Not everyone has an acre of garden beds producing bushels of produce daily, or pastures for cows, goats, pigs or any other living protein source. Some of use are living in town with barely enough room for a small bed of basil…
Where do we find quality foods to preserve via canning?
Honestly, there are lots of options, depending on your area.
Let’s go from most likely to least likely, according to my area. Keep in mind these may be more or less likely in your area.
Yes, buy your produce or meats. More often than not, when we make strawberry jam, we buy frozen strawberries. They are picked at the peak of ripeness, and can be stored for months if we don’t have time to make jam. We do the same with raspberries, blueberries, and any other fruit we can find frozen.
You can also find meats on sale for preserving via pressure canning. Recently, pork butts were $0.99 per pound…and I missed out on putting up some cubed pork. If I would have known a little sooner, I would have capitalized on that sale, and done several batches.
I’ve been a huge fan of wild edibles since I discovered sassafras and the Foxfire Books. Locally, I have access to mulberries, blackberries, elderberries, grapes, Mangoes, all sorts of citrus, and lots of other fruits growing wild, simply mine for the asking and picking. I should add in wild fish and game to this as well, considering I’ve canned my own mullet that was locally caught.
On this note, be sure to check out Green Deane’s site, along with his YouTube channel. Both are full of good, quality, FREE information. I attend his classes whenever time allows, one of the joy of Florida, we have a 12 month growing season, so a Green Dean Wild Edibles walk in the same park is different every month. Learn your local wild options…..there are some mighty fine free eats growing near YOU.
Local Green Markets and Produce Stands
Whenever I want to dehydrate a large amount of sweet peppers, I usually get them from one particular green grocer. They sort through their produce daily, and anything that is close to going bad get piled up in large baskets for $1 each. I usually buy about $6 worth and get enough for a full batch (15 or so square feet of drying space in my Excalibur), plus some for cooking right away. It is inexpensive, fresh, and at the ultimate peak of ripeness. I could just as easily pressure can them as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most green market toss out items not sell-able at the tend of the day. If you build a relationship, they may be more than happy to set everything aside for you, if you pick it up in a timely manner.
I did this for several months with a local fruit stand, until the poor economy forced them to close. What I didn’t salvage to preserve or simply eat, I either composted or gave to my chickens and rabbits. The animals, the produce stand owners, and I, all made out on the deal! After a couple months of this, I had enough sauerkraut to last a few years!
And lucky for us, our local green market has a vendor every week that sells prepackaged vacuum packed grass fed beef and pork. It has never made it to the pressure canner though – I ate it as soon as I could get it to my grill. But the potential was there!
Big Box Stores
Sams, Costco, BJ’s, Pace, and many others are all over this country, and offer bulk buys on many products. I purchased a full pork loin from Sam’s that I had turned into Canadian Bacon by BlueTang once, no reason I couldn’t have simply cubed it and pressure canned it instead.
I’ve heard about a bulk food distributor that makes bulk deliveries throughout the country. Zaycon Foods offers high quality meats and seasonal fruit fresh from the best farms in America, delivered direct by refrigerated truck and sold in quantity by the case. They offer exceptional wholesale prices, secure online ordering, and convenient local pickup. their products are all from USDA-approved farms.
They are currently on my list of things to do this summer, as they have a local “Bacon Event” in June. They are offering hickory smoked, medium sliced bacon in 36 pound units. That works out to $3.49/lb, not a bad price.
36 pounds of bacon might last me a few weeks….and give me plenty to work with to make more of my Famous Bacon Coffee…
I’d suggest going over to sign up and see what is available in your area. There is no obligation, and they are getting GREAT reviews here locally. They also offer a referral program of $1 credit per order for everyone you refer to them. (In the spirit of full disclosure, if you click any of my link to them and sign up, I will get the credit for your orders.)
Co-Ops and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
More and more often, local farmers are offering space to raise vegetables, or simply offering to deliver “Shares” on a regular basis. They can be a bit pricey, but you tend to get a much higher quality product. Do a search online, or call your local County Extension agent for more information.
The only problem I have with a CSA, at least as far as from a canning perspective, is that you may not get enough of one item to make a batch large enough to be worth the effort.
Grow it Yourself
I have the luxury of having ducks, quail, rabbits, and chickens on my property, along with several raised bed gardens, and multiple fruit trees.
So far, I’ve canned rabbit, lemons, tomatoes, collards, and mango, with plans to can a lot more of those and many more. And yes, the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, has a recipe for pressure canning rabbit. And mango. (They are two separate recipes, in case you were wondering.)
My point in all of this is simply look around, there are LOTS of places with foods you can safely preserve via boiling water bath or pressure canning.
For now, I’d suggest going to the local grocery store, grabbing some jars, a bag of frozen strawberries, a box of pectin, and a bag of sugar…because tomorrow, we are making JAM!
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