September 13, 2012

Putting Up Food


I love preserving food, I've been infatuated with the whole idea of it ever since I can remember. As a girl one of my favorite movies was Baby Boom with Diane Keaton (it doesn't hold up that well but I have to say, it's still a guilty pleasure), there is a scene where she fills a stack of jars with apple sauce and piles them into a cabinet that made me positively giddy. Of Course that scene now drives me nuts because she needs to process those jars before storing them- duh! I'm not sure why but most of my childhood fantasises about my future involved an image of shelves filled with home-made preserves and pickles. Yes, I know that is an odd fantasy. I'm odd, but there is something about those jars all lined up that is endlessly satisfying for me.

In college I would check out book after book on growing and preserving food from the library and scribble notes, preparing for when I'd one day have a real kitchen and garden. I'm fairly certain that I was also the only girl with a Kitchen Aid mixer in my dorm room, so yeah... party in my room! I'm sure you wish you knew me then.


Once I moved to Boston I did start experimenting with some canning, but it wasn't until the winter of 2007 when I read the Barbara Kingsolver book, Animal Vegetable Miracle that I really got into it. I had already been reading quite a bit about food, where it comes from and how we eat... but this book was so much more captivating than the other's. It inspired me to try eating only local food (I really missed bananas) and I spent the next summer preserving my goodies from our CSA share, farmer's markets, and our little balcony vegetable garden.

our little cambridge apartment / fall 2008

The picture above is from that year, jars lined up over the kitchen cabinets of our tiny 500 square foot apartment. Every time I got the hot water bath boiling the temperature of the entire place would rise ten degrees. Some of our friends thought we were nuts, other's joined in the canning fun.

One of my favorite recipes from Animal Vegetable Miracle is a giant marathon of relish, sauce and chutney. I made it several years in a row and it took something like 13-15 hours and kept me up late into the night. I haven't tackled that beast since having Little Smith but I still do lots of preserving in smaller batches. I posted a few efforts here and here.

relish, sauce, and chutney in one day (and night) / summer 2009

These days it seems like preserving food is a popular hobby. Lots of my friends are into it and one actually told me about a canning themed baby playdate... intense! It's so trendy that it's even parodied on Portlandia. If only I could go back to college and tell everyone that there was a whole canning movement brewing!


I'm not as strict about eating locally anymore. We do buy bananas, sooo many bananas, and lots of other produce that comes from far away places. I do still try to grow what I can, check out what my farmer's market has to offer, and preserve all the extras to enjoy in the depths of winter when I'm salivating for a decent tomato. Like any cooking it is work, but it's cheaper and tastier than anything I can buy... and of course there is that added bonus of fulfilling a childhood fantasy!

16 comments:

  1. I can´t even express how divine this looks - can I come and live in your home for a while..?!

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    1. Aw, thanks very much- we'd love to have you!

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  2. I love this! Growing up, I remember watching both of my grandmas and my aunts canning the bounties of their gardens in the early fall. And then, in those cold winter months, I'd be sent to the basement to find a jar of peaches or cherries or green beans and thought nothing of it. I don't think I realized till I was older the effort and the time they put into storing food. And it's great canning is making a comeback! I think we, as a society, need to be more connected to our food.

    Every year I say I'm going to start canning and, every year, I chicken out. What is the easiest thing to start with?!

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    1. What wonderful childhood memories to have! I think anything pickled is definately easiest to start with, probably cucumbers, zucchini, or string beans. Those don't require much cooking time like sauces and you dint have to worry if they'll set up like jams, plus all that vinegar makes it easy to tweak recipes and quantities without worrying it's going to spoil. Happy canning!

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  3. Beautiful! I'm in love with your rows of gleaming jars, too. I've canned with my mom for years, but never on my own. It's an effort, but so worth it. (love Portlandia- put a bird on it!)

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  4. I don't think you are odd at all. It's awesome that you do all this. I would love to do more canning. My husband and I were talking about doing zucchini relish just yesterday. We used to do huge quantities of tomatoes (outdoors) with his Italian parents, but they don't do it anymore. We are debating doing smaller amounts in our kitchen, but we are afraid of the mess. We'll see...

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  5. I don't find it odd at all! Most of my friends can, have gardens. I am so lacking in this area. I definitely need to read the book. In spare time? (ha!) Oh and Portlandia totally nails the parodies doesn't it!!

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  6. I don't think you are weird at all! In fact, I have always felt the same way-- giddy with the thought of filling my cabinets/refrigerator with homemade goodies.

    I think there is some very primal urge in women to make and store food items for our families. It fulfills a very basic need inside of us to nourish our families and stockpile for the winter, back to a time when food processing took a lot longer and therefore occupied our time and energy for many hours of the day... unfortunately now I wonder if that translates in our modern society to consumerism and shopaholic women and hoarders... if only we went back to the basic need to feed and nourish, we would be so much better off! What a healthy way to indulge that feeling. I am truly so inspired by you, Lilly!

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    1. Thanks so much Lauren, what a beautifully stated an insightful comment!

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  7. Seeing all of those canned goods lined up above your cupboards makes me absolutely thrilled! We have only done small batches of things here and there as we haven't that much experience yet, but I am constantly longing to have a tall metal cabinet filled with jars of home-canned goods, much like the one my grandmother kept in her own home. It's funny how trends come and go, something that used to be the norm fading away and now having a resurgence.

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  8. This is so cool! I've toyed with the idea of canning next year, but it's truly something I don't know anything about! I'll have to look into this book + jump around on Amazon to see what I can find. It seems like a very gratifying project! xo, eliza

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  9. Canning and preserving is so exciting to me. I am also really thrilled with the idea of making a bunch extra of whatever I'm making, and freezing it for later. So yeah, I think we totally would have gotten along in college. :)

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  10. Oh, how I envy those beautiful jars of preserved goodness! My mom used to really be into this when I was little and would get together with neighborhood friends for canning sessions. Mostly canned peaches and other fruits. People like you who actually take on this task are awesome!

    xo
    cortnie

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  11. I love-love-love that book! read it twice! was amazingly inspirational. :)

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  12. I love, love, love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! That was a big game changer for us, as well as Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. The year we read those books, we started going to the farmer's market every Saturday morning, buying raw goat milk from the back of someone's van in a parking lot (a very shady affair because of raw milk laws, ha!), and purchased a very expensive heirloom turkey for Thanksgiving (when we went to pick it up at the farm, a dog greeted us with a gigantic turkey claw in his mouth- eek!!). We are not quite as hardcore about local food anymore, but I really would love to get back to that someday! We are rubbish at gardening, but I'd love to work harder on that in the future as well. :)

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