In my world, this summer was all about canning. It’s like an evil yet awesome addiction that takes over you. Why exactly I enjoy making up a tiny batch of plum noir jam or a few pints of peaches in honey syrup, the excitement of something unknown like tomato jam or quite well known like your classic dill [green bean] pickle, it’s hard to pin down.
Then again, there is something amazing about savoring something that seems so fleeting like the summer season. My father was a small-time gardener, and I still remember the joy of that first cucumber, popping cherry tomatoes off the plant, eating them warm. I still have the image of my father biting into a pepper straight from the plant – or the bowl, or refrigerator. [His test as to if a pepper was spicy enough was could he handle the bite. Nine times out of ten, he ate the entire pepper with no pause.] The most difficult idea to let go of is the fig tree. I grew up with green skinned, pink fleshed figs. Late August, the tree would finally burst with figs. One of the latest plants to fruit in the garden, the most waited upon. I can find warm cherry tomatoes, refreshing cucumbers, fiery peppers all straight from very local farms. But figs really won’t be the same here.
What was I getting at? Oh, yes, that I was raised enjoying the summer for all it gave us, and the desire to capture that is strong. The cold, cold winters here don’t leave much to the food imagination. But now that I’ve been captured by the canning bug, I can look forward to slices of nectarines served on a warm cake, whole canned tomatoes making my shakshouka and even fig jam mingling with some peanut butter on dense whole wheat bread. There’s something magical about being able to capture that, and that makes me smile.
Coming along with that big smile is the other joy canning brings. It automatically supplies you with gifts for those you love. Whether they be gifts served in your own home, cracking open a jar of peach chutney to serve with a curry dinner with your significant other. Gifts brought to a gathering, a jar of strawberry jam, goat cheese and crackers as a party appetizer anyone? Or more directly, holiday or birthday presents, these unassuming glass jars carry a lot of love.
And they come across a bit less innocuous than baked goods. I love baking, I love eating homemade goodies, I adore sharing them with friends. But on a regular basis, that can be quite the overkill. Canning has taken over a slice of my baking brain. Baking helps the stress melt away. Now, I can balance my experimental, relaxation baking with canning of the same vein. At least with a jar of jam, it’s a bit less tempting to nibble through the entire jar in one evening. And pickles? Well pickles might as well become a close friend if you’re looking for savory snacks on the healthier side. Oh, and of course, there’s the long shelf-life that comes with these gifts over cookies. Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop baking and gifting, but canned items allow me to give with zeal and without pause.
And when it comes down to it, it’s just fun! Even with my scares here and there [totally unfounded], I don’t worry about causing harm to myself or anyone else with what I eat. It’s helped decrease my food waste habits and helped me embrace all the fun, crazy, unknown vegetables that have shown up in my CSA.
I leave you this post without a recipe. But, when it comes to controlled processes like canning I don’t yet have many that I can truly call my own. But, I have so many delicious ones made by better “pros” than I. I’ve had the pleasure to meet some great people who happen to write awesome blogs about or including canning. Doris & Jilly Cook, Food in Jars, Hedonia, Hip Girls Homemaking, Punk Domestics and Tigress in a Jam (and a Pickle!) all have fabulous recipes, instructions and are generally great resources. If you’ve clicked over to any of the recipes mentioned, they probably come from those blogs and for good reason. Go on, explore, and at least think about canning. Or, you can think about sending me your wishlist of jars, who knows what I may feel like giving up.
A hipstamatic peek into my deep, dark canning cabinet. Yup, all that (and more) has happened since late June.