I played around with the title of this post in my head for the better part of the past month. Reminiscing about the winters of my childhood when we’d enjoy Grandma’s canned concoctions so delicately preserved. Flashbacks to the bounties of stone fruits like plum jam, canned apricots and peaches had me toying with the idea of titling this Make & Takes post: “Let’s Get Stoned,” but that seemed a little out there, even for moi.
However, the idea of canning, preserving and storing produce for the winter is a great way to keep your family eating healthy all year long and doing your part to preserve planet earth. Yes, I know, it’s 2011 and fresh produce is in season “somewhere” any time of year. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Seriously, have you thought about the carbon footprint of a banana or the pesticide levels found in Chilean grapes? It probably keeps Al Gore up at night.
During my youth, the smells of summer were best represented by fresh cut grass and chlorinated swimming pools. But fall was ushered in with the intoxicating cotton-candy-like-scent from canning peaches, raspberries, cherries and the like. Preserves ran the gamut from currant and plums jellies, to jams made of strawberry, apricot and (my favorite) raspberry.
I remember my mom, grandmothers, aunts and even eventually my older sister and I when we had ‘come of age’ sitting around peeling, prepping and preserving the bounties of the summer’s harvest. The sweetness later turned to spice with the scents of chili sauce, salsas and canned tomatoes. While plenty of this process took place at our home, for us it started in a basement – more specifically in my grandma’s canning kitchen.
This summer my mom and I are returning to that exact kitchen where it all began –though now updated and remodeled. My husband and I purchased my grandparent’s house shortly after my grandma passed away years ago. We’ll revisit some of our family’s tried-and-true recipes, but we’re also going to try Barbara Kingsolver’s “Family Secret Tomato Sauce”. Her website www.AnimalVegetableMiracle.com has some amazing ideas for seasonal eating and preserving your (or your area’s local) harvest in the recipe section of her site or you can buy her New York Times bestselling book by the same name. You won’t regret it. I’m also looking forward to trying her “All in One Day” recipe for Relish, Sauce and Chutney which yields seven pints of barbecue relish, seven pints of sweet and sour sauce AND seven half-pints of chutney!
If this month’s challenge seems a little overwhelming to you, think about freezing produce instead.
“Freezing does not significantly diminish the nutritional value of a product,” explains Michael Pollan in Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. “[It] will also enable you to put up food from the farmers’ market, and encourage you to buy produce in bulk at the height of its season, when it will be most abundant—and therefore the cheapest.”
So tell me, CAN you make it happen?