(PCM) Are the short, cold days of winter getting you down? Do you find yourself craving a taste of summer? Wish you could take a big, juicy bite of sunshine? Well, guess what? You can.
February is National Canned Food Month, for good reason. If you live in a cold-weather region, there isn’t much in the way of local, in-season produce right now. What better time to showcase the wonders of canned foods? Here are just a few:
• Cost! Canning is an inexpensive method of preserving foods at the peak of freshness. Canned foods are often cheaper than grocery store produce that’s been shipped cross country (or over oceans) – and more appetizing than food that has wilted in trucks and storerooms for days (or weeks).
• Canned foods are generally as healthy as fresh – sometimes more so , because the canning process concentrates the good stuff. You can maximize the nutritional benefit by choosing brands without added sugars, salts, or preservatives, and/or rinsing off preserving liquids before use.
• Convenience! Since they don’t need to be peeled, pitted, or prepped much, canned foods can save you time in the kitchen. They have a long shelf-life (1-2 years for most fruits and vegetables, even longer for meats), meaning you can access top-quality ingredients whenever you need them. When you don’t need them, they’re compact and stackable and look nifty on your pantry shelf. (They’re also easily transported and fit nicely in food baskets and barrels set aside for the less fortunate.)
• Variety. In addition to fresh fruits, veggies, and tuna, you could feed a family for months on canned food alone – you know, if you were hunkered in a bunker or something. Nuclear winter aside, it’s just good household business to stock up on quick meals and must-haves; think soup, broth, beans, poultry, cured ham, curries, juices, gravy, sauces, chutneys, pickled anythings…
• Cans (almost invariably made from steel) are fabulously energy efficient and sustainable; steel can be recycled without any degradation to the material. According to industry research, more than 67 million cans per day are recycled by American steel companies.
• You too can can! As many a grandmother will tell you, canning is a rewarding do-it-yourself project: save money and savor the satisfaction of your summer harvest with just a small investment in supplies and time. There are many how-to resources for home canning available online or in bookstores, though chances are you know someone whose shelves are lined with their own handiwork. Ask around!
• Whether store-bought or home-wrought, canned food is safe as long as you keep some guidelines in mind. Stow your cans in a cool, clean place away from humidity or extremes in temperature (such as over a stove). Do not use cans that are leaky, bulgy or broken, or eat anything stinky or funky. Abide by expiration dates and follow instructions to a tee if canning from home.
Don’t settle for iffy produce or give yourself scurvy waiting for garden season to roll around: get yourself a can opener and celebrate National Canned Food month today!