20 September 2012

Canning, Part 1

I started writing a blog on canning and decided that it's too great of a topic to lump into one. Thus, there will be a series on canning. I'll throw in other posts in between for those of you who are not interested...but really you should be. And you hopefully will be by the end of this post. This one is all about why I love canning.
My beloved jars
It all started with a blue Ball jar I bought at a yard sale about 7 years ago. I just got it, because it was neat looking and really I'm a sucker for anything old. I still remember the woman explaining, “I would normally sell this for $15, but I can tell you will appreciate it. So you can have it for 5. I know you'll take good care of it.” I had no idea that jars were sought after collectables. However, I smiled and thanked the lady, thinking it could hold pens or cotton balls. I still have it. I have collected more jars over the years and cannot resist just checking at sales and thrift stores. My favorite is a Drey square jar. Hmm. More on that later!
More recently, I became more interested in gardening and eating locally. This naturally led to preserving. I quickly realized that green beans are not really growing 365 in Tennessee. So how can you enjoy those things that are out of season while not resorting to California imports? Well, I tried freezing first. But with the standard freezer/fridge setup, you can't really stock up on much. I was all too pleased that our current house came with one. However, I often forget what is in there, and some things must be thawed beforehand. I now mostly use the deep freezer to store discounted meats. I just roasted my last turkey in fact. Can't beat 69 cents a pound!
With canning, you can take advantage of produce at its peak, when the flavor is optimum and prices are low. You also have more local options. Consider tomatoes. Now, I can't stand raw tomatoes, but even I know a homegrown summer tomato is heaven compared to the bland, pink orbs from Argentina in December.
Another bonus is controlling ingredients, a definite plus for those with allergies or diet restrictions. I'm sure we've all stood there stupefied by the plethora of barbecue sauces, wondering which tastes best for pulled pork. Or wondering what in the hell disodium inosinate is. Or what exactly “natural and artificial flavorings” means. Well, when you make it from scratch, you know exactly what's in it and can cater it exactly to your taste and needs.
U.S. Office of War Information, 1944
Canning is also a great way to have heat-and-eat meals right on hand. It's not all pickles and jam. You can can (heh heh) meat, soups, sides...pretty much anything but pasta and grains. This lady canned bacon! Now, it was totally yanked from a mad scientist's lab, but a great option if you have limited fridge or freezer space. Perfect for trips up to the cabin or those off the grid. For the rest of us, a whole meal for four can be ready in minutes. That's sounds great to this working mother.
Last but certainly not least, canning is beautiful! (Except for the meat, that is.) I love seeing the rows of canned goods on my shelf. It's like a rainbow of food. I find it unbelievably comforting and calming to can. Passing by the pantry, seeing the glistening jars just puts a smile on my face. It's ridiculous really, but I love it that much.

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