By Russ and Tiña De Maris
One of the worries that came to us when we first considered the fulltime RV lifestyle was this one: How can we ever can fresh foods? Home canning and preservation was important to us, as we were “country folk” at heart, and in practice. Can you combine home canning and the RV lifestyle? It’s possible, with a bit of clever thinking and careful planning.
First, consider your RV kitchen. What’s really required for on-the-road canning is a lot of what’s required in a sticks-and-bricks environment: Lots of hot water, a range top you can control, and counter space to park jars while they cool and seal.
We’ve found our standard six-gallon RV water heater to have sufficient capacity and recovery time to handle the rigors of home canning. The LP gas range, while it may not have as high a BTU output as the “home” equivalent (hence taking a bit longer to reach “temp”), was handy, as controlling pressure in a pressure canner is predicated by the burner. A gas burner is so much more variable than an electric range, and faster reacting, too.
A couple of other considerations? For us, during canning time we simply resign ourselves to eating outdoors, or eating in the living room. We dedicate the dinette table to cooling jars. The one snarl you may find: Canning and boondocking don’t lend themselves to simultaneous performance. You need a LOT of water for canning, and there’s a lot of waste water generated. This can quickly outstretch the capacity of your freshwater and gray water holding tanks. And canning on a hot day is a nasty business without air conditioned comfort. Putting up in an RV park or campground with full utilities is a real necessity for canning.
But think of the advantages: You can go to the source of FRESH foods, be they vegetables, fruit or even seafood. Pick up your produce or products, return to camp, and you’ll have some of the freshest canned foods available. Oh-so-much better than you’ll ever buy at the store.
We’ve found that canning smaller containers – pints – makes the most sense for us. We store our empty or full jars in appropriately sized plastic storage containers.
For big rigs with basement storage, it’s easy to keep both the completed work and the canning gear. For ease of work, water bath canning (fruits and acidic vegetables) is much, much easier than pressure canning, but, yes, you can successfully pressure can “on the road.” Of course, you would do well to take the “normal” safety precautions when canning on the road: have your pressure canner gauge checked at the start of the season, toss out any questionable canned goods (jar and all!), and above all else, enjoy the fruits of your labor!