Food Preservation

The house is hot and humid this morning. Which is drag, because it is easily the hottest day outside, in about a 10 day stretch. And I have many other, more “important” things on the never-ending “list”. But, the produce is coming off the fields now. It is time.

I got the idea to can some green beans earlier this week when I noticed that I have too many 500ml Mason jars to fit into storage. In other words, I am way behind. More jars being emptied than being filled, it seems.

Those were the reasons I found myself in the kitchen this morning, going through the ritual of preserving. I like to think of all the women who have done this before me. Slaving away in kitchens that were not as nice as mine. They would be extending their harvest to provide real nourishment during the long winter. I am merely making a nice compliment to my winter fare.

My Mother in law taught me how to can. One of the many great things I have learned from her. We have spent whole weekends putting up pounds of produce. She did for me, as she has no need for dozens of salsa jars. I don’t know why, but I continue to find the process extremely satisfying. Especially the “popping” of the lids. That final sign to let you know, all is well.

Can’t wait to open the first jar on a cool day this fall and think of the heat from this summer day.

Pickled beans dry packed_web

Canning jars_web


Pickled beans done_webSee also, from The Good Life List:

Summer smells in the Winter

There is nothing like the fresh smell of summer wafting in the kitchen in the dead of winter. In order to make that happen, I have been busy already, preserving what is fresh and in season now.

I started with chives. I have way too many of them. I made a pesto of sorts. Basically whizzed the chives with some garlic and olive oil in the blender. Then put the mixture into small freezer baggies so that I can break off a chunk when ever I need it. This also works great to put on a plate and add a bunch more olive oil, then dip bread into it. It smells and tastes like a Spring garden.

After the rhubarb, I moved on to strawberries. June is the short season for berries here on the Coast. These are the most sweet and juicy fruits. Once you have tasted these berries and really appreciated the flavour, there is no way you can go back to the imported beasts from California. To freeze these, I wash them, dry them and then pop them into the freezer on a tray before popping them into bags. That way they don’t stick together.

Today I started to dry herbs. Oregano was first to be tied up and tucked away a top the deep freeze for the next few weeks. I have recently been using some different types of home dried oregano that friends have given me. It has a fantastic flavour.

Next up are the Okanagan cherries. They are a little late, but are starting to flood the market now. First are the Bings. I won’t have to start freezing just yet, though. My husband can eat a lot of them fresh.

I have a bag of small onions that I got for 89 cents. What to do with those? And I am soon going to be flooded with potatoes. I think we are just going to have to eat those as they come.

Each week will bring a new challenge, something else to enjoy fresh and then put up for winter. Even if I just make a bunch of soup. There is always a way to save for tomorrow what can’t be eaten today.

The process

Here are the photo’s of turning 60 pounds of tomatoes into lovely canned goods.

First the skins come off.

We add basil, garlic and a little lemon juice to the tomatoes.

Finished tomatoes.

20 pounds go into the salsa recipe. Along with all the other goodies, including the chipotle peppers that we brought back from Mexico last fall.

Finished salsa.

On the shelf.

Putting up tomatoes

It is that time of year. When my favourite fruit is perfectly ready to be canned. Technically a tomato is a fruit, but since it is used primarily in savoury dishes, it is more often referred to as a vegetable. Whatever you call it, tomatoes are a staple in my kitchen and I like to make sure they taste great all winter long.

My mother-in-law and I process 60 pounds. It takes a full day of hard work. It is usually a hot day, and it will be again this weekend. Tomato bits fly all around her kitchen, it’s a messy job taking skins off in a boiling water bath. There are many other steps, sterilizing the jars and so on. Then the part that makes sure we don’t poison ourselves, the magic pressure canner. It takes a long time to get it up to temperature, not so much time to process and then a long time to cool off enough to remove the jars. Then repeat.

Sometime this winter, on a school night when I have not had time to shop, I will pull out one of these beautiful jars and create a quick sauce for some pasta. Throw on a few other tidbits from the fridge, maybe some olives, a little parmesan cheese and a taste of summer will be served.

Or, my husband will feel like a snack, and I can go to the cupboard for the most amazing salsa and serve with some local organic tortilla chips that I always keep on hand.

Salsa and tomatoes