September 12, 2014
Preparatory to writing this BLOG I sat in on a recent Saturday morning workshop conducted in the Botanical Garden’s new botany lab, attended by nearly two dozen students: female and male, ranging in age from Young Professionals to retirees and from experienced canners to first timers.
The presenter, Annie Peterson, had a believer in me as soon as she revealed her practice of keeping track each year of how much is left over, getting rid of it and crafting a new season of canning and preserving what is most likely to be consumed within the year. It took me back to a long-standing feud between Grandmother McDonald and my father. She canned everything every year and consumed the oldest first. Daddy was certain she was going to poison us all.
My second observation about Annie is that canning and preserving represents a passion for her the same as others might relish caring for a collection of Buck roses or bonsai. Winter is for planning and dreaming, exploring websites, ordering seeds, followed by the planting and certain toil in bringing any given crop to harvest.
Annie’s top three canning tips:
1) Choose recipes wisely.Use tested recipes from reliable, current sources. (Grandmother McDonald’s won’t do!)
2) Use fresh and local produce.If not from your own garden, go to farmer’s markets or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture participants allow those without gardens to invest in a local grower’s crop, with fresh produce delivered weekly throughout the harvest season.)
3) Keep it clean.Keep your work area clean and tidy. Clear the clutter from your kitchen before a canning session.
Besides boiling-water and steam-pressure canners, Annie makes refrigerator pickles.
Here’s how: Fill jars with cucumber slices or wedges and brine (2-1/2 cups white vinegar, 1/3 cup fine natural sea salt or pickling salt and two tablespoons sugar; simmer gently to dissolve salt and sugar), top with the lids and screw bands and place jars in the refrigerator. Let the jars chill for at least one week before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.
Annie also shared how to freeze vegetables, most of which require blanching for 90 seconds to three minutes, quick chilling in ice water, then sealing in freezer bags. I particularly liked this tip: “After filling freezer bags, make the vegetables extra delicious by slipping a pat or two of herb-flavored butter into the freezer bag with them. Use within one year.”
Annie’s check list of canning resources includes:Can It!, a Better Homes and Gardensbook to which she contributed, Ball Blue Book, National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu), Ball website (freshpreserving.com), Pickyourown.org, punkdomestics.com and foodinjars.com. Local sources for supplies and equipment include Mill’s Fleet Farm, Ace Hardware, Hy-Vee, Menards and the Home Depot.