Monday, August 15, 2011

Canning 101: An Introduction

Thanks to Google for the image
Note:  I'd like to apologize.  This segment should have been posted yesterday (Sunday), but I just plain got busy spending time with my family and completely spaced hitting the "post" function on Blogger (oops), so it has been sitting in "draft" mode since Saturday (double oops).  So, you're going to see two posts post literally right on top of another on canning, but hey, it's an enjoyable read ;).

My introduction to the whole "canning" process started pretty early in my life.  For as long as my memory serves me, my mother used to make jams and jellies every year and used wax to seal the tops.  All through the winter we'd eat the fruits of our labors (pun unintentional but still funny) and we never had a shortage of quince jam or apple butter in our house.  I remember her even making grape juice one year (mainly because I helped to pick the grapes from our grapevine and then helped to squeeze the cheesecloth to get the juice out).

When I was in elementary school our neighbor introduced me to the process of making maple syrup and gave me my very own sap bucket and bracket and my dad helped me to drill a hole in the only, but huge, maple tree in our backyard.  My mother thought that I'd lose interest in going out in near freezing temperatures in the dark before school, often times to chip through the ice in the maple sap bucket, to get to the maple sap underneath (which even the ice tasted yummy since it was maple sugar ice!) and then going inside after school to boil endless gallons of maple sap into real maple syrup.

She was so, so wrong.  We ended up warping every single cabinet in our kitchen before maple syrup season was over from the endless hours of boiling down sap into light amber loveliness.  I remember canning all of those quarts of maple syrup and storing them in our unheated back hallway on bookcases that my father found to accommodate our new "pantry".  The pride that my family had enough maple syrup to last "through the winter" made me feel like a real woman, in touch with my ancestors who worked so hard to see their families had produce and other foods to last them through the winter (which looking back on it we had enough maple syrup to last us the next 20 years or so...we ended up giving a LOT of it away to neighbors and as gifts over the years).

Some twenty-five years later, I still feel that same sense of pride down deep when I look at even 7 pints of home made chili canned and ready to stick into my pantry to help see my "newer", but no less important, family through the winter months.  I love the feeling of looking at a jar of newly canned soup, stew, jelly or syrups and knowing EXACTLY what went into making them and what will be going into my families bodies when they eat it.

I really DO think that canning is not only worthwhile, but almost necessary now a days.  Commercial companies are starting to reduce the quality of their ingredients to save costs in our economies and more and more people are ending up with allergies that need to be dealt with.  A really simple way to cut down on the amount of "questionable stuff" that is going into our bodies is to prepare food ourselves and canning is a truly wonderful way to not only store it for indefinite storage but also a good way to save yourself freezer space.

So, stick with me will you as I share with you some of my favorite canning recipes (both through boiling water canning methods and pressure canning methods) and show you that really, canning if you have the right tools and motivation really doesn't need to be rocket science or something to terrify people.  I know I'll enjoy it and I hope you will too!

No comments: