Wednesday, July 18, 2012

canning...not that kind

Recently I was invited to a canning event where I could learn about dry pack canning.  It was loud, fascinating, fun, and definitely a bit of work.

We assembled in the early evening at the warehouse.  We were instructed on the different stations on the assembly line and how to operate the machine (for those who were doing that).  We then all trooped over to the sinks to wash our hands and put on nets (two for the guys with beards), gloves and aprons.  Next we lined up in our spots along two different assembly lines.

The responsibilities were:

  1. opening the large containers that the dry goods were in
  2. filling the #10 cans almost to the top
  3. adding an oxygen absorber for long term storage
  4. running the machine to seal the lid
  5. labeling the cans
  6. checking the inventory
  7. boxing the cans. 
My spot was at the end of the line and my responsibilities went something like this:
  • write the date on the label
  • put the label on a can
  • check inventory to see how many of that particular can goes in a box
  • put the cans in the box
  • label the box
  • do it again

While the canner was running it was very loud in the warehouse and all conversation either stopped or was limited to the person standing next to you.  Otherwise it was not too noisy.  Although there was an occasional lull in the process as one part or another of the line got backed up, we spent a fairly solid couple of hours processing dry food.  While it was obvious that many of the others had done this before, they were very supportive of those of us who were new to the process.  Overall we still managed to be quite an efficient team and the lines moved along fairly smoothly.

The items that we canned were:  rolled oats, rice, macaroni, dried apples, black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, non-instant milk powder, dried carrots, and dried onions.  I was fascinated to learn that the shelf life for these dry good in this type of can is quite long.  Some of these foods, because they are so dry, and with the use of an oxygen absorber, can last for up to 30 years in the can.

Many people use these dry goods as part of their pantry system, rotating the cans through as needed.  Instead of purchasing their dry goods in bags or boxes, they purchase them in cans which are vermin proof and watertight.  Other people purchase these items as a part of an emergency food storage system.

It was work, but it was also fun.  I had the opportunity to chat with a number of the people there and really enjoyed our conversations.  I also learned something new that I hadn't known before.  Maybe next time I can run the canner.

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