Tag Archives: canning

Yes We Can

One cooking project I’ve been scared to tackle is canning and preserving. A  year or two ago, I asked for a set of canning supplies for Christmas, received them, and promptly relegated them into the closet in my house where things go to be ignored, nestled cozily alongside an accordion binder of old tax returns and paperwork from the vet.

I did it!

I decided to get over my fear of messing up and give it a shot, and guess what? It’s not so difficult, after all.  I made some quick garlic pickles and a batch of strawberry jalapeno jam, and now I’m ready for more. Of course, I turned to some trusty library resources to show me the way:

Dare to Cook – Canning Basics (DVD) – Chef Tom doesn’t have the on-screen charisma of your favorite Food Network star, but what he lacks in panache he makes up for in know-how.  Watching this DVD is what finally convinced me that I could do this, and that my fear of giving all my loved ones botulism was unfounded, as long as I followed the clear and simple instructions.

Canning for a New Generation: Bold Fresh Flavors for a Modern Pantry – Almost every review you read of this book says something along the lines of: “If you think caning is just for oldsters, think again!”  It’s true that this book includes lots of contemporary twists on classic recipes and quite a few things you won’t find in other canning books, but it also has good practical advice and recipes for ideas on how to use the jams, sauces, relishes, and condiments you’ll be preserving.

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving – I loved that this had a large number and variety of recipes, and small batch is just right for a beginner like me. It helped me feel like even if I messed something up, I wasn’t wasting a ton of ingredients.  There are lots of recipes in this book for sauces and jams that you don’t have to process and can, so if you are scared of pectin and want to get those skills down pat first, try this one out.

Strawberry Jam Print. Click through for the artist's portfolio.

Strawberry Jam Print. Click through for the artist’s portfolio.

More Canning & Preserving Resources:



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Confessions of a Wanna-Be Doomsday Prepper

You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I worry about disasters as much as I do. I seem normal enough, I don’t belong to any organizations (religious OR political) that believe The End is Near, I highly doubt there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse, and you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing survivalist gear. So what’s a nice girl like me doing flirting with doomsday prepper-dom?

I blame my amygdala, the warrior princess of the limbic system, which processes emotions, and doesn’t respond well to logical arguments. It’s complicated, and you can learn more about how it works in one of the many, many books we own on emotions and the brain, but basically, it boils down to this: you have to give your lizard brain something to do so it won’t hijack your logic center and ruin your day. In the case of my prepper tendencies, I’ve found that teaching myself a new skill makes my amygdala feel like it’s doing something to thwart apocalypse, and while it’s happily pre-occupied, I can go about the business of regular life!

Here are a few skills I’d like to learn in 2013, for science, and also, just in case…

Gardening. We moved into our house too late last year to do anything major with the back yard, but this year, the sky’s the limit. Tomatoes! Potatoes! Herbs in pots! Besides, having lots of plants back there will slow down any zombies that might come crashing through the fence (seconds can count in a zombie war).

Start with: The Virgin Gardener, Jonathan Edwards


Canning and Preserving. There’s something about the thought of neat little jars of tasty things, lined up in a row in the basement, that warms the cockles of my heart. Also, since I hate to waste food, the canning project dovetails nicely with the gardening project. Canning, experienced pros tell me, requires patience and attention to detail, also good skills to refine, impending doom or not.

Start with: Food in Jars, Marisa McClellan.


Martial Arts. Wait, what? Although it may seem like quite a leap, learning a new physical skill is actually also a great way to train the mind, and become calmer in stressful situations. Who couldn’t use that, right? I’m actually drawn to aikido, with its emphasis on peaceful defense, and concern with the well-being of the attacker. But before I make a spectacle of myself in a public class, I think I will practice at home with some library books first.

Start with: First Steps in Aikido, Wendy Walker


I feel so much better now that we’ve talked about this. What kinds of irrational things do you worry about, and how do you keep your fears at bay? What useful skills do you have that would make you the hero/ine in an emergency situation?

–Leigh Anne

mostly joking, but still irrationally afraid of zombies


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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!


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