Food Matters – Yes, You Can! (Canning and Preserving)

We have begun the prime part of the summer as this holiday weekend approaches. While many of us may be heading to beaches and barbecues and campgrounds for our leisure activities, you are more likely to me in my kitchen slaving over a hot stove. It’s probably because I just found a good source for pickling cucumbers. (The Root Cellar in Victoria) Anyway, I shared some of my thoughts on canning on CBC’s All Points West this afternoon.

I really do love canning. I think it’s some sort of built-in genetic code. I grew up eating my mom’s jams and pickles and relishes, and as I grew older I would help her in some aspects of the procedure that she was finding difficult because of tendonitis in her arm…milling tomatoes for the sauce, carrying big pots of bubbling juice to her canning kitchen downstairs, squeezing the crown caps onto bottles of tomato sauce and tightening the lids on her pickles. One of my fondest memories I have of her comes from the time after a long day of canning, when she finally put her feet up to read the newspaper and listen to her jar lids pop into place from the dining room table.

I didn’t pay that much attention to preserving food when I was first on my own. I moved around a lot in the early years of my radio career and adding canning equipment and jars of preserves to my moving boxes definitely wasn’t a priority. But probably by the time I bought my first house I got going on it, calling my mom for advice and building my library of canning and preserving books and pamphlets. Little did I know that I was just part of a growing trend where many younger people started to discover canning.

I think a few things sparked the trend. Some people attribute it to the recession and trying to save money, but if you were starting from scratch there is a bit of a capital investment to lids and jars and a canning pot and funnel and so on. Where you would really save money is being able to find large quantities of raw ingredients in season to process. I think where the real growth is coming from is more people wanting to capture the seasonal produce that is close to them and they want to know where it comes from. They don’t necessarily want to can huge amounts to last them through the whole season but would like to enjoy some of those summer flavours in the dead of winter. And I also think people are looking for unique gifts to give people as hostess gifts or birthday or Christmas or whatever.

You don’t have to go into this whole hog with cases and cases of fruit and vegetables to process…in fact, many of the most recent canning books that have been published specialize in small-batch canning, where we are talking about a few pints of raw ingredients instead of a few pounds. Here’s some of my favourites, old and new:

Well Preserved, by Vancouver author Mary Anne Dragan

We Sure Can, by Sarah B. Hood

Put a Lid on It! and, More Put a Lid on It! by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

Canning for a New Generation, Lianna Krissoff

The Joy of Pickling, Linda Ziedrich

Any of the guides published by Bernardin are also very useful. Keep in mind this company has been producing canning products for over 100 years!

You don’t really need a lot of special equipment to get started. You can get by with a small canner for boiling water processing of small jars of jams and jellies and pickles, a nice heavy-bottomed pot for cooking your jams and jellies, a good funnel and something to lift the jars out of the canner. Most of these are available in a handy, inexpensive  kit from Bernardin.  Canning does represent an investment in time, but if you are pressed for time you can still easily make your own quick pickles.  Here’s a recipe from one of the canning blogs I like to visit, Food In Jars.

Small Batch Refrigerator Pickles
makes two pints

1 quart kirby (small pickling) cucumbers (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup filtered water
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons dill seed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 spring onions (whites only), chopped

Wash and dry kirby cucumbers. Chop ends off and slice into spears. Set aside.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Equally divide the dill seed, garlic cloves and chopped onion between the two jars. Pack the cucumber spears into the jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.

Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Put lids on the jars and let them cool on the counter top. Once they’re cool, put them in the refrigerator. Let cure for at least a day before eating. Pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Some other canning and preserving blogs you might want to visit include:

Well Preserved

Hungry Tigress

Canning Across America

If you missed my chat with Jo-Ann, (and her tasting my pickles and jams), you can listen by clicking here.

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1 Response to Food Matters – Yes, You Can! (Canning and Preserving)

  1. Amy Bronee says:

    Hi, Don. I listened to your segment on CBC this afternoon and I was thrilled to hear canning being discussed on the air. I’m an enthusiastic canner too, and right now I’m on a bit of a jam kick. Strawberry, blueberry, rhubarb, cherry, peach – anything I can get my hands on becomes jam! Maybe I need a support group. At least it’s keeping me busy until all the apples in my backyard ripen. Then it’s weeks and weeks of apple processing. Okay, ya, I’ll definitely need a support group!

    Anyway, If you hear of anyone looking for a beginner canning class, I’m teaching one on Saturday, August 18th from 1-4 at the Vic West Community Centre. The registration info is on my blog’s homepage.

    I’m off to explore more of your blog now. Thanks for the tip on pickling cucumbers at The Root Cellar. I wonder if I can make jam from them…

    Amy Bronee

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