You may recall I've sneaked around canning like a voyeur at a sex club. Very intrigued. Not jumping in. I was delighted to connect my experienced friends when the Canvolution got underway and to attend the first event here in the Boston area.
Canning (listen Rich, we know they're jars, but it's called canning and jarring just sounds, well, jarring) is a practice that combines so many things I love:
- celebration of local food
- DIY, self-sufficiency
- feeding ourselves and others from the heart
Let me explain. Enjoying local, seasonal food is just a no-brainer. It's better for us, better for the environment, I can support the local farms I love. Support the local economy, reduce my carbon footprint for the foods I buy. Vote for low pesticide use and organic methods with my food $. We can enjoy foods at the peak of freshness and nutrition.
There was a time not too long ago for many of us when Do it Yourself things were not chic. What our grandmothers did to survive was something we may have been too quick to discard or move away from. Rather than food in jars and head cheese we wanted fresh raspberries in January and only the best loin chops with nary a thought to how a raspberry would arrive in New England in January or what happened to the rest of that pig or how she or he lived their life or met their end.
Canning connects us to each other. We share food, share questions about proper preservation. We nourish families with the food put by in Summer with thoughts of Winter eating. We can, sort of, cheat Mother Nature in this way. Frozen properly, seasonal farm-fresh produce retains color and nutrients. Canned we gain freezer space with shelf-stable processed foods and we can look forward to creative ways to use the precisely balanced recipes we followed when putting these foods up.
I've done some beautiful beets, some nice corn, tomato salsa which we can add to beans and burritos or scoop up with tortillas or chips.
Turning our Attention to Worrying
I come from world-class worriers. I have friends or acquaintances who are worriers and many more who are not at all. Never. Worried. About. Anything.
This worries me.
There are some who worry with style, like Nanette, the elegant Gourmet Worrier. That is not me.
Then there are those like me that can develop a bout of insomnia over a few pints of peaches. Read my Confessions of a Canning Virgin for a good laugh.
I 'd like to blame it on my training as a lawyer, but truth be told, I was a worrier long before law school. I have learned the joys of living a bit more free of worry, and of taking big risks. But there are times in one's life when one is flush with confidence and feeling as if you are a capable partner to life's challenges. Risks fade. Other times, careful research and planning can assuage fears that creep around. Worry beads for the non-sectarian - prayers for the atheists - we put much faith in books, in experts, in research.
And, finally there are times when research can be your enemy. When peaches can wake you from a deep sleep, whispering that they harbor clostridium botulinum. Anyone who is jumping on the canning bandwagon (and I hope there are plenty of you) and doesn't know what that is, should worry. And learn.
More than one friend has told me that they had to get off WebMD because they became convinced they had cancer or were soon to meet another horrible fate. Been there, done that. Back to botulism. We can do dangerous things like driving or even jumping out of planes safely, when we follow certain precautions. Ignore the risks at your own peril. Follow the rules of the road and your training, you'll most likely be fine.
Food preservation by boiling water method or canning by hot water bath method can be, I think, thought of in the same way. I share my peach-inspired insomnia to help you avoid the worry and to encourage you to can SAFELY.
Good lord, I've seen some worrying things. "Fresh lemon juice" in canning tomatoes, for example. Most of us would not choose bottled lemon juice over fresh squeezed. Guess what, when you're balancing the acid to prevent the growth of deadly bacteria - you want a reliable level of acid. Bottled has that, fresh lemons can vary.
For now, sit back and relax. I'll do the worrying for you.