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!