October 30, 2008

Eco Kitchen: Canning 101 (Totally Safe, Actually Kinda Fun & Will Let You Eat Local All Winter Long).

Via Mary Taylor, from the Holiday 2008 issue.

Oh! Can you do the can-can? If you can then I can…
Canning your own foods may seem daunting, if not a bit out of fashion. But it’s the ultimate retort to Winter as it sneers at Autumn’s endless supply of fresh produce. Like it or not, even those of us who’ve been meditating on non-attachment for years can experience a twinge of grasping, come mid-winter, for a serving of peach pie!

>> From peaches to pickles to preserves, the technique is the same. A prepared food is transferred to sterilized jars, then sealed airtight. The intimidation factor is that if food is not properly handled, it can develop organisms and cause spoilage, even disease. So if you’ve never canned, check out the Bible of Canning, Janet Greene’s Putting Food By, or google some good online sources. Better yet, spend an afternoon as an apprentice to a friend who’s canned before—and lived to tell about it.

>> Buy canning equipment online, on Craigslist, at garage sales or at your local hardware store. You’ll need a 10-quart stock pot or pressure cooker, in addition to heat-proof jars, lids, a canning rack and a jar lifter. Wait before investing in extras such as a wide mouth funnel, racks for lids and stainless steel ladles until you know how often you’ll actually use them.

>> Only the best quality foods should be canned—organic produce at peak of season. Get a couple of cases of tomatoes or peaches, then make a large batch of your grandmother’s famous tomato sauce, or a syrup for fresh peaches.

>> Heat foods completely through to the “cold spot” in the center of a jar—so start with something like a purée of fresh apples—the flavor and texture won’t be destroyed if you overheat the jars in an overzealous effort to avoid botulism. Once you’ve successfully canned something simple, then try more complicated recipes like pickles, jams or preserves.

>> Mark your jars clearly with content and date canned. Store canned goods in a cool, dark place. Check regularly: if the lids bulge or loosen or the contents ooze out, toss the contents into the compost rather than risk poisoning your friends!

MARY TAYLOR is an avid student of yoga and the gastronomic arts, having studied in India and France. The author of three cookbooks and co-author of What Are You Hungry For? Women, Food and Spirituality, Mary teaches workshops and seminars on food, eating and yoga. She is the director of The Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado.

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