Preserving Food

I must make a confession. I have a fondness for canning or "putting food by” as they say. At fall fairs, I wander around the canning entries seeing what other people are up to. I don’t know where this came from. Perhaps it was the stories of my mother’s years during the depression in Peace River. Her mother would can moose meat in quart jars in an open kettle, something I wouldn’t dream of doing without a pressure canner. Nevertheless they survived – all eight kids. They also picked Saskatoon berries, canned those as well and hunted for prairie chickens (grouse).

I was part of the back-to-the-land movement of the sixties. I spent a number of years as a school teacher homesteading (now called "Hobby Farming”) in Turtle Valley above Chase, BC. It was there that my canning obsession developed fully. My two daughters, now in their thirties, fondly remember those times. We had a small flock of sheep and dairy goats that we milked twice a day. Our veggie garden was huge and we canned almost everything that could be canned. One summer the girls, then six or seven years old, helped me fork fresh dried hay onto a wagon and we built an old fashioned haystack. It was fun to do things in the "old way”.

My canning endeavors have become more modest lately. I do pickles (dill as well as bread and butter) and several kinds of fruit; blackberry syrup (like a conserve), pears, apple sauce and plums which are all from my garden or around the area. While I admire the 100 Mile Diet philosophy, my favourite interpretation is the 100 yard version! My daughter, Ilse, was going to a conference in late August and dropped off a case of peaches that she didn‘t have time to can. Of course I couldn’t waste them! I spent about four hours canning about twenty jars which I enjoyed over the winter. Maybe this is one motivation for canning; the idea of not wasting anything. I have a hard time driving by neglected fruit trees with fruit lying on the ground when I think about how great they would look in a pint jar. Freezing produce is simpler but there is something about seeing your produce in a clear jar. It has an aesthetic appeal that is hard to resist. One of my favorite breakfasts is canned fruit and yogurt with toasted homemade bread.

Perhaps another attraction of canning is the fact that after the initial washing of jars and processing (in a hot or boiling bath) no more energy input is needed. You need only store the jars away from light where it won’t freeze. Contrast this with freezers which need a constant energy input to keep your produce frozen. I’ve never had a freezer fail but I have heard it can be a nasty event.

If you have never tried canning food before, give it a try this year. It’s great to hear that "pop” as you open the lid and know exactly where the food you are about to eat came from!

Published by Dr. Larry Hill

Dr. Larry Hill traveled to Nepal as a volunteer dentist in September 2008.