Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eating in season.

Yesterday one of my husband's coworkers asked "Is canning season over"? After some thought we realized that canning season is never really over. It changes and often seems to slow down but with our seasonal eating and careful shopping there is always something on the "to do" list.

There are many websites that will help you discover what is in season in your area.  Epicurious has a great interactive map that will show you what is in season in your area along with shopping tips and recipes. http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
Eat the Seasons at http://www.eattheseasons.com/ includes meat and seafood.

Shopping and eating locally and seasonally means that we are able to save money, support our local providers and have very tasty food. When we come across something we enjoy at a good price we buy in bulk, prepare, preserve and stock our pantry. After a day of work we are able to come home and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

What do we can? Fruits, vegetables and several home made "fast foods". Fast food? Here a few main dish examples: Black and Anasazi Bean Chili, Taco meat, Italian meatballs, Deviled Ham (usually after a mid winter feast), Sloppy Joe filling, several kinds of soup (based on home made chicken or beef broth) and an assortment of sweet/savory condiments. All this activity helps us eat healthy, local, nutrient dense food and keep our costs down. (meat products, food with meat in addition and low acid foods must be pressure canned)

How much does all this canning cost? When we decided to start canning and preserving our food we knew that we would have to continue to be thrifty. Thrift does not mean doing with out. It means being creative. As one friend said "Sometimes it's the joy of the hunt". Yes, we are hunter gatherers, only our territory has expanded. Now we hunt thrift stores, Craigslist and garage sales. We have found our equipment at all these places. When people realize you are canning and preserving food you may become the recipient of housecleaning. We have received jars and canners when someone has downsized, found steam juicers and canning kettles at thrift stores and on Craigslist.

When you decide to start canning you will find that there is information everywhere.  Practical information and best safety practices can be found at your local Cooperative Extension Office. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ There are many books about canning. One of the best and recommended by the USDA is The Ball Blue Book which should be available at your local bookstore and online. Be sure to get the most recent publication.http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/blue-book-guide-to-preserving/shop/229696/

"Will canning take over my life?" It does not need to. In winter we spend 2 or 3 hours, twice a month and enjoy the results for several weeks. In peak harvest season things get a bit more intense with the kettles simmering throughout the week.

Canning and preserving food has become an important part of our life. My husband has worked hard and received his "Master Food Preserver" certification through WSU Cooperative Extension and is teaching others how to preserve food at local farm stores and super markets. He is a great teacher who loves sharing the joy of really good, local food.

When it's cold, rainy and dark I go to the pantry and pop open a jar of lovingly preserved produce.  It's like opening a bottle of sunshine. All those rich summers flavors come rushing in and the dark of winter recedes.

Happy canning!

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