Lost art of canning lets you enjoy your favorite summertime fruits and vegetables all year long

features@beaufortgazette.comJuly 16, 2013 

FOOD JAM 8 AT

Lauri Jo Bennett, a Norman Park, Georgia entrepreneur who has turned her love of canning into a thriving business, specializes in pepper jelly, a Southern classic traditionally served with cream cheese and crackers. Here, Blueberry Pepper Jelly. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

RENEE BROCK — MCT

I told a friend recently about how well-rested I've been feeling and how I usually feel this way during summer canning season. Her response? Well, she rests well when she buys her vegetables already canned.

She asked me if I eat all the food I can each year. I don't. But I have a certain number of jars and only fill the empty ones.

The first time I was ever questioned about my canning -- and all the effort I was putting into it -- was by my daddy. He pulled me aside and asked about my new hobby -- my mama only canned four quarts of peaches each year so he wondered where I had picked it up. I told him I learned the art of canning from my students' mothers. My father smiled at me and said, "I am proud of you. My mother, your grandmother, canned. There is nothing as enjoyable to eat." To be sure, one gets much closer to the source of your food when you can it yourself. In fact, I keep summer vegetables on my canning shelf for us to enjoy all year long.

Canning -- "putting up food" for the winter -- was a familiar practice in the scrimp-and-save Depression era and then saw a resurgence during the land movement of the 1970s. Many people who once canned started to think it's a waste of time, though, and noted that canned goods are cheaper from the store. These days, however, more young adults want to know what is being served on their tables -- is it fresh? Is it local? Is it in season? So perhaps we'll see another generation learning the lost art of canning.

"Saving the Season," by Mary Clemens Meyer and Susanna Meyer, was published in 2010 and is a good book to use if you want to learn how to can, freeze or dry just about anything. This mother-daughter team has many years of farming experience between them and they offer some reasons they think you should preserve your own food:

  • You can eat from known, local food sources-year round

  • You'll fill your cupboards with foods free from chemical additives and preservatives

  • You'll taste the full flavors of homemade foods; store-bought brands just can't compare

  • You can preserve foods while they're plentiful

  • Here are some recipes from their book:

    FARMERS' MARKET SALSA

  • Makes: 5 pints

  • 7 to 8 medium to large tomatoes (about 8 pounds)

    9 jalapeno peppers

    2 cups coarsely chopped onions

    1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper

    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

    3/4 cup white vinegar

    1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, packed loosely

    1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

    Peel and coarsely chop tomatoes. Measure 7 cups. Wearing rubber gloves, remove seeds from and chop jalapeno peppers. In large cooking pot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and boil gently about 30 minutes or until salsa reaches desired consistency. Ladle into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Tighten lids and process for 20 minutes in boiling water bath.

    PEACH JAM

  • Makes: 7 half pints

  • 4 cups finely chopped peaches (about 3 pounds)

    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    1 box powdered pectin

    1/2 teaspoon butter (optional)

    5 1/2 cups sugar

    Wash, peel and pit peaches. Finely chop. Measure exact amount of chopped peaches and pour into large cooking pot. Stir in lemon juice. Into separate bowl, measure exact amount of sugar. Stir pectin into fruit in cooking pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to a full rolling boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred on high heat. Sir constantly. Stir in sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam from surface of jam. Ladle quickly into jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Tighten lids and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

    FRUIT AND TOMATO RELISH

  • Makes: 8 to 10 quarts

  • 3 1/2 quarts tomatoes

    3 large pears

    3 large apples

    3 large peaches

    2 onions

    2 cups sugar

    3 tablespoons pickling salt

    1/2 cup pickling spice

    2 cups vinegar

    Finely chop fruits and vegetables. Let stand overnight or several hours, then drain off liquid. Add sugar, salt, pickling spice (tied loosely in gauze bag) and vinegar. Simmer in large pot for about 1 hour, stirring often. Remove spice bag. Ladle relish into jars and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

    Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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