This week all over the country all those freshly sharpened pencils, shiny notebooks and back to school sneakers are being put to use as the first day of school is now behind us. Although I suppose these days its more likely Laptops and iPhones. This summer went by in a flurry and I can hardly believe that's it- so long summer. I did manage to pack in quite a lot of summer fun and while August, the hottest month, left me shivering a bit, we had some fine summer sun here in "rainy" Vancouver with plenty of sun and heat. I'm thankful for long patio dinners and plenty of small town BC escapes, but am sad I did not have more picnics, perhaps my favourite summer activity. I'm off to far off lands soon and hope to make up for that on a Tuscan hilltop or a Mediterranean beach.
This was lemontart.ca's first summer and I had lofty ambitions of providing you with useful information, ideas and tutorials on my favourite summer activity - preserving and canning. But my summers are a flurry of activity in the kitchen and a race against the seasons which means less time to stop for photo shoots and even less for instructional documents. I hope to improve upon that next year.
From the first stocks of rhubarb put in freezer bags before I've eaten nary a pie, and fleeting local strawberries, to pickling cukes that show up bright eyed and ready for a fermentation, every year the beginning of the growing season catches me by surprise. It feels like there are months and months ahead of fruits and vegetables in their prime but the bittersweet relationship of eating food in season is that it does indeed have a season and often a relatively short one. In order to feel like I can enjoy more than 3 weeks of strawberries that taste of those strawberry shortcakes written in novels or the memory of a peach dripping sweet from your chin, I preserve these beautiful gifts for a cold, grey, winters day.While the preserved product is not exactly as having that fresh juicy plum, its a fairly nice reminder of summers past.
Putting up, putting by, canning, preserving... Whatever you call it, it's an old idea, and obsolete really, considering modern refrigeration and easy, affordable access to preserved foods. What began as a way to make it through the winter, a simple matter of survival, before the days of refrigeration has now turned into a trend. Over the past few years canning has been making a quite a resurgence and I find myself in company with more and more people giddy about their first batch of strawberry jam, canning peaches or braving pickling. In these days of corporate control of our food supply and fruit shipped from all corners of the earth, this small revolution of people taking a step into having control over the food they eat is something to be excited about Along with growing numbers of farmers markets and support of local produce it is another example of a powerful food movement across the country.
To me canning is simply something I do. I was raised in homes with kitchens full of peeled peaches, simmered salsas, crunchy dill pickles and and canned tomatoes and the sight of "cold rooms" full of shiny glass jars full of all manner of fruits, like jewels in showcases. I suppose I came to it by osmosis and I'm thankful for that knowledge that seeped into me relentlessly from my mom and my grandmother. Its important to me that at least some of my food in the winter was processed by me, it didn't take extra fuel to get to me, jars are being reused and I know where the fruit or veg came from.
But while I may have let YOU down this summer, there is still plenty of opportunity to preserve something. Farmers markets and fruit stands are bursting with colourful fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes are in the prime, so why not buy a box and dry them, one of the easiest ways of preserving. Or try your hands at a plum jam, or freeze a bag of blueberries. Know someone who cans? Tag along and learn how easy canning a batch of pears is. Stay tuned next month and I'll show you have to make apple butter and sauce.
While neglecting my personal soapbox, I did manage to get these done. My repertoire changes each year so I'll let lemontart.ca keep this record for future reference. This doesn't include my bountiful freezer full of berries, roasted eggplants and peppers and purreed tomatoes. Winter, here I come!
Here are The Fruits of My Labour 2009
Sweet Garlic Dill Pickles
Classic Dill Pickles
Pickled Red Onions
Mustard vegetable pickles
Raspberry Chocolate Jam
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Oven dried Jaune Flamme tomatoes packed in olive oil
Oven dried homegrown cherry tomatoes
Greengage Plum Jam
Smokey Tomato Salsa
Brandied Sour Cherries
Pickled Sour Cherries
Canned Tomatoes with basil
Wine poached naramata butter pears