In early October, my mom came over and taught me how to make homemade applesauce and bottle it for future consumption. Anyone who knows me is well-aware that I’m not what you would call a homemaker. However, I had a great time bottling applesauce with my mom, and I felt good about the fact that all those apples on the tree aren’t going to rot all winter. Plus, the applesauce is delicious — much better than the stuff you buy at the store.
Photo by suzzanelong via Flickr
If you are thinking about how you can add a little to your self-reliance, as well as enjoy the fruits of your labor, consider bottling the produce from your garden. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can often purchase discount produce and then bottle it to preserve it for later. However, be aware that, for some items, the benefit of bottling comes in the fresher taste, and not so much in the savings.
What You Need to Get Started
In order to get started, all you really need are jars (and accompanying lids and rings) and some sort of bottler. For fruits, and other high acid foods, a water bath is required. If you plan to preserve vegetables, meat and seafood, a pressure canner is often a good idea. These are the only necessities, and you can get started fairly inexpensively:
- Water Bath: You can usually find one (holding six or seven jars) with a rack, to be used on the stove top, for right around $20. Larger, and more expensive versions can be found for around $50.
- Pressure Canner: These usually cost more than the water bath. You can find one for around $80, on up to $150. Some come with starter sets, and can be a good deal.
- Jars: You can usually buy a case of 12 wide mouth pint jars for about $16. Note that you can re-use jars and rings, but you need to buy new lids (usually quite inexpensive) each year.
While the above is all you need, there are some items that can make your homemade adventure a little easier. My mother brought her Victorio Food Strainer and Sauce Maker. It made creating the applesauce much faster, since all we had to do was cut the apples into quarters and cook them. The strainer peeled, cored and seeded them. It was much nicer than doing it all by hand. You can get a strainer for around $60. However, if you plan to do a lot of bottling with a variety of sauces and preserves (my mom does salsa, too), it might be worth it to get the extensions, which bring the total cost up to around $100.
You can also purchase a jar lifter, canning funnel and recipe book (or use the book that comes with your water bath or strainer) for a small initial outlay. So, if you are serious about getting started, you could easily spend close to $200. (Reduce the cost by going in with family members to purchase the larger items and share them around.)
Over time, though, there are benefits — even with your initial costs, and the cost of running the stove all day while you’re actually doing the bottling (and the ongoing cost of buying more lids each year, or replacing broken bottles and bent rings).
Some of these benefits include:
- Becoming more self-reliant
- Building your food storage
- Enjoying food that is likely healthier than what you buy processed in the store
- Better taste
- Improved freshness over what you buy the store
If you are interested in making your own applesauce, here is a good step-by-step guide that will walk you through the process.
What do you think? Do you think bottling produce is worth it?
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.