Sunday, February 18 , 2018, 2:47 pm | A Few Clouds 62º


David Bacon

Captain’s Log: The Lost Food-Security Art of Canning

Going back just one generation, my people came from the mountains and they came from the farms. It has really only been in my generation’s time when going to the store was the common way to get food.

Most food was hunted, bred and raised or grown. Much family work was centered on making food and storing it for the winter season.

The art of canning food was prevalent. Many families took great pride in their ability to make canned food wholesome and tasty.

It was food security, disaster planning and culturally important enough to have community contests for home-canned goods as well as the best tasting pie or barbecued ribs.

Fruit trees and vegetable gardens were the source of the majority of family meals other than meats, which also were raised by families.

An elderly lady lived next door to me when I was a kid, and she had fruit trees and a vegetable garden. She hired me and my BB gun to keep the birds out of her fruit trees.

She didn't have much money, so she paid me (and my family) by giving us canned fruit, jams, jellies and fresh vegetables.

I remember vividly that I'd much rather open one of her cans of jam than a jar of Smuckers from the grocery store (with apologies and no harm intended to Smuckers). There was no comparison in fruit flavor, texture and nutritional value.

City people with some space grew fruit trees and planted vegetables. Those with less space found spots where they could pick fruit (some orchards allow that, perhaps charging for the fruit) to take home and can.

They also found ways to depend less on grocery stores and make their dollars stretch farther.

Canning such items as fish was common and provided tasty protein through the winter.

Subsistence fishing on our local piers produces much of the protein needs for many families. Goleta Pier is one of the best because parking is free and no fishing license is needed on a pier.

Now it seems canning and food storage are done only by people who consider it a hobby because the taste and nutritional value are so good, and also by folks interested in food security for doomsday.

The art of canning seems nearly lost now among low-income people who can most benefit from it, and who have typically benefitted from it in past generations.

With a minimal investment in mason jars and the right makings, a family can have much greater food security and perhaps make some for market to earn income or barter for those staples that aren’t feasible to make or grow.

I know I would happily pay a price for a jar of those yummy jams and jellies the old lady next door, or my aunts, uncles and grandparents made when I was a kid.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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