People sometimes ask me why. Why, rather than going to the grocery store to buy cans of fruits and vegetables, do I preserve and can food.
There are a couple reasons. One for example, I love saving a little bit of summer in a Ball jar. Canned peaches or tomatoes are something tangible and tasty that help me relive the passing summer.
Secondly, it’s a tradition that is becoming a lost art, lost in the ever evolving realm of convenience, fast foods and the globalization of seasonal produce to supermarkets. So I guess why save your own food, when you can just get a jar of pickles at the gas station down the street. Or why jar your own garden fresh tomatoes when you’re able to go grocery shopping and get ripe tomatoes in February.
Well, for one, those pickles you just bought at the gas station are not only genetically modified, but they are chock-full of chemical preservatives. And the tomatoes you picked up at the store, well, they were artificially ripened before arriving to the store.
After the unripe green tomatoes are picked they go into a processing plant, where they’re artificially sprayed with ethylene gas. The tomatoes, which naturally produce ethylene themselves, then turn the familiar red. Then they are shipped off to a supermarket near you. Only problem is that it’s quite an inferior piece of fruit, flavorless, the fleshy composition texturally off.
Knowing that I am unable to stomach most fruit from grocery stores, because it’s not grown for taste, but storage and transport life. I felt I had to do something about preserving summer.
With the sun barely risen, warm yellow hues were glowing across a wispy cloud streaked sky. And in the kitchen is where I found myself on many a morning like this this past summer, just canning the morning away with pickles, peaches, tomatoes, jalapeños, salsa and pears.
And it just felt right. Like I was living some story out of the early 20th century. When it was quite commonplace for people to can and store food. I had a vision this summer. I was to have the pantry stocked with canned fruits and vegetables. In my brain I saw a packed pantry teeming with canned goods reminding me of summer throughout our harsh upstate New York winters.
So I set a goal to have all the bare shelves in the back pantry to be full of canned fruits and veggies I preserved myself. I made a list of what I wanted to can, pickles, whole tomatoes, peaches, peppers, pears, sauerkraut, pickled beets and who could survive all winter without fresh summer salsa.
As much as it is fun, I am continually thinking about the self-reliance aspect of canning and preserving. It’s one of the first steps, I believe, in relying solely on myself. Someday I would like to grow and harvest all my own food. Right now it’s a small portion, but the garden is ever growing.
Personally I don’t think there is anything wrong with breaking up with the grocery-convenience stores and the artificially ripened fruits and other freaks of nature for sale there.
Whats wrong with having certain produce seasonally anyway? Isn’t that what separates the seasons? I don’t think our ancestors had the option of fresh tomatoes in February. And they did just fine.
My canning is not yet complete. I still need to get some organic beets from Grey Rock, my CSA, and I have to get ready for the sauerkraut. But I did get my bosc pears canned this morning.
But as usual I am thinking down the line and of the possibilities when I get a pressure canner. But for now I’ll keep it simple with just the water bath and my quest to become more and more self-reliant.