Meatless Diet, Open Kettle Canning, and Other Wisdom From Helen and Scott Nearing

In this installment of their regular column, Helen and Scott Nearing discuss their preference for the open kettle canning method, what advice to give children about meatless diets, and several other topics.

| November/December 1981

  • 072 Scott Nearing
    Scott Nearing (seated here with a visitor) was a vegetarian and encouraged parents who shared that orientation to teach their children the value of a meatless diet. 

  • 072 Scott Nearing

The following are questions readers submitted to Helen and Scott Nearing in their regular column on homesteading.  

Q: Help please! How would you—being vegetarians—teach a youngster that a meatless diet is best, without causing him or her to lose faith in a schoolteacher who's instructing the class about the four basic food groups? 

A:  Which would you prefer: that your child have confidence in you and your chosen lifestyle, or in his or her schoolteacher, a person who may be pushing a way of thinking that represents values opposed to those you're trying to teach? All you can do is show  your children the best way you know how to live, share that life with them, teach them to be considerate of every living thing ... and let them educate the teacher, if that's necessary.

Q: In Continuing the Good Life you mention the open-kettle canning of a tomato, celery, and onion mixture. All of the food preservation books that I've come across say that such a concoction should be put up by the pressure-canning method in order to avoid any possibility of botulism contamination. What are your comments on this?  

A: We never pressure-can our homegrown food. For 40 years, Helen has put up hundreds of bottles of fruits and vegetables by the open-kettle method (which is by far the simplest way to can), and we've had no problems with food poisoning. Occasionally, of course (in perhaps one of a hundred jars), the contents will spoil because of inadequate closure, caused by a bad rubber seal or a cracked glass cover. The lids of such imperfect jars pop up to indicate the spoilage, and we dispose of the contents. However, it's very important to remember that the vegetables we can by the open-kettle method are always highly acidic. Low-acid foods, such as beans and corn, would require the high heat of pressure canning. Those foods we either freeze or dry. 

 Q: I'm interested in working with you next summer. You've previously mentioned that you see visitors from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. daily, but I'd like to know whether you ever take anyone on for a longer period of time, perhaps for a month or two, as part of an informal apprenticeship program?  

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