Eat Green: Preserve Summer’s Bounty
Seven years ago, I dreamed of canning my own food. But I knew absolutely nothing about preserving food, and truth be told it seemed like such a complex endeavor, and so much work, that I was intimidated about getting started.
However, I teamed up with a friend and together we tackled our first canning project: peach jam. I can still remember, years later, the incredible sense of pride and joy I felt learning how to make jam. And it tasted better than any other peach jam I’d ever had. This peach jam was made from local peaches, and contained no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup. It was simple, homemade, and incredibly good.
The Environmental Benefits of Canning
Although canning and preserving food is something our grandparents and great-grandparents did weekly during the summer and fall, it largely fell out of favor in the latter part of the 20th Century. After all, why can and preserve your own food when you can just go to the store?
However, canning and preserving is seeing a huge resurgence as people want to preserve their local, seasonal food, save money, and keep BPA (which is often found in the lining of cans) out of their diet.
Canning your own food is a greener way to eat because chances are, you’re using food that’s in season and grown locally. You’re supporting local farmers buy buying a large bulk of their fruits and vegetables. And when you eat preserved food in the winter, it means you’re not buying and eating food that was trucked or flown in hundreds or thousands of miles. It’s just a smarter, more eco-friendly way to eat.
Another huge benefit to home canning is that they make wonderful, unique gifts. This means you’re not purchasing “products” come holiday time, which further reduces your impact on the environment.
Is Canning Difficult?
Canning is not as difficult as you might think. I first experienced canning with a friend seven years ago, and then re-taught myself three or four years ago. You can teach yourself how to can safely. And it doesn’t make as big a mess as you might think.
I’d recommend picking up a copy of Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving. This is the book I learned to can from, and it’s full of incredibly delicious (and well-explained) recipes.
I’ve made Habanero Jam, Strawberry Jam, Blueberry sauce, and Red Wine Jelly. I’ve pickeled Watermelon Rinds, Squash, Cucumbers, and Dilly Beans, to name just a few. The recipes in this book are out of this world delicious!
Right now, it’s almost berry season here in Michigan, which means big batches of Strawberry Jam (a big favorite) and Blueberry Syrup, all grown locally. This year I’m also going to try making salsa with 100% locally grown ingredients. And, many of the foods I preserve during summer and fall I give as gifts over Christmas.
All in all, canning is a wonderfully rewarding way to preserve excess food from your garden or farmer’s market. It helps you save money, and reduce your impact on the environment in many different ways. And, it’s also a great deal of fun, especially if you do it with friends!
I’d love to hear from you. Do you can? Do you have any questions about home canning?