Canning and Irrational Fears

by Amber Jensen,

I grew up living next door to my grandparents. It was as amazing as you could imagine. I mean, a grandma and grandpa available 24 hours a day seems like a dream to me now. One of my fondest memories is of my grandmother canning. She’d sit on a wooden kitchen chair, near the open screen door, reading her newspaper with a can of Pepsi nearby. The ch-ch-sss of the pressure canner would work itself into a rhythm and she always had the most peacefully pleased look on her face.

My dad made a point of telling me how dangerous pressure canning was. He told me horror stories about canners exploding and someone he knew who knew someone else that died from a mishap.

I could never get the image of my grandmother’s peaceful face to align with my dad’s gore and dread tales.

I’m in my thirties and have four children. My grocery bill is long enough I feel guilty for not recycling receipts. I have considered canning meats and veggies for years but the idea of impending doom usually overtakes my imagination and I just buy extra at Costco.

Recently, I found myself with an abundance of fish, gifted to me by a family member. Fish isn’t something that stays fresh long and it freezes marginally well. My husband suggested we smoke the fish and then can it.

I need to admit now that I’ve realized the only thing that has been between me and food storage freedom is my irrational fear of pressure canning.

I mean, it’s not super irrational, given I was raised with the fear of God for these mystical tools. I also acknowledge that imagining my own death every time I look at a jar of food is likely not normal.

In these trying times I decided it was best to show myself what a little courage felt like. I figured canning fish couldn’t be any more dangerous than grocery shopping at this point.

The first canner load was like lighting myself on fire. I was a nervous wreck. I stood in my kitchen with my upper lip sweating for the entire 110 min of pressure time and the 10 minutes it took to steam.

I have now processed many canner loads of meats we had on hand. My most recent adventure was canned chicken. My kids eat so much canned chicken it never occurred to me to can my own.

I didn’t die and I now have the canning bug. I plan to can my own chicken stock and may even keep cleaning out the freezers.

I now understand the peaceful smile on my grandmother’s face. It was a smile of knowing she was working some kitchen magic and preparing food for her family. It was a smile of peace from years of knowing she could always do this one thing to prepare for the future.

In these times of uncertainty, it can be tricky to step into a space that requires courage and acts of bravery. We must still step right into that space.

Am I a hero for canning food for my family? Probably not. But I didn’t die and I feel pretty good about knowing I did something I was terrified of. Acts of courage and bravery look different for everyone.

Amber is a mother, wife, writer and dirt road philosopher. She hales from small-town Idaho and makes her home on a spread of dirt in Eastern Washington with her husband and four wild children. She is dedicated to a life of contribution and finding the pieces of our journeys that connect us all in our greatness.

The imperfect and incomplete nature of life is often overwhelming and stifling. By choosing it and owning it, Amber has taken some of the dirtiest situations and spun them into lessons to live by. Her greatest inspirations are her children and their dirt antics. Learn more about Amber by visiting

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