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I remember my mom canning when I was a kid.  She had a great big garden until I was in third grade.  My mom is a home economics teacher, did all four years of 4-H, and grew up on a farm.  So home preserves were second nature for her.  But at the beginning of fourth grade we moved from the country and into a subdivision and that was the end of canning.  I haven’t talked to her about it, but I don’t think she missed canning all that much.

About 8 years ago, she gave me all her canning stuff and it sat in my basement.  I’m not even sure why I wanted it at the time, but I had it.  Three summers ago, my mom helped me can salsa.  It was kind of a fiasco, because the power went out after I had heated up the salsa, and we had to do the hot water bath on the propane grill to finish.  I only canned the salsa, but I did make some freezer sauce and chili starter that year too.  Mom showed me how to use the grinder-skin remover thingy, how to put the lids on the jars, and how to cook them long enough to pop.  That was the only year that I canned before my divorce.  The salsa must have been good though, because my ex took several jars with him when he moved out.

This year, in trying to reconnect even further with my food, I decided I was going to can and freeze as much as possible from our garden.  I may have gotten carried away.  

Broccoli started our summer strong.  I blanched and froze broccoli every three or four days and filled a drawer in the deep freeze.  I froze green beans, corn, strawberries, and raspberries. I also froze lots of herbs, which I hope will work okay in dishes through the winter.  As the tomatoes started to get ahead of me I quartered them and threw them in the freezer too until I could deal with them.

Then came the salsa.  I am a darn good salsa chef.  I don’t really have much of a recipe anymore, but I have a feeling for how much of what to throw in. The family all pitched in and we canned nearly four gallons of salsa.  As we were prepping the veggies for the pot, we talked about how great this would be as a chili starter, and who we would want to give them to as presents.  Then, it didn’t really seem like enough.  On the next Saturday, I canned about three more gallons of salsa.  This time, I made some green salsa too.

We pickled hot peppers with garlic and onions.  Jeremy made hot pepper jelly.  We tried making green tomato pickles, and made a ton of them.  It will be a couple of weeks before we know if the sweet and the dill pickles turned out okay.  I canned tomato juice, and some tomato sauce.  The tomato sauce took ALL day to make, and I only ended up with about six quarts, I’m not sure its worth the fuss.

Canning is making a comeback.  A friend of mine posted photos of the applesauce she made, while another friend suggested swapping canned goods over the winter.  Great idea ladies.

I am seeing canning posts all over the internet.  Maybe it’s just because I am an eco-rural-living-local-food-nutjob, but it seems to me like people are taking an interest in it.  In the last two days I’ve seen canning classes on two different sites.  The latest local harvest newsletter describes how to get started in canning.  So does the latest issue of Yes! magazine and even Etsy, which is a website for arts and crafts, not for agriculture.

It’s a ton of work.  The kitchen gets hot.  And it is really, really messy.  The satisfaction is high.  It’s great to crack open a jar of homemade salsa.  I feel like I am eating a decadent dessert when I sprinkle frozen raspberries on my yogurt.  Life is good when the food comes from your own garden.  If you can’t can or don’t know how, freezing is a super simple way to store away the summer yummy.

Canning can be beautiful.  Shelves stocked with home canned goods look neat.  The kids are really excited to give salsa and pickles to their teachers at Christmas this year.  And I’m looking forward to enjoying my hard work from the summer.

For technical information on canning: National Center for Home Preservation and the Ball learn to can site.  I also picked up a great book on freezing from a garage sale, and there are lots of great books check out Betterworld Books to find a used copy.  Be careful about the information you use to can and freeze.  It is possible to botch up canning, so follow recipes carefully to avoid illness.

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Hidden Roots of the Local Food Movement — YES! Magazine

The above link will take you to a brief photo essay that shows war support posters from WWII encouraging women to grow gardens, can, and eat less meat.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  All of this local food stuff that the “radical tree huggers” (self-included) are trying to incorporate into their lives were once just everyday life to most women.

If you’ve never heard about YES! Magazine, I encourage you to check it out.  If you are taking time to read my boring old blog, you will enjoy it.

I love YES! Magazine.  Last year, I got a free subscription as a teacher and I will be buying my own subscription this year.

The magazine  is “Concerned with building a more just, sustainable, and compassionate future with articles about economic alternatives and peace options.”  Most importantly to me, they have loads of articles on how environmental issues are affecting people, and what we can do as individuals.

They also have a great facebook page that posts articles of interest.  The radical homemaker blog and articles are pretty great too.  Click on the YES! links, and give it a quick read.

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