This post originally appeared on the Zombie Preparedness Initiative website.
We all need hobbies to take our minds off of the daily grind, and relax. However, there’s no reason these hobbies can’t also help to hone skills needed in the case of the inevitable.
At its heart, canning is about sterilization and food preservation, two things very near and dear to our hearts. The general idea is to heat the food and container to a temperature that will kill any bacteria, and then vacuum seal it to prevent contamination. Canned foods can last up to five years (or even longer in some circumstances), require no refrigeration or electricity, and are self contained in a package suitable for travel.
Low-acid foods, such as meat or vegetables, must be canned in a pressure canner. (Note: a pressure canner is not exactly the same as a pressure cooker!) High-acid foods, such as fruits or pickled vegetables, can be canned in a simple hot water bath. Recipes can be more or less complicated, but this can be as simple as filling a sterilized jar with fruit and sugar water and dropping it in hot water for 15 – 20 minutes.
The equipment for hot water bath canning is easy enough to come by. The hot water bath itself is easily improvised with a large pot and a fire. However, the more difficult part to obtain are mason jars, lids, and rings. Jars and rings are re-useable, but lids are not.
In my experience, small, local hardware stores are surprisingly one of the best places to get canning supplies. Since you will undoubtedly need to raid a hardware store at some point, be sure to stock up on lids. This should be especially easy, since the foolish or short-sighted will probably not be thinking of this long-term item. Jars can be obtained at the same place, but vast, undiscovered caches of jars are living in the basements of old ladies everywhere. Jars can be reused, so you can also start with a few and grow your collection over time. Just be sure that there are no chips or cracks around the edges of the jars, since these will prevent the jar from sealing.
There is a little bit of an art to canning, so it is smart to invest some time now, while you have the luxury. In the long term, you have a relatively sustainable way to preserve the vegetables from your rooftop garden (you are planning on having a rooftop garden, right?) to help sustain you for years to come. And the best part? This is a useful hobby to know in a non-post apocalyptic world: nothing beats homemade jam!
For reference books, I suggest the old standby, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. However, if you’re looking for something a little more modern, I’d recommend Food in Jars or Canning for a New Generation. For an online reference on canning (as well as a literal map on where to head for food when the collapse comes), check out pickyourown.org.
Shane is a programmer and writer who blogs at shanehalbach.com about zombies, bacon, pirates, and his children (not necessarily in that order).