The Fruits (and Veggies) of a Little Kitchen Labor

Food preservation tends to be a relatively common topic in food research, at least here at Special Collections. Early on in the blog, we featured a publication on nuclear testing and preserved foods. This week, we’re taking a slightly different approach. In other words, no cans were harmed in the creation of the Ladies’ Home Journal’s How to Can Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats from 1917–just the foods being canned.

This pamphlet features advice on how to can, what to use/what not to use, and common failures and their causes. In addition, it points out the monetary values of preserving your own garden to save on shopping and to make a little extra cash:

If you can produce a “fancy” quality of fruits and vegetables you can demand as fancy price as many fancy grocers. Last year one girl put up such an excellent quality of fruits and vegetables that she was able to market them at…unusual prices.

Possible overuse of the word “fancy” aside in the paragraph above, the money-saving aspect of canning has continued to make it a common practice today. And then there’s the convenience of getting fruits and veggies “from your own cellar.”

The second half of the pamphlet includes canning-specific recipes for different types of foods, including the challenging (meats) and the easy basics (soups). All the information comes from a variety of sources, helpfully compiled here by the Ladies’ Home Journal–which was likely all the more valuable during war-time. The pamphlet doesn’t make too many explicit references, but it is important to remember this was published during World War I. (It does, however, refer to canning work by “Uncle Sam’s girls” more than once.) Stretching, rationing, and saving are themes of no small importance in 1917 and we will see them repeat even more so during World War II, as women increasingly split their time between work and home.

So, don’t be scared when it comes to preserving your fruits and veggies, war-time or not. Just remember, if you can eat it, you can probably can it. Which is a good thing, right?

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