“Put something up” – Preserving the summer bounty

“Put something up” – Preserving the summer bounty

  • posted on: July 23, 2015
  • posted by: 21 Acres
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Home Canning: Why the idea strikes fear in so many I do not know. After all, it seems scarier to trust “big AG” with one’s food than one’s own hands.

Last year I started getting serious about canning. “To put something up” as my grandmother calls it…. I remember my mother canning a bit — she made peach jam and raspberry freezer jam. I was never really interested in cooking, much less canning, with my mother. I began to dabble a bit in food preservation two summers ago. Peaches are by far my favorite fruit. I could eat them every day, all year round. Plus, I have small children and I want them to eat well. I would rather have them eat peaches preserved in sugar at the peak of freshness than fruit shipped thousands of miles. So that was the goal: can some peaches for my family and me to enjoy during the winter. I began to invest in jars. I canned halved peaches in light syrup, made bourbon poached vanilla peaches (THE BEST) with the intent to give them as gifts — but taking into account the cost of making them (peaches, vanilla bean, and bourbon- nothing cheap) and that I only yielded about 6 jars meant I did not make enough to share. But boy did we enjoy opening each jar of peaches in the winter. We ate them with breakfast, snacks, made desserts and enjoyed them on ice cream. I even boiled down the light syrup to make thicker syrup to put on crepes and pancakes.

The next summer I got more serious. A few 21 Acres’ employees and I hired our head chef, Asako, to teach us how to properly can. We canned 180 pounds of peaches! It was great to have all those hands to wash, peel and process. It was our intent to learn how to can so we could take on tomatoes. The canning rules are pretty easy. #1 Follow the recipe. #2 Start with a clean work area and tools. #3 Jars need to be hot and sterilized. #4 Follow the recipe.

So with a hands-on class from a professional I felt we had enough tools under our belt to take on tomatoes. We see so many tomatoes come from our Farm. John, Mary and Pepe work very hard to bring us these crown jewels of seasonal eating. They are fantastic. “Big ugly heirlooms”…mmm….After my first summer at 21 Acres, that was 3 years ago now, I never ate a non-21 Acres tomato again. So Liesl, I, and a few other co-workers set out to build a tomato arsenal. Each week we took home tomatoes that needed to be eaten or processed ASAP. We washed, pureed and froze them. One Sunday morning in September we met at Liesl’s and made the best heirloom tomato sauce. I know all of us thoroughly appreciated every lovely jar-pizza, pasta, soup, lasagna. My family did too. As my supply dwindled, I began saving our sauce for special meals (or just not so special meals that needed that extra umph).

This year, I have already made strawberry jam, raspberry jam, and oven roasted tomatoes packed in oil. I plan on doing dilly beans, tomatoes, perhaps cucumber dill pickles and, of course, peaches.

Don’t be scared. “Putting something up” has become a labor of love and sense of pride for me. I am proud to have processed healthy local food for my family and me to enjoy year round. We will be having another Canning Basics demo in the Farm Market on September 4th and 5th at 12:30. Additionally, check our website, 21acres.org/school, for canning class listings.

Here is the recipe for Bourbon Poached Vanilla Peaches that made me fall in love with saving the harvest: http://www.marthastewart.com/357209/bourbon-poached-peaches

See you in the Market,

— Meghan