A Method to my Madness: Why I Can

26 Nov

I’m not going to lie – it was pretty freaking awesome to have all of last week off. However, having to go to work today? Totally blows. I wish my company was closed in observance of the first day of rifle hunting here in Pa. That would have been super fantastic. Because I’d still be in my pj’s just finishing up the last swig of coffee and getting ready to bring down all the Christmas decor. Sigh. Now, onto the real reason for my post!

Food Preservation – when people think of food preservation they think about their great grandparents and grandparents. They did it because times were tough and it helped to save money. It was a great way to feed their  – at many times – very large families. They did it because it was part of their immigrant heritage – their mothers did it, so they too carried on the tradition.

My bubba was a canner. She’d preserve the fruits and veggies from my pap’s well taken care of, high yielding garden. Sadly, I never got to see this part of her life because when she passed away, I was 7 and she was 92. Her canning days were behind her. My gram never canned or preserved food, therefore my mom never did. Which means I was never introduced to it. But I got into it because I like to think because it is in my blood, part of my DNA. But the real truth it that I got bored with traditional cooking and needed a challenge. I needed something different. I was already creative in the kitchen, trying new recipes and being adventurous. But food preservation? That was something totally different. There was a science to it. And the thought of having shelves full of beautiful mason jars filled with foods I had preserved was very appealing to me. But I wasn’t sure it was something that would stick for me as a hobby so I did a test before I committed to purchasing all the stuff you’d need. I made a batch of strawberry jam. That first batch of jam? It was delicious. It was sweet, it was simple, it was easy to make. And I was in love with the fact that I could recite all of the ingredients that were in it, without having to look at a label. The idea of simple preserved foods made a home in my head, and my heart. The following year, we planted a garden. I gave in, knowing I was hooked and purchased more mason jars, a canning pot, and a pressure canner because hubs wanted to can deer meat. I tried my hand at pickles, pickled peppers, and canned tomatoes. I made a batch of Apple Pie Jam. Tomato Butter. Simple things that could be processed in a water bath canner. Only enough to take up just one shelf in the basement food storage shelves. The pressure canner sat for almost a year, unused while I attempted to get over my irrational fear of it exploding and blasting me in the face with molten hot deer meat and shards of glass. The hubs used it the first time around January 2012 to cold pack a few jars of deer meat. It didn’t explode. I got over my fear and jumped into canning a whole 23qt canner full of jars of deer meat. I survived. I was in deep.

This year, I went balls out on canning – take no prisoners. I canned 100+ jars of stuff, a variety – pasta sauce (tomato basil and spicy tomato), tomato jam, bruschetta mix, strawberry jam, apple pie jam, pinto beans, cannellini beans, greek style butter beans, potatoes, and my very first batch of chicken stock. And I’m not done. I plan on canning another canner full of deer meat with some potatoes and carrots for a kind of hunters stew. I want to do more potatoes because it’s lovely being able to pop open a jar and have almost instant home fries for breakfast. I’m going to can ground beef so we can have quick nachos, or chili. That Thanksgiving turkey carcass will be turned into turkey stock (I’ll have an upcoming post on how to make this soon!) This is just the tip of the iceberg for me.

Now, onto WHY I can and preserve. It’s for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with the zombie apocalypse. Yes, I’m obsessed with all things zombie, but I’m not preserving mass quantities of food because of some potential viral outbreak that turns us into brain eating undead. I do it because it’s cheaper than purchasing it from the grocery store – I even beat the discount stores. But I’d still can even if doing it myself wasn’t cheaper. Because – onto the second reason I can – canning my own food means I have control over what is going into my body. I can recite the exact ingredients that went into all of those items I listed earlier, because the list of ingredients is small. I am canning veggies from my own garden, as well as local farms. For a little investment of my time, I can fill shelves with food that has no preservatives, except maybe a little salt, vinegar or lemon juice. I can take that surplus from our garden and turn it into pasta sauce that we can eat and share for a whole year. The third reason I can? Because I enjoy it. I love cooking. You have got to love cooking in order to be a food preserver. It is time consuming, and it can get hectic, because you have to process the veggies and fruits when they are ready. They do not wait until it is convenient for you. My August and September each year are now pretty much consumed with canning and freezing. That means the house is a mess, because between work and canning there is certainly no time for things like running the sweeper or dusting. The laundry gets done sporadically. I force myself to clean the bathrooms because well, they’re bathrooms and they get gross. And at times I do get frazzled and feel overwhelmed because I am living and breathing food preservation. After work, on the weekends. Yep, I live and breathe it for those 2 months. This year, when I was all done, I wiped the sweat from my brow and said whew! All done till next year! And then a couple weekends later, I canned potatoes. In the coming weeks I’ll can that deer meat “stew”. Why? Because I had a breather from Canapalooza 2012 and I want my new canning shelf to be FULL of jars, no empty spaces. And because I love to cook. And the last  reason why I can? It’s kind of a side effect, but I want to inspire other  people, both young and old to start canning or to restart canning. To be more mindful of what they are eating. I am only 32, and people are always surprised that someone so young is so deeply interested in something as old fashioned as canning. Hearing people say that makes me smile. My own mom wanted me to teach her to can before she passed away, because she loved the thought of controlling her food. And it would give her a hobby. If I can inspire just one person to take up canning from my talking about, or gifting them something I’ve made, it makes this whole food love/food preservation experience even more worthwhile.

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11 Responses to “A Method to my Madness: Why I Can”

  1. Lisa Reffner November 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    I wish I had your passion for it…. but I will admit I miss the canned tomatoes that my Grandma Edie used to make and her homemade jams…. I would like to learn those two.

    • seasonedwithsarcasm November 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Aw thanks Lisa! You certainly do need a passion for it as it’s so time consuming for certain things. The good news about those things you miss? Those are easy – and water bath canned so not really any special equipment required! Just jars, lids, and a big soup pot with a rack in the bottom to keep the jars from being in direct contact with the bottom of the pot!

  2. Heidi @ lightlycrunchy November 27, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    I’m heavy on the madness, light on the method, myself. I enjoyed the little bit of canning that I did this year – and love eating all the stuff we froze from the garden. However, if zombies come a knocking (and I do love a good zombie movie) – I won’t be sticking around to eat my preserves, I’ll be hightailing it outta here.

    • seasonedwithsarcasm November 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      haha I think anyone who does large scale food preservation is heavy on madness. It’s pretty much a requirement. And I agree – who in the hell wants to grab jars and jars of canned food and leave? I’ve seen it happen on that show Doomsday preppers and think those people are just plain looney tunes.

  3. Alicia November 27, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    I am also a canning addict! September is always crazy around here too because that is tomato and pepper season, and I usually also go on vacation at that time. But enjoying all those great foods the rest of the year makes it all worth it! And now when I do small canning projects on the weekends, it is a lot more fun.
    My favorite first time projects from this year: zucchini relish, tomato jam, plum sauce

    • seasonedwithsarcasm November 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      Ain’t that the truth? Those small batches of waterbath canning go SO FAST and are SO easy that you don’t even break a sweat doing them! What recipe do you use for your zucchini relish? I wanted to make that this year, but for some reason our zucchini plants didn’t produce like they usually do and I refused to buy any!

      • Alicia November 28, 2012 at 3:01 am #

        I used the Barbeque Relish recipe in Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard’s “The Complete book of Small Batch Preserving”. (The only change I made was cutting way back on the amount of clove – only used a pinch. The celery seed in this recipe really shines – it is delicious! After making the first batch, I couldn’t resist making it again – as a double batch!

      • seasonedwithsarcasm November 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

        Hmmm…I think I have that book somewhere! Thanks for letting me know! I don’t like the taste of cloves at all, so I’d probably omit it completely. But celery seed? That stuff is awesome! I love adding extra to pickle brines. Yum!

  4. Seasonsgirl November 30, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    Wow all those cans. This is my first year canning and I wish I had as many as yours 🙂

    • seasonedwithsarcasm November 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      thanks! My first year was pretty slim too – barely took up one of those shelves – so progress has certainly been made! Good luck to you and your future full shelves of home canned deliciousness 🙂

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