Thursday, September 12, 2013

Canning


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? ;)

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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.


12 comments:

  1. I used to preserve a lot of foods, but since we moved to the South I can't get much to grow besides weeds, Aloes, and Yuccas. Not great for canning :)

    Up north our "winter stores" usually included loads of veggies (especially green beans & corn), spaghetti sauce, cinnamon applesauce, and several types of jams and jellies. Mint jelly was the most popular and made pretty holiday gift jars since it had a nice light green color.

    I don't recall ever making relish or pickles though and I have no idea what we'd do with jars and jars of them either!

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    1. Relish & Pickles, a great mystery that we'll never solve. :)

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  2. I love canning...I have only recently (less than a year) begun the process that I learned from my fiances grandmother. My favorite thing to can is Pickled Dilly Beans. (throw some garlic and there and sliced onions) YUM!!!

    One of my favorite things to have for the winter is canned spiced apples, they don't take long at all to make and they are sweet and a little bit of spicy once the winter comes around...and would doesn't love juice, cinnamon apples in the winter months? :)

    We also make jams...my favorite is the chipotle peach jam...sounds weird...but dang it is cool on a nice crisp morning on your toast while sipping on your tea/coffee!

    I think i need to start my canning process soon...haha

    -Ashlee Michelle

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    1. One of my favorite jams is a strawberry basil jam, so chipotle peach sounds totally reasonable to me. :)

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  3. I haven't canned anything in ages *sigh* When I used to, you'd find things like coconut milk, tomato sauce, pickled peppers, wild cherries... and pretty much anything I could find.

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    1. Coconut milk?!? I'm going to have to figure out how to can that, because I LOVE it. Mmmm.

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  4. My first experiment with canning was years ago when my sister gave me a recipe for a green tomato relish. I made this almost every year since. This year I made blueberry and peach jam, peach chutney, spicy tomato jam, pickles and tomorrow I will make the green tomato relish. I love canning, and we use most of the things that I make because there are many ways to use them - even incorporating them into appetizers for guests (with cheese.) I do give some away to friends as well. My favorite recipes come from "Food in Jars" a great canning cook book - and website/blog as well!

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    1. I'll have to look for that book, thank you for the recommendation! I have the "Ball Book of Canning" and it's a bit... well, boring. ;)

      I've never thought to use relishes with cheese. What a great idea! I usually put out sweeter things with my cheese, like jam or chutney, but salty and savory would be good too. Thank you!

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  5. While tomatoes are in abundance I make stewed tomatoes (from the Ball book) and they are delish. I use them in beans and meatloaf primarily and they do make a wonderful meatloaf. Also can tomato juice. I have canned 100's of jars of green beans, so much better than out of a can. Have made jelly but that is one HOT chore which I don't like. Pears make wonderful preserves and go great on a hot biscuit!

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  6. Hola, my darling! I just canned a few jars of jam the other night. Blackberry jam... Mmmmm... Since we don't eat a lot of toast either, I've used my jam for gifts and most successfully mixed it with frosting to used between the layers of a layer cake... Oh. My. Gods. Frosting flavored with blackberry jam is quite possibly the best thing in the world. Ever.

    I got some stuff to make pickles, and since I have next weekend off, I'm going to go in search of any lingering blackberries for more jam and then make some cucumber & bean pickles. And maybe make some other kinds of jam, depending what the veggie market has. ^-^

    The canning book I've used the most is the River Cottage Preserves Handbook:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-River-Cottage-Preserves-Handbook/dp/158008172X

    I also am in love with their bread book... YUM.

    XOXO

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  7. my mum pickles slices of cucumber and onion. Its yummy and goes great with cheese. She also makes chutney with her tomatoes and pickled eggs. I havent done any canning yet, though I may give it a try. Hugs Sara

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  8. Coming to the party late but wanted to chime in. I keep a constant supply of peach and apple butter. I also like to can spaghetti/ tomato sauce but like you, trying to get enough to ripen at once can be a challenge.

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