I have been absent from the blogging world, but far from absent from my kitchen! Here’s a few projects that have kept me busy the last few days:
I have heard the rumor that lots of people are scared of canning. I used to be one of those people. I grew up with a pantry full of canned garden items, yet never took the time to learn the art. My parent’s garden produced well each year; neighbors and friends received plentiful vegetables at their doorsteps and I never wanted for fresh produce during the spring, summer or fall. I remember my mother canning applesauce, beets, tomatoes, pickles, relish, salsa, green beans, and assorted jams and jellies. I assume she did much of this while I was at school, because I only have vague memories of seeing steaming pots on the stove. Last year I decided that I would can my own marinara sauce, with absolute success. This year, I wanted to expand!
I spent a few days working on my mother’s house and brought various supplies to her home for some canning. She had given me a small pressure cooker that had been my grandmother’s but without an instruction manual, I was scared of the thing. She (and my brother) showed me the art of the pressure cooker and now you can expect future posts involving this kitchen tool.
The canning I did while at her home, requires no more fancy equipment than the canning jars, lids and a pot of boiling water. When I returned home, I bought fruit pectin, and made peach jelly-with only my pot of boiling water.
Some benefits of canning should be pretty apparent. First, the health factor. Since you are in charge of the ingredients, you can ensure that they are organic, all-natural and have names you can pronounce. Further, commercial canned products often include high levels of sugar and salt that can be limited with home canning. I understand that families and individuals have schedules that are highly limited; however, I made the jelly today in about an hour, from start to finish. Marinara sauce takes longer, but can be spaced out to limit the obligation of time. Pickling can be spread out over a weekend day and is fairly forgiving. If you are growing your own produce this summer (or have a CSA), you probably found that the number of squash or tomatoes from a single plant (or week’s allotment) can become overwhelming pretty fast. Canning allows you to spread the eating season out and keeps produce from going to waste. All in all, summer is the time of abundance. Historically, cooks used the summer as a time to prepare their family for the winter season. We have the luxury of choosing a variety of methods. Freezing can be a fantastic option (pesto, whole vegetables for stock-making, hot peppers and okra for soups and sauces, etc). Dehydration (think homemade sun-dried tomatoes!) can save a lot of money. I encourage you to try canning. Less scary and time-consuming than you imagine. I promise! Follow me, I shall try to lead you!
Planned upcoming canning projects include roasted red peppers and apple butter. Stay tuned!