Preserving the Harvest

Every season carries certain food associations. I never want summer’s abundance of sweet corn, peppers, beans, and tomatoes to end. Maybe that’s why early autumn makes me think of dill pickles, sauerkraut, chutney, and relish.

When I was a kid, every summer around Labor Day my family drove from western to eastern Washington state to load our car with peaches, pears, and cucumbers. Back home, we began our week long project of putting up jars of preserved produce. I fell under the spell of the kitchen haze, steam scented with dill and apple cider vinegar for the cukes, or burnt sugar if hot sugar syrup poured over peaches and pears dripped on the hot stove top.

My husband and his daughter also cherish a tradition of late summer canning. Their ritual includes recipes from a book that resides on this library’s shelves, The Joy of Pickling: 200 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market. Since moving to Pittsburgh my husband and I have missed sharing in this glad preparation for the dark months ahead. With that in mind we made one of the highlights of our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest a Saturday pickling reunion. With The Joy of Pickling in hand, my husband, daughter, son-in-law and I set out for Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair Farmer’s Market. After perusing the bounty, we bought 18 ears of corn and 1 1/2 pounds each of green and yellow beans as the foundation for two pickle recipes.

The product of our kitchen labors included Zydeco Green Beans (page 110),

and Corn Relish (page 297).

If you’ve never canned food yourself, you might be curious about my enthusiasm. True, canning involves organization, special equipment, effort, and a lot of heat and steam. But the rewards include unique, savory treats to keep or give as gifts, knowledge of your winter foods’ origins, and creative satisfaction when your winter taste buds take a taste of late summer.

Sharing the work of canning with friends is the best way to get started. Call it a Pickling Party, or form a society of Puckery Produce Preservationists. The Joy of Pickling or another similar guide will provide the necessary theory of home canning, and step by step instructions for canning in general and pickling in particular. Another important resource is The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Here’s to you, successful home pickler convert!

-Julie

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