It seems like every summer for, oh, the past several decades, the Ball Corporation (or more precisely their parent companies, Alltrista and most recently Jarden Home Brands) has declared a “great return to home canning”. Here for example: www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/072408/lif_308049209.shtml. This year the claim has taken on extra weight, what with the drastic increases in food prices. More people are signing up for home canning classes, and of course buying jars, canners and miscellaneous gear. It’s a promising beginning, though count me as skeptical that it’s a trend that’s going to last very long. While the good intentions are certainly there, people simply don’t have the time that they once did to can their own food. My sense is that most of these new converts to canning are like disgusted commuters who, having just spent $75 filling up their tank, declare “That’s it! I’m walking to work from now on!”, but within a week later are back sipping Starbuck’s on the highway. The reason, because they quickly discover that time is money too. Anyway, once you add up the cost of materials and ingredients, home canned food doesn’t save you much, if anything, over mass-produced canned goods. Home canning was originally done not so much to save money, but to ensure access to certain types of foods which, due to seasonality or scarcity (due to things like wars), might not be available at other times of year. The best reason I know to can your own jam (or anything) is because it’s a) fun and b) tastes like nothing you could ever buy.