it happy memories. It reminds me that although I didn't like doing dishes, some of the best conversations I had with my mom and sister happened while we were cleaning the kitchen.

      I appreciate you sharing your memories with us. :)