Canning, the act of preserving and putting up the harvest to be able to enjoy and eat over Autumn and Winter's cold days and nights. It was more common in days gone by, but it's making a comeback as homesteaders, homemakers and even those with just a passing interest in learning useful skills have started to pick up the practice.
My own adventures with canning started when we bought our house. I planted my very first garden that Spring and hit up the local Farm Market for produce that either didn't do so hot or that I didn't plant. I got a late start, as we moved in at the end of March, (the growing season starts earlier than my Northern blood is used to here in the South) so there were a lot of crops that didn't do extremely well once Summer's ungodly heat began to pound them.
I bought a book on canning, a water bath canner and a set each of pint and quart jars and sat down at my kitchen to decide what exactly I wanted to turn my produce stash into. As I flipped through the book I was sort of underwhelmed by my options. What the hell was I going to do with 8 pints of jam and relish? I don't consume a lot of toast and I hardly ever eat relish. And I was blown away by how many tomatoes it would take to create 6 quarts of sauce; my meager plants had in no way produced 40+ pounds of Romas in the season, much less at one time! And the price of tomatoes at the Farm Market left me dizzy at $4 a pound.
So, I stuck with simple things. I made a few pints of strawberry jam and a few quarts of bread and butter and dill pickles. I wasn't terribly impressed with the variety of things offered to me by the book and canning felt tedious and not all it was cracked up to be. I wasn't sure if I'd bother to do it again and was annoyed that I had "wasted" money on start-up.
Yet in the Spring, when I was out of jam and pickles I found myself wanting to pull out the canner and make more goodies to put up and eat all year long. My second foray in to it had me feeling more satisfied by the process; I really enjoyed the dicing, mixing, measuring, watching and waiting of the whole thing. Apparently home ownership and gardening had woken up my inner Domestic.
That year (being last Autumn), I canned salsa, pickles and peach jam. Still a bit of an underwhelming variety and still noticeably devoid of tomato sauce (my tomato plants say "no way, lady." and again, $160 for 6 quarts of sauce is a bit much).
This Autumn, I've canned 12 jars of salsa (both verde and roja) and last night canned 6 1/2 pints of apple butter. This was my first time making one of my favorite things to eat and I was amazed at how simple it is! Not buying that any more. ;) I have plans to pickle up some cucumbers, some beans and some okra before the Summer planting goes belly-up until next season.
The process has become something of a soothing ritual for me, though I won't pretend it isn't time consuming. For me though, the work involved is similar to other home grown arts such as gardening, spinning, knitting, etc. A content and satisfying art being revived in a modern world that's let a lot of traditional practices fall by the wayside. I'm glad to see it coming back and glad to be taking the time to learn and understand it, even if I still wish I had more of a variety of recipes to put up in my pantry.
Do any of you can? If so what would I normally find in your cupboards, come Winter?
Do you have any recipes or books you'd like to point me to or share in the comments?
And seriously, what the hell do you use all the relish and jam and pickles for? ;)
A hat tip to both Aine at The Deepest Well and Tess at A Witch by Any Other Name for both mentioning canning in their blogs this week and getting the writing bee buzzing in my ear.