Heritage Preserving

Traditional preservation does not actually include canning, but we have included it here, because of the value for preserving seasonal harvests in a simple to use manner.

  • We DRY a lot of foods. This is probably the most common traditional preservation method, being used for fruits, vegetables, and meats, and naturally occurring with grains, nuts, and legumes. We don't freeze dry, it is neither economical, nor efficient, and we simply do not have the time or money to fuss with it.
  • We FREEZE a lot of foods. Also a traditional method, freezing was used by northern civilizations to store some foods through the winter.
  • We COOL STORE some foods. The traditional is a root cellar. We use a basement, or a refrigerator, and sometimes a front or back porch area. Appropriate for potatoes, apples, cabbages, squash, onions, and other similar crops, and for smoked or cured meats.
  • We CURE, PICKLE, or CULTURE some foods. Traditionally this is why we have pickles, kraut, cheese, ham, sausage, and other foods that are treated with salt or aged in a way that encourages beneficial microbial growth.
  • We SMOKE some foods, in combination with drying or curing. Another longstanding traditional preservation method.
  • We DO SOME oil or fat pack foods, but are careful about what we do, because some either do not store long enough to be worth the trouble, or they have too high a risk of deadly peripheral contamination to be worth it.
  • We CAN many foods, a lot of them pressure canned, for quick fix, grab and go meals, and to make some meats more digestible (production breed meats are hard for me to digest unless the proteins are changed by cooking processes, and high heat is one thing that works). We are careful about methods used, and pay attention to nutrient loss. We use MANY "not recommended" methods, because our experiences have taught us that the government is not the only, or even the best, arbiter of safety where food is concerned! We use recommendations from around the world, and we learn the science, and figure out WHY things are tricky, and then develop methods for compensating. Our food is good, it is safe, and it is a huge benefit to us every day.

People have been preserving and storing food for as long as they have been eating food. Healthy food preservation is part skill, and part art, but once you get going on it, it really ISN'T all that hard!

Black Forest Loin Ham (Dry Cured)

  • 2-3 lb chunk of boneless pork loin (can sub beef, venison, mutton or other for "dried beef" style, as long as it is the loin so the size and thickness are right for this recipe)
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup sugar or maple sugar
  • 1 tbsp Morton tenderquick
  • 1 tbsp ground juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground coriander or few shakes of nutmeg

Mix the salt, sugar and seasonings together.

Rub with mixture, make sure surface is heavily salted (as much as will stick to it), and get the salt into any cuts or pockets - actually all I do is sprinkle it on using a spoon.

Put into a zip bag.

Refridgerate for 5 days, flipping once a day, draining and resalting as needed (if you can no longer see a good coating of salt crystals on the surface, then re-salt - I resalted about every other day).

Scrape off salt (you can leave some herb bits on the surface, just no salt clumps), and refridgerate overnight OUT of the bag (I did it with a rack on a cookie sheet, and the hams set on the rack), and then either cold smoke, or apply liquid smoke wash and then let dry overnight again in fridge (omit this if you cold smoke it). (You may also use smoked salt in the initial curing process, at a rate of 1/4 cup of smoked salt per cup of regular salt.)

(Cold smoke if you have a smoker. Traditionally smoked with pine wood.)

Apply melted fat casing (brush on melted lard, or coconut oil). Let harden. Wrap in fabric to keep bugs off then hang. (Some people don't bother wrapping it, it depends on the risks in your home and region. I wrap in old t-shirt fabric, and then hang in a net bag which I crocheted out of white bedspread weight cotton, but pillowcases are also popular.)

Hang for 2 weeks (big hams hang far longer, this is a thin loin ham, so it is fast).

(Cure times lengthen with larger hams, and smoke and hang times are also longer.)

Don't Bother Buying a Waterbath Canner

The ONLY canner you need, is a pressure canner. It does it all.

Most people buy a waterbath canner, learn to can in that, and then buy a pressure canner. But you really don't NEED a waterbath canner if you have a pressure canner.

You can waterbath jars in a pressure canner, the same as you can in a waterbath canner, if you like. If you want to save time, you can use the pressure canner as a steam canner, and your life just got a whole lot simpler!

Ok, so a pressure canner costs a bit more, but it is worth paying the extra, to save money long term (if you are able).

When you choose a pressure canner, get one that allows you to stack jars, if you can afford it. Something as large as an All American 30 or 41 quart canner is HEAVY, and BIG, and presents problems of its own, so make sure you research well before you get something that big, make sure you can lift it, and the stove can handle it, etc.

I recommend a Presto 23 qt. It is a roomy canner, very easy to use (easier to use than an All American), and has a good manual (save you the price of the Ball canning book since it has reprints from it). There are many other canners of this size also, and it is a nice size to work with. You can stack pints and smaller, but not quarts.

You DON'T have to have the canner filled to run a cycle. You can run partial loads, and it is faster to do, because it takes less time to heat up and cool down, so it won't waste energy to do so. Ends up about the same running a partial load in a large canner, as it does to run a full load in a small canner.

You can STACK jars if you are using the canner as a steam canner, or pressure canner. You really CAN'T stack jars in most waterbath canners, the water just has to be too deep.

Skip the waterbath canner, just get a good Pressure Canner, and learn to can according to your comfort level. It is a great skill to learn!

I Do NOT Need an All American Canner

I would never buy an AA, nor would I recommend one. Funny, because three years ago, it was on my want list!

My mother had one, and I used it when I was younger, and I HATED pressure canning, it was so fussy and demanding. I thought it HAD to be that way. Imagine my surprise to learn that it doesn't.

I bought a Presto 23 qt. It has changed my opinion of pressure canners, irrevocably. It is so easy to use that it has opened a doorway for me, and I don't dread canning low acid foods. It is the only canner I own - I use it instead of a waterbath canner also (I steam can with it). I never put it away, it gets used so often.

Seven reasons I won't buy an AA:

1. I cannot justify the cost. I have a Presto, 23 qt. It does everything I need, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I use it for WB, and Pressure canning. I use it on average a couple of times a week for one or the other. The cost of it is so much lower (about 1/4 the cost), and the quality is excellent. If my Presto canner gets damaged, replacement isn't going to wipe me out either!

2. An AA is just too heavy. The only advantage an AA has is that some models can have a larger capacity, but the larger capacity AA is so heavy loaded I cannot move it, even to slide it across the stove. I can move the Presto, and it is about as heavy as I can move. The AA is also so large that I would feel guilty doing smaller batches, don't feel that way with the Presto. My mother's AA was so heavy loaded that it damaged the burner on the stove. The largest AA is also tall enough that it will not easily fit under all stove hoods.

3. I live in a rental with a glass stove. The Presto is made for glass stoves. It has a drop plate in the bottom so the contact surface of the bottom of the canner does not overlap the burner edges. The AA is flat bottomed, and traps the heat on the burner, which can cause overheating and cracking in the stove top (theoretically - there are warnings about it).

4. The Presto has a gasket. If the gasket wears, I can replace it. The AA has a metal to metal seal, and it needs to be handled carefully to avoid denting the edges. If the sealing edges on the AA are dented significantly the canner is ruined. You can't repair it, and you can't replace a part to salvage it. You can replace the lid, but it costs as much as a Presto canner to do so. If you are worried about a damaged gasket interrupting your canning, just keep a spare on hand.

5. The AA has a gauge, and no weights, so you have to watch the thing through the whole cycle. The Presto has a gauge and a weight, and you can get a three piece weight for it if you need pressures other than 15 lbs (comes with a 15 lb weight, I'm at high altitude, so I'm good). I can HEAR this canner from any room in the upstairs of the house. I can hear when it starts to steam, the safety latch pops up - time to put on the weight. I drop the weight on, and then go back to my other work. When it is up to pressure, the weight starts rocking and makes a different noise, and I know it is right. I turn the heat down (I've learned just where to turn it), and set the timer. I can HEAR whether the pressure is steady or not, and if it starts to drop, or goes too high, I hear it. I NEVER have to sit and babysit a canner. It just works SOOOO easy.

6. If I end up needing larger capacity, I'll simply buy a second Presto canner. It is far more flexible than one huge one, and even with two, I'm still at only half the price of a single AA canner. You don't gain as much time as you'd think with a larger canner, since it takes so much longer to heat up, come up to pressure, and then cool down. I've timed this. Light loads in a large canner work almost the same as it does with a smaller canner - with a single layer of jars, the canner heats up in about 10 minutes, comes to pressure in about 8 minutes, and cools enough to remove the weight in about 15 minutes. With a full double decker of pint jars the same canner takes 20 minutes to heat up, 15 minutes to come up to pressure, and about 35 minutes to cool enough to remove the weight. So bigger canner, longer times involved. Might as well use two canners, and keep them both going for a smoother work load.

7. I never spend time fussing with getting the lid to seal with the Presto. AA metal to metal seal is fussier to get seated right, and to get an airtight bond. A rubber gasket just does the job more easily. To seal an AA, you have to get the lid level (not always easy to see), and tighten down the toggle bolts on opposite sides, and then proceed around the canner, one side, then the other. If it is not level to start, you will get steam escaping the edges, and you have to cool the canner, release the lid, and start over. A small annoyance. But one that just NEVER happens with canners that have gaskets! You just put the lid on and twist, and you are done!

I use this canner for waterbath canning also, except I use it as a steam canner for that. How to use a pressure canner as a steam canner.

Funny thing is, the only pressure canners I'd ever used were my mother's old Maid of Honor (an old Presto that was branded for Sears), and my mother's new AA. Both had gauges you had to watch. I was leery of a canner with a weight, silly me. So I had the AA on my list of "someday I really want".

I had decided that even though it was a hassle and I hated it, I needed to can meats. Growing your own, you just need to be able to preserve it in many ways. I simply RESIGNED myself to what I thought was the inevitability of watching a canner to ensure that the pressure stayed level for two hours at a time! (Time including coming up to heat, and coming up to pressure, and the meat cycle for quarts.)

I bought the Presto simply because I could not AFFORD an AA, and the Presto was the biggest canner with a gauge that I could afford at the time, and the AA is now permanently OFF my want list.

Best purchase EVER.

That canner has been the most amazing blessing to us. Three deer this year (one Kevin shot, and two were given to us, one wrapped, one not yet skinned), and most of the meat is going into jars. I did bone broth from the bones of the first one (won't from this current one, it is too gamey), and made soup and chili.

Last year my sister gave us extra garden produce and a lot of apples. This year I have a lot of squash, and had quite a bit of garden produce from various sources. It is either dehydrated, or canned, depending on what it is. I now have a storage room with a healthy food storage, where 2 years ago we had no food storage at all (long story, this was NOT usual for us), and the vast majority is home canned.

And all of the canning done when I was not even in the room while the canner did its thing. I put it on the burner, leave the room, and listen for the latch to pop so I can put the weight on. Then I ditch out again and just listen for the weight to start rocking so I can set the timer. Adjust the heat, leave the room and wait for the timer to go off. Turn off the burner, and walk away until the latch drops. My ears can monitor the whole process from another room in the house. I never thought it could be that easy!

For many years I could not handle canned foods, but I've healed enough that I can now, and canning has helped me avoid many processed foods, replacing them with my own quick meals in jars. Some meats I can digest better when pressure cooked, and I handle beans best when they are well cooked under high heat.

The Presto 23qt canner has taken pressure canning from a dreaded task for me, to something simple enough to use on a regular basis, throughout most of the year.


I was rather shocked to hear of lowering standards for AA canners. While I do not see the justification for the cost, according to the benefit for myself and the majority of home canners, I had no cause to believe that their quality was declining.

This article explains a situation I had not thought would occur: Buying and All American Canner - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Reducing Liquid Loss in Canning

Some people call this siphoning, but it isn't. Siphoning PULLS liquid. Canning PUSHES liquid. So it isn't siphoning. It is just liquid loss.

Liquid loss can lead to seal failure with foods that are oily, grainy, thickened, or which have small bits of herbs. If any of those things push out under the lid they can cause the lid to pop. This is the number TWO cause of seal failure. The number one cause now is just the lids. Quality has declined, and there are more lids failing.

I have found several factors that affect it, and that overall, you can avoid it about 90% of the time. The other 10%, either things just did not work out due to some unavoidable mistake, or there is just something about that food that is really finicky and you'll always have liquid loss, or the APPEARANCE of liquid loss.

Not all drops in liquid ARE liquid loss.

Some foods will absorb liquid during the canning process, making it appear that liquid was lost, when it was not.

Some foods will swell a bit and rise up above the water line, and the water level will drop, again, making it APPEAR that there was loss when there was not.

REAL liquid loss is pretty much always an air or temperature change issue. And REAL liquid loss means the water in the canner will have some of the liquid from your canning in it, and will usually smell of the food. A significant odor of the food you are canning, in the kitchen, coming out of the canner during processing is a good indicator that some liquid has been lost.

I've tested and observed waterbath canning, pressure canning, and steam canning. I've had liquid loss with all of them, and when I canned like my mother said to can, every jar had some liquid loss, usually quite a lot - about 1" was average for quarts.

Since I've been canning as an adult, I've minimized that, and rarely have issues with it unless something goes wrong.

These are the factors I've isolated that have a strong affect on liquid levels in the jars during or after processing.

1. Fill level. If you overfill, they will lose liquid.

2. Heat up time. This affects it, but not as much as the cool down time. I heat it up a little slower than I could - I don't put the stove on Hi, but on about 7.5.

3. Cold or hot pack heat up time. If I cold pack, or I'm canning jars with cold stuff in them, I heat it on 7, even slower. I've tested this, and it makes a difference in fluid loss.

4. Cool down time. Do it slowly, if you rush it, there is more fluid loss. For pressure canning, or Steam canning, I turn off the burner and leave the canner on it (slower cool down that way), then remove the jiggler (for pressure canning - no jiggler with steam canning) when the pressure is down all the way. I then remove the lid and set it at an angle on top so the steam comes out, for about 5 minutes (no sudden air temp change on the jars), and then take the lid off and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes, and then remove the jars from the canner. For waterbath canning, never remove the jars when the water is still boiling. Cool it down some before you take them out. This ONE factor affects the liquid levels more than any other factor!

5. Overall canning time. The longer it is canned, the more likely it is to lose fluid due to boiling in the jar.

6. Residual air in jar or dryish foods. Some foods trap air between the pieces, so releasing that is important before you can up the food. Air expands more than water, so it pushes water out when it does. Some foods also are more porous and have more air in them to begin with. Peaches do that, so do apples, especially if they are older. Potatoes will absorb water during canning if you raw pack older potatoes that are not in prime condition (soak them in cold water for 2 hours before you pack them to avoid this).

You may never eliminate fluid loss entirely, but you can reduce it significantly with a little care.


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