By Larraine Roulston:
As homesteaders in Canada’s Peace River District, my grandparents hunted for meat, and planted fruit trees and vegetables. Without refrigeration, my granny also had to store enough of their harvest to last the family until the next growing season. One method was the use of a root cellar and the other was to start preserving when the produce was fresh.
Canning foods in the summer to preserve the freshest local produce can be somewhat daunting to start. There is the purchase of
canning and the sterilization equipment. You can reuse the jars and screw on lids year after year, but to keep the food properly preserved, you require new seals. Once you master this art, it becomes much easier. I believe the best way to learn is by helping someone who does it regularly. I had the opportunity to watch my mother make her Sweet 6-Day Pickles and help my mother-in-law make her special homemade chili sauce. My daughter is lucky also to have a wonderful mother-in-law who delights in enlisting her help to make delicious strawberry jam. Today, my mother still recalls her mom preserving moose meat.
For low acid foods such as meats and most vegetables, you need a pressure canner. A water bath canner is used for pickles, jams, jelly or fruits that are all high acid foods. Counter top fermenting is a good way to provide nutrition year-round, as almost any vegetable can be used (such as making sauerkraut from cabbage). With a dehydrator or an oven, one can dry herbs, fruits and vegetables; and make kale chips, fruit leather, soup mixes or vegetable crackers.
By preserving your own winter supply, you are assured that there are no artificial additives. Most canning recipes require minimal ingredients such as additional sugar or lemon. For pickles, vinegar, salt and spices are needed. By canning tomatoes, for example, you would have that fresh tomato flavor in all your soups, salsas and spaghetti sauces. Tomatoes can be crushed, halved or kept whole, with or without their skins, then packed into a jar.
A family outing to pick produce supports your local farmer. My friend Sue, who operates Living Brightly (a small family farm in Ontario), decided this year to encourage people to pick and pull from her rows of produce. She was totally amazed at how much children loved and learned from this experience. Buying large baskets of produce will save money also, as you will not have to purchase small quantities later. Children who are tasked to help preserve not only will have a better appreciate for the different seasons, but also should retain the skill.
If canning seems too hard, dehydrating method might be a good option. Dehydration is an alternative to canning and freezing fruits, mushrooms and vegetables. The advantage with dehydrating is that it’s fairly easy, it’s a low-cost way to preserve food and requires less storage space than canned goods. Here is a link to learn more about how to dehydrate food for preservation.
There is food security in food preservation, as you can be assured that storing food for future consumption results in less dependency on the supermarket. There is the good feeling that your food travelled fewer miles to your table, too. As everyone loves homemade preserves, they also make the perfect gift.
If violent storms are to be the way of the future, with possible long-term power outages, I feel there is an opportunity for those who preserve foods to teach others so that more of us can relearn these techniques of our ancestors.
In the past I have helped Sue plant, weed and harvest. This autumn I shall wander up to her farm to learn more from this amazing woman about what I can do to lessen my reliance on the supermarket.
Larraine Roulston authors the Pee Wee Castle Compost series at www.castlecompost.com