Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Canning Revival...

I’m not sure if it’s just me who is super-excited about canning, or if it really is making a comeback? You know how when you get some new information and are all excited, it seems like every newspaper, magazine, online article and person is suddenly talking about your new interest? That’s how it is with canning for me right now.

This summer was the very first time I ever did “grown up” canning (meaning, I was unsupervised). I bought local cucumbers, local dill and local garlic, sterilized jars from the Salvation Army, and made my very first ever batch of dill pickles. It took…hours. The result? Four quarts of pickles. (I never said canning would save you money, just that it’s enjoyable!). I posted previously on my other blog about my new theory, that we humans have an innate drive to put away, store up, preserve and save for hard times. In my opinion, it’s a drive that kept our great-great-great ancestors alive, and is just part of us now, a trait that maybe we don’t even consciously recognize but is present none-the-less. The other part of my theory is that because we don’t need to do this hunting and gathering anymore, don’t have time for it (or make time for it), we stock up on lots of other things in our lives: Sales (often buying stuff we don’t need, but hey! It’s cheap!), loading up on grocery sale items because it’s a good deal, stuffing our closets full of clothes or boxes full of jewelry, home decorations that just aren’t right or other trinkets. I think our desire to “possess” stuff is really a misguided desire to take care of ourselves and each other and to prepare for our future.

When we take the time to process local, seasonal, foods into forms that can be saved for “hard times” (winter), we listen respectfully to that sense of urgency, and find an unexpected sense of peace in it’s place. There is something wonderful about the entire process and if you’ve ever canned, dried or frozen foods for a later time, you’ll know just what I mean. It’s all the anticipation. “Wow~this blueberry jam is going to taste soooo good in the middle of January when it’s so cold and dark out!” There is also something to be said for being part of the entire (or most of ) the process itself. If you can, try to pick the vegetables/fruits you will be preserving. If you can’t, they will still be delicious, but picking the produce yourself helps make the food you preserve even more special. I remember chatting with my sister and mom as I picked the frozen berries I had for breakfast this morning. We were hurrying to try to fill our little baskets before it started to rain. I remember what a nice evening it was-no bugs, just a little breeze and the smell of all those ripe, red berries.

Food preservation is especially enjoyable if you share the experience with someone else. In “Mother Earth News” this month (Aug/Sept 2007) there is a great little article on “canning kitchens”. In these kitchens women of all experience levels and ages get together and do a community canning. After the work is done, the prized canned goods are split up between participants. What a great concept! The more seasoned canners share a wealth of information and an enthusiasm and curiosity is offered from the less experienced in the group. If you don’t have a group like this near you, what about starting one? Or getting together with you mother, a sister, an aunt or a good friend and tackling your project together? This labor day weekend, I’m spending the day at my mother’s house. I have a list of things to can about a mile long (ok, it’s just eight things!) but realize I won’t get to do all that in one day. What I don’t do that day, I can finish another, but working together with my mom in her kitchen is something I’ve been looking forward to. Not only will we have lots of good food to put up for winter, but we’ll make some great memories too. Happy canning!

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