Lately more people seem to be making and packaging their own products and then giving them away as gifts or selling them at farmers’ markets. Every December, my husband and I are the delighted recipients of scrumptious homemade jams and jellies prepared by our Alaskan cousins. (Brian and Pam, keep them coming!) We’re also seeing a lot of home grown gardens, buying food locally and share buying fresh product from local cooperatives. It only make sense that another trend gaining great speed is home canning.
I thought I’d highlight some of the advantages and disadvantages of canned foods for the consumer. My hope is to help you to provide a good introduction for your students on home canning. My next blog will focus on home canning that can be done in the FACS classroom and home.
Canned food products provide the opportunity to store foods for a longer period of time. This is done by removing excess oxygen and also by destroying bacteria and preventing its growth through heating or chemical reactions. This provides the consumer with a wider variety of accessible food choices and of nutrients throughout the year.
Canned food that is typically done shortly after it’s picked so the nutrition value and quality of the food is higher. Fresh food that is stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature for a few days continues to lose nutritional value and quality. Canned foods also make it convenient to have food products on hand that are quick and easy to use and store. The manufacturer or gift giver has already done all of the food preparation and cooking work for you. Canned foods that need to be heated at home are quick to prepare in the microwave or stove top. The consumer can also shop for food and purchase larger quantities when they are on sale, in and out of season, helping them to save money and to manage their food budget and menu planning.
One drawback to buying canned foods is that unless the food is preserved in clear jars, you are unable to see what you are getting. When shopping for fresh foods, your senses can help detect the freshness and the quality of the product. An exhilarating experience to a foodie like me!
Many times canned food products whether they are a name brand, store brand or generic brand may all be produced in the same manufacturing plant. It can be hard to tell between the quality and the value of each product. Sometimes the generic option is the better monetary value and sometimes it isn’t, as the best or highest grade of the produce may go into the name brand containers. The consumer can determine the results by trial and error. Personally, I have found that generic green beans are stringier, smaller and have more ends of the pod attached, so I always pick the name brand now.
Another concern regarding canned products that is now thankfully being addressed by today’s manufacturers is the amount of added sugar or sodium that has been added to the product. A savvy shopper can use the food label to look for indicators of reduced sugar and salt, but seeing words such as packed in its own juices, no added sugar, reduced sodium, etc. can let you know this is a healthier choice. The shopper can also compare products by looking at the nutrition labels to look for lower amounts of sodium and sugar.
Another health concern is the amounts of dyes, unpronounceable chemicals, or the production in a manufacturing plant that may have allergen products produced on site. Consumers need to look closely at the ingredient list and statements about the allergens such as nuts, dairy, soy and gluten. When canned at home, the home owner is aware of all of the products that are placed in the product and that are used in the home.
Stay tuned for the next blog on home canning! Please comment back if you have anything to add to this information you think FACS teachers will find helpful.