Monday, June 1, 2009

Grandma was such a trendsetter...

I've always been an old lady at heart. I knit, I bake, I watch Agatha Christie mysteries on PBS. I wear LLBean sweaters, and avoid bars and restaurants where crowds of noisy, flashy people my age compete for attention. Pickling and preserving, making jam and decorating it with squares of gingham, seemed right up my alley. Who knew I was so trendy?

As this article in last week's New York Times describes, canning is all the rage among foodies and locavores. It's not just about saving money: as interest in eating seasonally increases, canning is a way to enjoy the bounties of summer farmers' markets all winter long.

First knitting became popular, and now home canning. Old lady is apparently the new cool. Will we see Michele Obama squirreling away sauces made with vegetables from her organic garden?

I began my first canning experiments this weekend, starting with Sunshine Rhubarb Juice Concentrate from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I used four pounds of rhubarb bought at Saturday morning's market, zest and juice from a lemon and a lime, and a heap of sugar. (It won't be good for your teeth or waistline, but I dare you to turn down a glass of liquid sunshine in the middle of February.) I got only three pints, instead of four as the recipe suggested. All my jars are tightly sealed, so here's hoping I did everything correctly.

My second go was Eugenia Bone's Pickled Asparagus. Here's an informative step-by-step slide show that accompanies the recipe. My jars are cooling on the countertop as I write. I just heard one of the lids pop, a sign it's formed a vacuum seal, though I won't know for four weeks whether I successfully preserved asparagus or created a botulism colony.

Canning, with its potential for food poisoning, is intimidating, especially if you're clumsy like me and tend to ignore directions. I finally decided to give it a try because the taste of Maine-grown tomatoes and berries in the dead of winter is enough to bring tears of gratitude to my eyes. I'm starting easy, with acidic fruits and pickled vegetables that don't require heating above the boiling point. I bought a pressure cooker for carrots and green beans, and learning to use it without blowing up my house is my next project. I can't wait for strawberries in late June, tomatoes and blueberries in August, and all the jam, sauce, soup, and pie filling I can handle next winter.

7 comments:

  1. Wow! This post is very impressive! Your canning projects look amazing. Well done!
    Can't wait for your next project. =D

    P.S. I think canning project is too much work for me, it would be easier just to put vegetables and fruits in the freezer for the future use.

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  2. You're exactly right...canning is intimidating! I've wanted to learn for years. Maybe this is the the year.

    Gret post!

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  3. Yay for canning! It's so awesome to see all these fabulous retro trends returning!

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  4. You and Grandma were always so much alike. She would have loved this blog.

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  5. http://www.Vaboomer.com has a Drawing for a free copy of “Well Preserved” by Eugenia Bone. Drawing is June 10.

    To enter drawing: http://tinyurl.com/wellpreserved

    Good Luck. It's a fabulous book for beginners or experienced canners.

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  6. I would highly recommend blanching and freezing low-acid vegetables instead of pressure canning. Pressure canning requires intense heat for long periods of time resulting in total destruction of whatever you are canning. I’ve tried both methods and have eperienced better results with blanched and frozen veggies (kale, chard, beet greens, carrots, corn, pureed squash, caramelized onions, leeks and shallots, soups, roasted tomatoes). And it is much easier to prep and put up veggies in the freezer. I would only recommend pressure canning tomato sauce and meat stocks, but they both also freeze very well. I very rarely use my pressure canner anymore – everything I put up is either water bath canned or blanched/pureed/caramelized and frozen in mason jars.

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  7. The pickled asparagus was a success! No botulism.

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