Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Canning Alternatives for Frazzled Lid Hunter

There has been a shortage of canning lids for purchase this year. Have you noticed? If you didn't stock up earlier and you are an avid home canner, then you likely have done more than noticed the shortage.

First of all, there are reasons for the shortage. The shut-downs in production due to COVID-19 restrictions is the biggest reason. When you must close your factories, how do you produce the product?

Secondly, now that production is back in place, it's difficult to stock up the stores that have back-ordered the lids. 

Thirdly, people are buying up stock as quick as they hit the shelves, seemingly creating more shortages.

The truth is, there is a shortage but not a shortage of canning lids available. Personally, I have noticed an uptick in the cost of the lids locally. Perhaps that isn't the case for you. Ball has them for sale on their website. If you buy in bulk, the price isn't too bad. I don't know how long you have to wait for delivery, though. The canning season is nearly over too.

There are ways to preserve the harvest without canning. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Good old freezing works well and I haven't noticed shortages in freezer bags. If you have a vacuum machine and bags, you will find that your food lasts longer in the deep freeze. I usually don't use too many freezer boxes because they take up more space, but I do use repurposed spaghetti sauce jars to store some things in the freezer (dehydrated herbs and veggies that might not have all of the moisture out of them - more on dehydration following). If you plan to use glass jars in the freezer, it's best to put them on door racks to avoid breakage. 
  • If you don't have freezer space, you can dehydrate vegetables and herbs easily. I have a Cabela's brand dehydrator that I use constantly during the summer and early fall. I dry herbs of all kinds as well as many fruits and veggies. Some of my faves are zucchini chips, cucumber chips, strawberry slices, apple slices (dip in lemon juice first to avoid browning), and cilantro. To  keep your food healthy and full of vitamins, try not to put the heat setting over 110 degrees F. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can always use your oven at the very lowest setting. Check on it often! Place your dehydrated foods in jars or plastic containers with lids. If moisture gets in, your food will begin to rehydrate and then mold, so be sure they are sealed well or placed in the freezer. The advantage of dehydrated foods is mostly that they use up far less storage space than other preserved items. 
  • Root cellars and cold storage works for root crops. I don't have a good place to store squash, potatoes, carrots, and other good candidates, so I use other methods of preserving them. 
  • One way that I like to preserve food, especially when I don't have a ton to put up, is by fermentation. Fermentation uses salt as a preservation tool, as well as the fermentation itself. In a nutshell, fermenting food means that you are allowing the natural enzymes to partially break down the food, making it more digestible. To learn more about fermenting, go to this post by Plantables.
I hope you will find ways to preserve your hard work without solely relying upon canning lids. I have been using all of the above methods (other than cold storage for root crops) and have been very pleased with the end results.

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