Saturday, March 28, 2009


Rural fields after ice storm

The preservation of fresh food harks back to our very earliest civilizations.

Although I freeze some foods like corn and fresh berries, I enjoy the process of canning. I don’t do it because it’s cheaper than buying from stores. Labor alone makes it expensive. Factor in the cost of gas or electricity to cook and heat water, the equipment and fresh produce and you have an expensive operation.

But, you just can’t beat the taste of home canned fresh produce in the middle of winter. If homegrown, I know the produce was clean, pesticide free, and picked at just the right time. I’ve cooked it without taking out the nutrients and without adding artificial ingredients.

It’s pretty easy to get started canning your own produce. Stop by the local hardware or farm store and they will have water bath canners, pressure cookers, jars, and traditional needed equipment. Before you start, I recommend the “Ball Blue Book of Preserving.”

If you’re fortunate, you will have an older relative that has quit canning and will donate their equipment to you. Test out used equipment to make sure there are no pin holes in the pans, chips on the lips of the jars and always buy new lids.

The reason I am talking about canning this early in the year is because now is the time to decide what you will plant in your gardens for canning later in the summer. If you’ve never canned, start small with tomatoes. The advantage of starting with tomatoes is they ripen a few at a time and you can do small batches.

From a small garden, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and onions can make any number of varieties of canned salsa, tomato juice, soup stock, whole tomatoes, and more.

Most vegetables or fruits can be pickled. A garden with cucumbers, peppers, onions, squash, green beans, and okra will allow you to have simple table vegetables and the opportunity to pickle.

Add a few herbs to your flower garden and you can increase the flavor of canned goods. Parsley, mustard, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano are a few among many choices.

If you are thinking of planting trees and bushes, consider planting some that fruit. Apples, pears, and plums are good canned. Most fruit and berries make excellent jellies, jams, syrup and preserves.

Preserving food can be done in many ways such as the boiling-water canner, steam pressure cooker, dehydration, freezing, or vacuum packaging. The key is to start with quality fresh ripe produce. Then, follow the instructions meticulously.

Come the cold evenings when nothing but a bowl of homemade chili will warm your insides, go down to the cellar and start with a quart of your own canned tomato chili stock. Yumlicious!

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