This weekend, I sat in the sun and hulled strawberries for over an hour. I bought a flat of them at the farmers’ market to freeze for the winter. I’m not a big jam or jelly person, but I do love frozen berries for smoothies.
As I was hulling, I started to daydream about all of the delicious foods I was planning to put away for the winter. I always do canned tomatoes and peaches with a friend – last year we did 120 lbs and 40 lbs respectively. Last year I acquired a bucket of plums from a coworker with a plum tree in his backyard and I canned those also. I also like to dry mint from the garden and freeze blackberries picked at my favourite spots around town. I generally also freeze some cooked pumpkin for muffins, and grated zucchini for mid-winter chocolate zucchini cake.
Every year I add a couple other things to my preserving plan. Maybe some more dried herbs this year? A canned salsa? Some dilly beans? Hmmm…
While preserving can seem daunting to newbies, I assure you, it’s not that hard. I didn’t grow up learning this from my mother or grandmother. The first time I canned anything was three years ago. One very hot Labour Day weekend, 4 friends gathered in a small apartment to can 40 lbs peaches in honey syrup. We had 40 lbs of peaches, it took most of the day and evening, and we scared ourselves silly reading about botulism. Only one of us had ever canned before, and we had several canning books and websites open in the living room to compare techniques. But, the canning process worked (just like the books said it would), the peaches were delicious, and no one ended up with any food borne illnesses.
My advice (aside from following up to date food safety standards and following the recipe to the letter, especially if you’re a beginner) is to start small. It’s really tempting to buy 100 lbs of tomatoes and try to can them all at once. But (and I speak from experience) canning is generally less fun at 2 am than it is at 2 pm. Also, preserve foods that you like to eat, in quantities that you would realistically eat. (Maybe this is obvious. But, as someone who made large quantities of sauerkraut last year, because it’s easy and makes a great farmers’ market demonstration, perhaps it’s worth mentioning. And perhaps I need to follow my own advice. 🙂 )
Anyway, we’re curious to hear your preserving tips and questions and we’ll be blogging about preserving all summer and into the fall. So, let us know what you’re thinking about. (And don’t forget to enter our preserving contest!)
In the meantime, here are some of my favourite resources and those recommended to me by others:
Foods of Spry’s Field: Cooking and Preserving Then and Now by the Urban Farm Museum Society
Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz
Putting Food By – by Janet Greene
Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardener and Farmers of Terre Vivante
Preserved by Nick Sandler
National Center for Home Food Preservation website
We are also offering preserving workshops this summer. There are still some spots available, so register soon!
(Update: We added a post called Canning 101. Check it out if you’re looking for some canning basics.)