Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Handicapped Prepper, on Home Canning

There are many excellent articles and videos available on the mechanics of home canning.  These details I leave to you to discover.   In this article I want to talk a bit about how to preserve produce if you have a handicap, and I am going to assume recipes and food processing how-to has already been acquired.

cranberry sauce

I speak from the point of view of someone living with MS recovering from a stroke; it’s up to individuals to use this article as a springboard ... to morph the information and apply it to his or her own circumstance.  Hopefully, it will give you some new ideas to adapt this universal pursuit of home canning to your own food preps.

blueberry-rhubarb jam
Preserving food isn’t always going to be easy, but like the Borg of Star Trek infamy, you will adapt! Here is what works in my kitchen. 

1.       Let’s start with gathering the produce; sometimes done by my caregiver, sometimes by my favourite vendor at the farmers market and sometimes by me.  If something is ready to harvest, but I’m not ready to proceed with preserving (having a low energy day or whatever), I simply freeze and process later.   Know what?  Blueberry jam is just as delicious made from frozen berries as fresh!

2. Preparing the produce.  A lot of things, like small berries, beans and cranberries, just need to be picked over, washed and measured.  Bigger items like cucumbers and cauliflower need chopping.  Let me just say that I love my knives!

One is a corregated knife with the handle mounted over the blade.  The centre of gravity is such that a downward push with one hand brings the whole thing down with even pressure along the blade.  Like a guillotine.  Chop!

rocker knife & bamboo cutting bowl

The other is a rocker knife -- also known as an ulu.  This knife is rocked back and forth to cut through food items.  Like a rocking chair on a cat’s tail.  Crunch! 

When cutting with one hand you cannot saw through as would anyone else.   The ulu rocks through what you’re cutting making the job doable singlehandedly. 

pelouze scale

3.  When measuring, I use an extra large measuring cup (for sugar for example) so I only have to fill and level once.  Smaller amounts of ingredients I measure on a scale.  I use calculators on-line to convert volume units of an ingredient to weight – tablespoons of pickling spice to grams for example – so that ingredients can be weighed instead of, say, trying to manipulate a measuring spoon.  Oh, so difficult!  
In case you were wondering, my scale is a digital by Pelouze, weighs down to 2 grams, and increases in 2 gram increments ... but not really accurately at very low weights so I may be off by a gram or so in very small amounts of ingredients, but we haven’t noticed in the final product yet. J 
rhubarb juice

4.  Whenever hot items are involved, I wear rubber gloves.  You may not be able to get fingers into the finger holes, but the glove still protects from splashes and gives grip.   Accidents happen and I avoid them like the plague!

vinyl linen

5. When manipulating jars, as in filling them with preserved goodness and putting on sealers and rings, I found that a piece of vinyl linen helps keep them from sliding around the counter.  I bought a whole meter of this at the local fabric store for a fraction of what I would have paid had I bought it already cut at a specialty supplier.  

    Just cut the size you need off the main piece and save the rest for another project.  The vinyl linen is reusable and washable so it lasts a long time.

6. Make sure rings are not bent or rusty – these 2 things make applying and tightening the ring harder and when your physical strength isn’t good, it’s frustrating.  I was incredibly frustrated until I figured this out.
7. If you need to process in a hot water bath ask for help with lowering and lifting the wire basket.  And have your caregiver write the date and content on the lid if writing isn’t an option for you.  Self-adhesive labels are available to buy and look really nice, just understand that using them means removing adhesive from your jars next year.  


I put down several recipes already this year, with help when I needed it, and it still feels unbelievably satisfying.  You will most likely find a way to home can if that is your desire.   Think outside the box and find ways to adapt to your conditions.   

Have fun listening to the canning lids pop!

lavender, rhubarb, bamboo


  1. Hi Sue ... great article for thinking outside the box ... where did you get those wonderful knives? My arthritis is starting to get noticeable in my thumbs and they look like they could be useful.

    Take Care

  2. Hi, Will! Thanks so much for commenting, and complementing!!

    I bought the corregated knife from Pampered Chef (a home party sales model business) about 12 years ago. I would bet that a kitchen store like Home Sense would carry something like it.

    The ulu I got more recently through Amazon dot ca. It's not the best quality, but it is beautiful and does the job. I had a hard time finding one in Canada on-line. You may like to try Ebay too.

    Good luck adapting to your arthritis.

  3. AD, thanks! I always enjoy reading your well written articles, and am looking forward to tomorrow's.