Canning day is reputedly 23rd October, though to be fair, there is actually no fixed agreement on when it actually is.
Some people celebrate it around the third week of November, just before American Thanksgiving. Some hold it as a benefit at various times, with the canned goods sold off to raise money for a charity.
In actual fact, for most people in the Northern Hemisphere, Canning Day would have been in August, at the height of produce season, as people put down fruit, tomatoes, sauces and other produce.
Farmhouses often had an additional room built onto them, with a whole wall or two being screen windows to let breezes in and steam out. This was called a summer kitchen. It’s where the canning would have been done, with huge blue enamelware canning kettle boiling away on the stove as a water bath to process the jars of tomatoes, pickles and relishes in.
“Canning Day” would start early in the day, with bushels of fruit or vegetables being brought in, and endless peeling and chopping would commence for hours. All the work of the day or days, however, would boil down to one test — did you get a good seal on your jars? You’d listen for the “pop pop” of the lids being drawn in by the vacuum.
With summer kitchens being a thing of the past, some people like to set up an outdoor workstation with a propane outdoor cooker standing in for a stove.
We don’t need to can anymore because freezers do the work for us with less effort. Whenever there’s a blackout, however, we are all reminded that freezers depend on there being cheap, reliable electricity always in our future. Canned goods required no electricity to keep them stored safely.
Canning refers to the heat process of treating the sealed jars, as opposed to the type of container being used. In the UK, and in Australia and in New Zealand, they call it “bottling.”
If you are planning a Canning Day in the late summer, make sure you buy all the jars and lids you need well in advance, as they often tend to sell out.
Low-acid foods such as plain vegetables and meat always require pressure canning; if your pressure canner has a dial-gauge, get it tested for accuracy each year before the canning season starts. A seal alone is no guarantee of safety: it is the processing process that gives the safety.
Home canning is an evolving science, not an art, so this is not one area of food to be “nostalgic” about. Be sure to always use modern, tested recipes from reputable sources such as the USDA, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Ball, Bernardin or your local university extension service. Don’t trust home canning recipes from Internet bloggers unless they are working from a reputable source — and run a mile from those who say “my family always did it this way and no one died — yet.”
To learn more about the practice of modern safe home canning, visit our sister site at http://www.healthycanning.com and the trusted folks who keep us all safe and up-to-date at the National Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html