No, not the dance. But something equally as exciting and so much more self-satisfying. Unless you’re a gentleman watching some lovely French Ladies perform the time-honoured dance of the same name. But we won’t go there….
I am talking about Canning. Canning is preserving home-grown foods for consumption during the long, drawn-out, cold, miserable, kill your spouse for being cooped up with you for far too long Canadian winters.
Kinda makes you appreciate all the efforts you expended tending to that garden in the nine-million degree heat all summer long. Dealing with the cabbage worms that were eating your lettuce, or the Tomato Hornworms that devoured your toms, or fending off the young groundhog that decided your garden patch would be a great pantry source for his new home (true story, the little devil mowed down a potted lettuce plant and I had to take evasive measures).
Preserving fruits and vegetables has been in practice for eons. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians would preserve food in salt and/or vinegar. The principles used then are still used today, just fine-tuned to reflect current food safety practices.
If you can boil water, and I am sure most of you can, then you are fully capable of canning/preserving nature’s bounty. Even if you do not actually grow it yourself and rely on your local farmer’s market for fresh produce, the end result is delicious, healthy, chemical/preservative-free food for you and your family.
You do not need to go out and spend a fortune on canning equipment either. Most kitchens are already equipped with the basics. Here are the tools you need to can/preserve at home:
- Dutch Oven or Stock Pot large enough to hold water at least 1”-2” above filled jars. Ideally the pot should be around 10”-12” in diameter and around the same height.
- Long Handled Tongs for lifting out hot jars (BBQ tongs work great).
- Cheesecloth and/or Kitchen Linen for straining.
- Canning Jars and lids
- Wide-mouthed funnel for pouring hot liquids into canning jars.
- All-Purpose Thermometer
- Big, Cushy, Comfy Slippers for standing in all day.
If you have these items in your kitchen already, then there are no excuses for you to not embrace the challenge of making your own preserved food. Unless you are totally lazy, in that case, permission granted to move to Japan, whereby they are the largest producer of fast-food packaging waste in the world and you will fit right in.
To help you with your canning odyssey, I highly recommend the following book. It has over 400 recipes for canning a myriad of food items and it is just as good for the Beginner as it is for the Seasoned Pro. It has a full ‘How-To’ section and Troubleshooting section to answer all your questions/concerns and how-the-hell-did-I-screw-this-up scenarios.
It is available in soft cover or hard cover. Get the soft cover, no need to spend more money than you need to. I picked mine up on Amazon.com for less than half the price as what they wanted here in our local big-box chain. Even with shipping it was WAY cheaper.
The only thing I will tell you..no ORDER you to do, is to really pay attention in following any canning recipe EXACTLY. I am a notorious recipe tweaker, but when it comes to canning/preserving food, resist the urge to decrease this, add this or alter in any way shape or form, the given recipe. Otherwise, you are inviting a trip to the hospital with potential food poisoning. These recipes are written and perfected for best food safety practices and consumption.
Unless you want to experience Botulism…I suggest you follow the written word here.
That is my public service announcement (and liability denouncement) for the day.
Now that I have gotten the scare-your-pants-off stuff out of the way, it is time to get down to canning business. Head to the market, grab some fresh produce and you are all set to enjoy the benefits of home preserving food. I bet your kids wouldn’t recognize a freshly pickled dill pickle out of the jar. Heck, let the munchkins help out, it is a great way to teach the younger generation that food doesn’t have to come in a Styrofoam or Plastic container…..