Thursday, June 28, 2012

Preserving Summer All Winter

     This is a depressing time of year in the family kitchen, mainly because most everything that my husband and his mom canned last year is gone now, and we have to resort to the grocery store for such things as pizza sauce, jam, and salsa. Most  all the veggies were froze last year are gone also.
Nothing is more depressing at meal time than confronting a jar of store bought pizza sauce after you have been eating your own all winter. At least we  haven't run out of ketchup yet. The kids hate the store bought ketchup.

     One of the advantages of marrying a man who spent much of his childhood on a farm is that he expects as a matter of course to can and freeze There is  always something in progress around the house, whether its cheese or vinegar or drying herbs. And although we don't have room on our tiny city lot for much more than a tomato plant or two, my mother in law lives in the country and puts a large garden in every year. For the last 4 years the whole family has collaborated, with the children and grandchildren who live nearby helping with the weeding and maintenance, while my spouse and kids who live further away, go for the harvesting and canning season.

    We can for many reasons. One is the obvious, it tastes good. Another is that my husband and is mother take great pleasure in getting to do something as it was done on the farm. And along with that is the satisfaction of seeing the work of ones own hands lining the shelves and brightening the dinner table. Also its a pleasing thing in the middle of winter to place on the table something that was growing in the garden last winter.  What we don't do it for is to save money.

    This is  a misunderstanding many people have of canning and preserving. They think
you do it to save money. They are wrong.Especially in the initial layout for supplies, it is probably more expensive than stocking up at the grocery store.(the only way you can be said to save money is in not having to buy these things in the middle of winter when bills are much higher out here in the snow belt)  So you do not can for cost effectiveness. You do it because the end results  look and taste wonderful. To my eyes nothing looks better than pantry shelves looking like they did last summer:

peppers and pickles

 Jalapeno peppers, pickles and jam

more assorted jams
Tomato sauce

As attractive as all this looks it tastes even better. Once you have eaten home canned ketchup, or tomato sauce or jam, anything from the store seems bland and tasteless. A chief villain in all this is doubtless corn syrup, which is what most commercial food is sweetened with. It gives sweetness but little flavor. Once when we ran out of ketchup, I bought the kids a bottle of all-natural no corn syrup ketchup They informed me it was the closest thing to dad's ketchup they had tasted, although it still wasn't the same thing.

We purchase our mixes and supplies in Amish country. The reason is that for the Amish, who do not use electric freezers, canning is a necessary way of life, not a hobby. They have the supplies available and they know how to advise you when there is a problem.

In addition to canning, we vacuum freeze veggies and we dehydrate herbs and veggies. One of my sons favorite things is dried hot peppers that are then ground a little at a time as needed  for seasoning food. The freshness of newly ground red pepper vs red pepper from the spice aisle is astounding.
The same is true for making vinegar from scratch (supplies for this are usually available at any store that sells supplies for making wine and beer) We buy cider in the fall and make vinegar, also we have a friend who makes her own wine and mead. When something doesn't turn out, we make it vinegar.

The nicest thing about this is the effect on the children. They have learned to appreciate the hard work that goes into food preparation and preservation. Hopefully they will choose to do this for their families one day as well, but even if they don't, they will always be aware, even in the grocery store, of what is involved in the making of the food, and most importantly they know how the food should taste. It may be the most important lesson we ever teach them.

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