“Can” I Do It?

It’s hard to believe autumn is nearly upon us. Since the summer months are my favorite, I used to dread the coming of the cooler days and falling leaves. In recent years however I have come to love and appreciate the fall, reveling in the colorful canvas of trees, picking apples, baking the first apple pie of the season and enjoying some hot cider next to a campfire! I have also begun some different hobbies to get me through the cooler weather days, one of which I will try for the first time this year: canning.

Historically speaking, canning has had a major impact on food production and the ways in which we enjoy the harvests. In Pickled, Potted and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World, author Sue Shephard writes that “preserved foods have played a significant role in our social and cultural history, and it is arguable that without the ability to preserve food, man might have been forced to continue his wanderings as a hunter-gatherer.” In the 1940’s and 1950’s, and especially during World War II, canning and preserving became tremendously popular. The government encouraged people to plant their own “victory gardens” in an attempt to help relieve the high cost of importing foods during the war. As a result, people were growing, harvesting and preserving their own foods at home.  Canning has made a sort of “come back” in recent years as people are more concerned with eating organic, home-cooked foods. Shephard agrees and writes  “[it is] a wish to return to a simpler world where, despite the poverty, hardship, and simple diet, the food was at least home-produced and one knew where it came from, how it had been processed, and what was in it.”

Not only is canning fun, but it’s a nice tradition passed down between family generations.  I’m fortunate to have a grandmother, a canning master, who will be mentoring me, just like author Ashley English’s grandmother taught her how to can. English is the author of the totally hip and modern book Canning and Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutney’s and more.

After discovering this book on the shelf at OWL it really set my wheels in motion and inspired me. English gives a nice overview of the history of canning which was interesting to read before beginning the age-old tradition myself. Before you begin I recommend reading her section on the tools of the trade for canning. She includes photographs of the process which are helpful. I love how she has separate sections for the four seasons, using ingredients that are in abundance for each, as well as some cool gift giving suggestions. You’ll enjoy reading the “portrait of a canner” snippets sprinkled throughout.

Prepping the peaches

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving covers everything from your basic jam, to more elaborate projects like Peach Salsa and Ketchup. The book includes a “home canning problem solver” for each section and is nicely illustrated with color photographs. They have tips next to most recipes that relate to preparation or suggested uses. For example, they recommend trying the Peach Salsa (215) on pancakes or waffles for an added flair!

Back Home Magazine is a great publication full of ideas about sustainable living and “do-it-yourself” projects for the home. In their Sept/Oct. issues they have a section on canning that helps the beginning canner get started and offers some delectable recipes for canners of all levels of expertise.

The Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has illustrations and step-by-step instructions for sterilization of your jars and lids, as well as a variety of canning recipes from fruits to meats and seafood.

If you want to wow your friends with a truly unique gift or just try your hand at a more exotic canning recipe, check out Gourmet Preserves. Champagne Jelly, Spiced Blueberry Syrup, Ginger Pear Butter, and Gazpacho Sauce are just a few of the recipes you’ll find in this creative book. There is even a recipe for Jalapeno Jelly, which I believe my husband would enjoy!

When I was in fourth-grade, we did a unit in school about different cultures around the world. I remember for one unit we studied Asia, and our class got a chance to try a strange, yet delicious concoction named Kimchee from Korea.  I have never forgotten the name or its unique taste, and was delighted to see a recipe for Kimchee in Summer in a Jar: Making Pickles, Jams and More. Kimchee is made of cabbage and can be either slightly spicy or very hot (the book offers recipes for both). It can be made with Chinese cabbage or bok choy and gets it kick from chili paste and daikon,  a Japanese white radish.

Another favorite of mine is Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich. It’s a fun and informative book about stepping away from our consumer and technological culture, and returning to our homesteading roots. Woginrich works at an office during the day but lives and runs a small farm. She offers good resources in the back of the book, including where to buy seeds, kitchen tools (including canning jars) and places to find well-made, used tools and furniture. Check out her recipe for Chunky Pasta Sauce and homemade pasta.

Peach Jam

*Happy Canning (and eating!)*

Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant and is currently humming the song Cactus Tree off of Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles album.

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