This is how I see canning: making snack foods for the apocalypse. Because in truth, with the exception of the plain tomato jars and sauces, many of the items I put up tend to be condiments, pickles, and intense fruit preserves — food I could probably live without. If, say, we were to suffer through an ice storm or prolonged power outage this winter, I’m not sure how long we would stay alive on tomato salsa, brandied peaches, elderberry syrup, and chutney.
Although, that’s hardly the point, is it? I’m not really putting up food for emergency preparedness. It’s really about having that extra something special to enjoy during the off season. That and the fact that the process of canning makes me feel good.
I canned up a storm this summer. It’s really not appropriate to speak of it in the past tense because frankly, I’m not done yet. I went way overboard this year, and even put up a few batches of foods I won’t and can’t eat myself. I think the reason why I went so nutty was that I needed a come-down off of the book project that was active and creative. I didn’t feel like doing any of my regular go-to creative outlets. I just wanted to play with food.
I’ve been canning long enough that it has become like meditation in motion. It’s one of those activities that allows me to focus one part of my brain on the doing while another part relaxes and opens up. I gave myself permission this year to jar up anything that caught my interest and experiment to my heart’s content rather than sticking to healthier fare. For that reason I was able to be much more creative and at times even focused on making purely aesthetically pleasing jars rather than worrying about the nutritional content.
I know that making food I won’t or can’t eat makes no sense and sounds wasteful, and if it were another year I would not have gone that route. However, I can’t tell you how many times I have stood, savoring the visual delight of those pretty jars and it’s not even fall yet. During the winter months I occasionally sit on the kitchen floor next to the main storage cupboard (everything else is stashed away in boxes here and there) and pull out several jars, soaking in the colours that are so desperately lacking in mid-January. I’ll give away the extra food we can’t eat as gifts to friends who will enjoy them, so why not?
As a part of my series on kitchen gardening (scroll down to where it says “Microfarming with Gayla Trail”), The Globe & Mail recently published an article I wrote on canning tomatoes, including three recipes: plain tomatoes, catsup, and green tomato chutney. You can also see a slide show of me canning in my cramped kitchen. Proof that you do not need a lot of space to can.