The arts of food preservation go back to civilization's beginnings. In ancient Mesopotamia, families saved their produce for lean times. They dried dates, apples and figs. Their meat might be smoked, dried, or salted meat. Softer fruits could be preserved in honey. Now we have cane sugar, pressure cookers, refrigeration, packaged pectin, and so much more to make the process easier. Preserves and pickles have gone gourmet and exotic with exciting flavor combinations to enjoy and share with others.
Sometimes, there is more in the garden or orchard than you can use up at the dinner table. The same might hold true if you tend to go a little wild at farmers’ markets or on your co-op order. What to do with the oceans of apples, bunches of mint, or the bushels of berries? Sure, there are pies, preserves, and other delightful things that might be made from the bounty, but another possibility is to take at least some of your harvest and bottle it.
Want to make a lovely hostess gift or start a delightful family tradition? Gorgeously photographed and utterly useful, Alison Walker’s Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen has recipes that are both elegant and inspired. You can make your own Candy Canes, Marzipan, Baklava, and Cherry & Almond Biscotti. Or, go British with Turkish Delight (shades of C.S. Lewis), Rose Creams, Vanilla Caramels, and Tiffin.
Glorious fruit and vegetables are a hallmark of harvests, but what do you do when you want to preserve the tastes for other times? Traditionally, the answer was to “put up” or preserve these wonderful things for later, sometimes combining them creatively and adding spices. A day of canning meant piles of produce, dozens of jars, and steam filling the kitchen for hours—usually on a hot summer day. Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint presents a different way to do this wonderful, traditional cooking without such a huge commitment of time and storage space.
With the arrival of summer, there is an abundance of produce all around us. Some of us may be garden-savvy and are already receiving the fruits of our labor from our backyards. All around us the farms and the Farmer's Markets are bursting with great, fresh produce that is locally grown. Why not buy some extra and try canning and preserving some of this goodness? Not only will you be helping out the local farmers, but you will also get the satisfaction of something that you have preserved, and you know exactly what you put into it.
Like any new venture, you do want to read about it and have the proper equipment. The good news is that the equipment is relatively cheap and is abundantly available at local retailers or stores online. Plus your library carries many books on this topic.
This is the time of year when delicious fruits and vegetables fill the homegrown gardens and bins at farmers' markets. An abundance of heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn and sweeter peaches make August the right time to practice the very rewarding work of preserving.