There is a sense of satisfaction and security that comes from having rows of colorful, gleaming jars of fruits and vegetables on my pantry shelves. As each kind of produce begins to show up at the farmer's market, I recheck my supplies to make sure there are enough lids and jars to accommodate the next round of canning.
A question I have frequently encountered is 'how much home-canned food is enough to feed my family for six to nine months?' This question assumes that for the summer months fresh fruits and vegetables are consumed, while preserved food is used for the other three-quarters of the year. Fresh produce purchased at the grocery store is not a part of this equation.
So, how much does it take to feed a family of four from the home pantry? Carla Emery, author of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, offers practical advice on just about any question you have on raising your own food. In the chapter on 'Food Preservation' is a canner's planning chart. Here are some of her recommendations, including portion size, for a family of four:
Soups: 4/week for 36 weeks, 1 cup serving, 72 quarts
Jams & jellies: 6/week for 52 weeks, 2 tbsp serving, 80 pints
Greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash: 4/week for 36 weeks, half cup serving, 72 quarts
Pickled vegetables: 2/week for 52 weeks, 21/2 tbsp serving, 52 pints
Citrus fruits/juices and tomatoes: 7/week for 36 weeks, 1 cup serving, 252 quarts
All other fruits/veggies: 14/week for 36 weeks, half cup serving, 304 quarts
WOW! Obviously, we are not suggesting that you need to do this much canning to provide for your family. Many people freeze rather than can their fruits and vegetables or store them fresh in a root cellar. But most of us, I bet, are happy to have a few dozen jars of our favorite canned produce in the pantry to get us by until the next fresh-food season.
But if you are serious about self-sufficiency and want to offer the most nutritious and flavorful food to your family, keep these quantities in mind when planning for next years's garden and market purchases.